Yup, this is exactly what I was getting at in my first post, and I've only realized this because I've been through similar experiences. I'd proudly send my "awesome fun game" builds over to my partner (who is a designer by trade), expecting to receive accolades for my genius. Instead, I was met with grimaces and laundry lists of general design rules I had naively broken. When you break these rules without realizing it (or understanding why the rules are there in the first place), it becomes a slippery slope. You end up shipping a game with pacing/flow problems, metric problems, a lack of clear affordances, etc. When the general gaming populace interprets these problems as a lack of polish and responds negatively, the excuses start rolling in. Clearly, it's the market's fault! Gamers are just graphic whores. Gamers don't want anything new. Gamers don't appreciate innovation. Which is why IMHO so many indie games are never able to break out of the "sympathetic indie gamer" market, because the only audience they can reach are the people willing to look past these mistakes. Even worse, when you try to encourage more due diligence, yet more dubious rhetoric sets in. Design rules inhibit my creativity. My game doesn't need mechanics, because it's "art". Which is why you see so many games hailed as having "emergent gameplay" that are really just a clusterfuck of unrelated mechanics lacking a cohesive whole. Working with a designer has been a gloriously humbling experience. I've made it a personal goal to no longer use "indie innovation" as an excuse to underdesign my games. It sucks for my ego, but maybe our customers will win out in the end? For anyone wondering/caring, one design book I highly recommend is Level Up! by Scott Rogers. It's not a treatise on human psychology or mathematical models, but rather a reference for what constitutes the heart of game design: Mechanics, metrics, and the user experience. I highly recommend it for anyone looking to sharpen their design chops!