That essay has been on my mind lately, in no small part because I was startled to see it quoted in "Rules of Play" when I skipped ahead to the ARG section. It's a difficult piece for me to re-read, because it's very emotional; but it's easy to forget how intense the Cloudmakers experience was. Were we really that absorbed, did it really seem so pregnant with significance?
Now that I'm on the other side of the curtain, though, it's interesting to find that some of the sentiment in that essay has very much informed my personal design philosophy. Most notably, I very much want to make games that don't require the same kind of fervent dedication hat rushed out of us as Cloudmakers. I really, really want my audience to be able to pass their classes with high marks or play with their kids every night or just cook dinner instead of ordering in.
It looks at first like a trade-off, of course; do you provide a shallow but pleasant experience or do you provide an all-encompassing one? My hope is to structure games where that's a false dichotomy. Games where a player can spend ten minutes a week, or every waking hour, and in either case come away with an enjoyable experience. Multiple levels of content available to suit your lifestyle.
Word on the street is that other designers are starting to feel this way, too. It just makes sense to make experiences that don't turn away participants who have time constraints. Why unnecessarily limit your audience?
If only the MMOs would figure this one out...