What a read!
I usually compare games to cinema as it’s a young (compared to most art), multidisciplinary art form that was born in the world of capitalism, ie it has pretty much always been monetized.
Of course, there is a big difference. Expectation from a movie is to see a story. Sure, you may expect a deep story or a pop corn action but in the end, you go to a movie to see it.
Games are way more complicated. You could be into the story. In the story, you could be into roleplaying and interaction, or more or less witnessing it. You could be into the gameplay. In the gameplay, you could be into competitive, immersive or theory-craftable elements. You could be into a mixture of things. On top of everything, we add the different settings, different business models, technical capabilities (the latest game might be for you, but not your PC; or you might not own the console to play it)… It’s really hard to make games.
Affecting the success of the game are also things like overall technology, the games before and after and recently, the media. Surely critics affect movies, but I’m not sure if movie or TV critics/media has the affect of Pewdiepie playing a game or the late TotalBiscuit criticizing the game. The audience/critic ratio itself is enough to make a difference. Plus, the games were born in the age of this sort of self-expression, so they were molded by it where cinema was shaped in a different era.
So, I think some of the lack of awareness in design comes from this part: Games are really hard to formulate and even if you formulate some aspects, it’s really hard to judge where the success comes from.
One problem I see is that the games are dissected and when done so, self-awareness is applied to certain parts. For example, we know how business works. We have the sales tactics. We know how psychology can be abused. We know how to process data. Result? Games are separated as core and business model. Business models are created very self-aware and the core is built separately or around this. In the former case, the holism breaks and hurts the game. In the latter, the games feel cheap, as is the case with many mobile games. They work in the end (because they almost abuse human psychology and there are people into many different things) and create a false conception that they are “good” designs. Or maybe they are, I guess it depends on your perception and expectations. Of course, when you are a publisher or investor, good means better RoI.
I complain about them now and then but I’m glad we have indie games.
Anyway, one thing I think that needs to be done is community coming together. We need to create some standards. People in gaming being paid less and crunched because “it’s your dream!” needs to end. If this means less companies, less investment for a while, so be it. But we can’t go on like this.
I think we’ll find ways to let people express themselves in this art form. We already made major strides as you pointed: For a hobbyist, there are more and more options each day.