Ralph Koster

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Raph Koster
Birthname Raphael Koster
Date of Birth September 7, 1971
Birth Place Long Island, New York
Nationality American
Occupation Game Designer

Raph Koster (born on September 7, 1971) is a professional game designer and frequent writer on issues of virtual world design. He is known for his work designing the seminal online world Ultima Online, as well as his work with Sony, the makers of Everquest, and his work with designing Star Wars Galaxies. He has written widely reprinted and influential pieces such as "Declaring the Rights of Players", "The Laws of Online World Design", and "A Story About a Tree". He also is a frequent speaker at the Game Developers Conference on issues of online world design, particularly in the area of community building. In addition to this, he has written a book titled A Theory of Fun for Game Design that was published in 2004 by Paraglyph Press and is used in several university courses as study material [1].

Early Life

Born in Long Island, Raphael (Raph) Koster moved to Massachusetts, and then Peru (where his mother was stationed for her work with UNICEF). He also lived in Barbados and Haiti before moving back to the U.S. to finish high school with his father in Florida. Afterward high school, Raph attended Washington College in Maryland, where he studied English and Spanish. Later, he went on to receive his Masters of Fine Arts in Poetry from the University of Alabama. He enjoys art and graphic design [1].


Raph works primarily as a lead game designer. His first video game was Pong, but he is best known for designing Ultima Online: The Second Age and Ultima Online Live, and for his work as creative director of Star Wars Galaxies. He has worked for Origin Systems and in 2000 joined Verant Interactive. In 2003 he became chief creative officer and began working in business development for Sony Online Entertainment until 2006, when he left to pursue work on virtual worlds [1].


  • Wikipedia:A_Theory_of_Fun_for_Game_Design A Theory of Fun for Game Design[2] Foreword by Will Wright (ISBN 1-932111-97-2)
    • This book, written and illustrated by Raph, discusses his theory about the correlation between games and real life. His belief is that games are 'edutainment'; they teach players real-life skills in a safe environment. A good game is "one that teaches everything it has to offer before the player stops playing."(p. 46)
  • "Declaring the Rights of Avatars"
    • This is a 19 point declaration in which Raph explains what he believes the contents of all MMORPG code of ethics should contain. He writes that "avatars are the manifestation of actual people in an online medium, and that their utterances, actions, thoughts, and emotions should be considered to be as valid as the utterances, actions, thoughts, and emotions of people in any other forum, venue, location, or space". Each of his points are rules explaining how avatars should follow the same type of laws as real people in the real world.
  • A Story About A Tree, (May 1998), about the Karyn incident
  • "The Laws of Online World Design" (GDC 1999 presentation)
  • Koster, Raph. "Geek Fun Isn't Frivolous; Alien Swarms of Thundering, Flashing Games Hit Town This Week. They're Here to Make Us Smarter." Los Angeles Times 15 May 2005, sec. M1.
  • "As Seen In Modern Lair" (October 2007)


Real Life Comics

Personal Life

On May 10, 1992 Raph married Kristen. Kristen also works as a game designer and has worked with Raph on projects with Origin Systems. They have two children, Elena, age 10, and David, age 9 [1].

Raph is currently a member of the Academy of Interactive Arts and Sciences, IGDA, ASCAP, and Omicron Delta Kappa. He enjoys music, art, and graphic design. He resides in San Diego, California with his wife and their two kids.

Raph has a blog that can be followed on Twitter or on Raph Koster's Website [1].

External Links



  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 http://www.raphkoster.com/bio.shtml
  2. Wikipedia:A_Theory_of_Fun_for_Game_Design
  3. Wikipedia:Ultima_Online
  4. Wikipedia:Star_Wars_Galaxies

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