With the discussion generated by 'what I learned by not playing Civilization,', I thought L.B. Jeffries' thoughts on creating a 'universal model' for games was pretty interesting. Part of the issue is convergence — 'pure' games are hard to find, and more and more incorporate various design strategies and elements. Would it be impossible to design a game that would appeal to a really diverse swath of players? Players that are sometimes playing entirely different kinds of games? Refinement is key:
A universal game design wouldn't just stop with action games or titles where you're directly in control of the protagonist. It could extend out to strategy, space combat, anything really. What else is Starcraft but an action game where you hover high above the battlefield? The concept has been experimented with before in games, but with the kind of refinement we're talking about it'd be possible to mix completely unrelated players in one game. Take Left 4 Dead. One player controls all of the zombies, the others are all playing characters trapped in the fray. One is engaged in a strategic battle, the other is having a frantic shoot-out. A player who isn't a huge fan of playing Halo may nevertheless buy a game where they get to control the battlefield while skilled players opt for FPS mode and try to take them out while they control armies overhead. Beyond the always promising broad economic perks of such a game, there's the co-mingling of different players and preferences in one Universal Design. It's not a game within the game, it's a game that has every means of interaction possible in it.
It's an interesting thought, though the old 'jack of all trades, master of none' warning seems like it would come into play pretty easily. Co-mingling, though, is certainly intriguing. It's an interesting piece on choice and game design choices.