I see that Certis is still in the American Football mood after Super Bowl XXXVIII was won by a single breast. Or so I was told. Let us talk about games for a second though: over at Slashdot Games I spotted this Skotos article. Dave Rickey elaborates on the importance of elements of 'realism' in games. It should be noted that we're not talking about the 'realism' flight sim fans are referring to when they're complaining that the FW-190 sound doesn't sound 'proper' once the engine hits 800 RPM in that one 1C-made title. No, in this case 'realism' translates into familiar concepts and entities. What the article boils down to is the attempt to describe the process of having 'fun' from a neuropsychological point of view.
Fun is the process of establishing, seeking, and achieving goals, in a larger context that gives both the process and the results consistent meaning. Fun environments both surprise and reassure us. They surprise us by working on rules that are very different from those of the real world, and reassure us by having an internal consistancy and logic that is reminiscent of that we find in the real world. Realism is a constant theme, because the exemplar of the environment where these things can occur is the real one.
Definitely an interesting approach, probably a familiar one though if you happen to be a student of psychology. Of course, it would be tricky to derive a 'master plan for fun games' due to a variety of reasons such as blurred predictability or individual differences among others. Analyzing 'fun' currently is an autopsy rather than an element of science to be used in the process of creation. Game development still depends on intuition, inspiration and experience. (And according to rumours also on money, market research and the ability to copy what appears to be a successful fun concept.) I guess that's nothing we have to be too sad about. I'm sure you wouldn't have trouble finding a job at some publisher though should you be able to come up with a clever neuropsychological rating procedure for gameplay elements.