Studying games had never been an easy course. Sure, we get to play games, see behind the scenes and experience what most didn't, but one of the major obstacle we had is one thing we can't change: Credibility.
I face this problems whenever I had to design. Is is trustworthy? Are you sure this will work? Why should we copy this game?
When it comes to that, I say "You will need to play more, then you will get what I mean."
Games and originality
I can't give a definite answer, for there is none. I would support yes, personally, but at the same time, I will say no.
Indeed, people like to say "Mr.A never enjoyed playing games, but he made great games regardless.", or "Playing too much games ruin your ideas of originality, resulting in you making nothing more of copies of X games." or something of the sort.
I agree, regardless of my personal opinions. Originality is indeed a scarce attribute, and most ideas and gameplay, are just better iterations of predecesors. Take Final Fantasy: Is the turn based gameplay original? No, it borrows from the game system of tabletop games such as Dungeons and Dragons. Is Uncharted series original? No, it's Tomb Raider with nicer graphics and a storyline about Nathan Drake.
I could go on and on, but we all know a truth: Orginality is dying, and while its impact will stay, while it last? Will we be able to, see originality in gaming in years to come, or while we simply see more of the same idea, recycled over and over?
And yet, when such a possibility remains, could we really, really, take the chance to...destroy originality of young and untouched minds?
Feed a man a fish...
We all know the proverb. Feed a man a fish, he will be full for a day. Teach a man to fish, he can be full for his life.
But let's take it in this context. The man is someone who's unfamilar with games or games development. He had no idea, how to fill his stomach, and in this case, he needs a game to sell. We can offer him an untouched idea, and he can tap into it, make it into something and complete a project.
But will it work? We don't know, the audience might want it, or hate it, but we fill our stomach regardless. (Assume the game sells a profitable amount, through devious marketing).
But what about the future? Will we be able to catch another original idea to sell? What if we can't and deadline looms?
Teach a man to fish...
Certainly, original ideas certainly are welcomed and well-received, but in the long run, we might find ourselves in a pinch.
I find that, as my studies proceed, I look at games where we often borrowed ideas and mechanics from existing games, tinker with it, and create something of our own.
While original ideas are plenty amongst us, we came to realise one thing: original doesn't mean fun.
A lot of times I could come up with a game idea, but as I thought and shared with others, the result is often boring or just...unrewarding.
I could make a game about say, where a player open a wooden door and be rewarded with points as they open more doors. But who's to say, if a game already used that idea, and I am making a game that will seem like a rip-off, but in actual fact, it's original to me?
Reality presents a harsh lesson here: Game developers starting out in the past 10 or so years, are seriously lacking behind.
The most important question
Should we play more?
As indie players, I believe we should. The reason is simple, asking a game developer to not play, is like telling a chef to not try dishes outside.
Personally, I feel there's no way, any gamer could claim he played enough games to know what to do. Out there, we know, there's something we haven't heard of and tried.
Gaming also allows us a view of the designer's intentions, giving us the experience as we play the way the designer wanted.
Also, we will learn the pros and cons of certain design styles. Many a times I learnt to look upon a game mechanic, analyze it and find out if it's rewarding or a major flaw. As I spend time teaching my juniors and sharing with peers, I find it a better communication tool to help us understand what we are talking about.
Of course, after all I said, I still believe it's up for a developer to decide whether or not to play often.
However, more than the fact we have to play more, there's also the fact that if we don not analyze it, we are no better than simple consumers to the market.