I think about this topic a lot, so this may the first of many posts on the topic.
Leon introduced me to 1000 blank white cards. It is a game which was already present in my brain, as an ideal, but which I’ve never considered by name. In years 8 through 10, I think, Alex Tear created a card game called Smogioh, which was a comedy more than anything, lacked balance, and had no real strucutre, but was still engaging and amusing.
What is the base level of a “game”?
Triangles are popular in gameplay. If Rock, Paper, Scissors had two elements, it would not be a game. If it had 4 elements, it would be too complex. I once wrote a computer RPG where you had one stat: the game was CNinja Express, and the stat was Ninja. It served as currency, power, and high score. It turned out to not be very good, but it was playable.
Gameplay has to be fun… I suppose I miss that a lot in my search for clever dynamics, and valuing skill over chance. One of the best games I ever invented was almost entirely chance, and that was Ste and Trebble’s Paper RPG. Think Dungeons and Dragons as procedurally generated by dice rolls.
My conclusion is that the best games are the ones that you take the most satisfaction from, and I think a good source of gameplay satisfaction is how much of yourself you put into it. Games you invent and which then work, are awesome… perhaps the best. Games that somebody else made that aren’t fun, are surely the worst.