You never truly begin to understand a language, no matter how much you are exposed to it, until you try to speak it and write it yourself— until you grapple with it to express your own thoughts and feelings. In the same way, through no amount of just playing games can one really get to the bottom of what they are about, why they exist and where they are going. To play a game is to be forced to come to terms with the game’s limitations, but to design a game is to face the world’s limitations.
When you have been making games for a while, you become acutely aware of what the real triumphs are and where the corners were cut. Features that once seemed like difficult feats of technical trickery to you are exposed as the developmental equivalent of a parlor trick, while the very best games soon become all the more impressive to you, knowing acutely all the hurdles they must have overcome. If you want to appreciate games to their fullest– as everyone who professes to love them should – don’t just play games. Make them.