Clearer and clearer every GDC, I see the next leap in game design - the next 5 years - as the exploration of aesthetic meaning. We are establishing a science, and the principles of that science. Game mechanics are almost a distraction. This isn’t a question of game balance or even game construction specifically. Meaning mathematics works on a different plane: social, story, emotion. Craftsmanship and the comparison of results (youtube, leaderboards, achievements). Fiction and setting and narrative. Little Big Planet levels, Starcraft television, Street Fighter tournaments, and Warthog Jumps. Concerts and Prius mileage. Through the 3 levels of designer-player communication (forced, implied, authored, or cutscenes, forensics, and expressive/creative). Experience. Flow, tension, difficulty. Sensation, discovery, and fellowship. Excitment, amusement, and bliss.
The post as a whole is a little overwrought, but gives me a springboard for a related question/observation. There has been a burst, or at least a micro-burst in interest in computer games and simulations in education over the past couple years, which has corresponded with a relatively creatively moribund period in game design. From my point of view we're just now building momentum for a new generation of aesthetically and intellectually engaging computer games, and we aren't there yet.
So... in terms of Laws of Punditry, should one gain or lose credibility by getting to the party early? Do you get points for promoting games while they still overwhelmingly primitive?
Put another way, what if you wrote glowingly of Saxo Grammaticus's Amleth two years before Shakespeare wrote Hamlet? Would that prove or disprove your aesthetic judgement?