Fill in the blanks: to learn how to make great _____, you should study great _____.
Books. Movies. Food. Music. Buildings. Businesses. Art. Products. Games.
Somehow this simple universal truth escaped me a while back when I went on a kick of gobbling up books on game design. After reading them, I can say in honesty that no matter how well-written, how witty, how creative, or how otherwise excellent the books were, the only thing they helped me to understand was that I already knew far more than I believed or than I was even prepared to believe.
Books about game design can help a certain audience, I’m sure, but that audience is not gamers who have played so much that they could put together a list of their top five hundred—not any more than a book about chess tips would help someone who’s already sunk two thousand hours into playing it. Diehard gamers know what works and what doesn’t through the experience of having played it all, and experience far trumps book knowledge.
The mission of the diehard-gamer-turned-game-creator is to use the design techniques they’ve enjoyed and avoid the ones they’ve disliked. Of course, they still need to make their own games with their own vision. The idea is to draw on the internal logic of game design techniques, not the external trappings of setting—but that’s another blog post for another day.