There’s a freeware Civilization clone by the name of C-Evo that I’ve never been particularly interested in, but I recently chanced across their design philosophy. As a bullet point under how the game should focus itself on strategy, they note:
“The fun you’ll have playing the game without reading the manual is comparable to the fun it is to move pieces on a chessboard without knowing the rules of chess.”
I’m going to have to point out that, in my opinion, this is a pretty lousy paradigm. I learned how to play chess by actually playing the game with my father. “This is the goal of the game. These are how your pieces move. This is what you should be thinking about at this stage.” I learned as I went. I didn’t read any books on the subject until after I learned how to play, and I did so in order to understand and develop my knowledge of the game’s strategy, not to learn how to move pieces around the board.
A game should already know how to “play itself” and should be designed to help the player along in getting their feet wet, if the player so desires. I like have a nice thick manual at hand as much as the next person, but I shouldn’t have to read a textbook just to play a video game.