This next month or so, I'm taking part in some games centric research. I don't really want to pre-empt our findings here, but just to pass on some of the interesting links to interesting literature we've come across whilst doing the literature review.
The first one is by Melissa Federoff. While I feel that she is maybe stretching the value of HCI professionals in the latter part of her paper, I think this is a good start at developing a number of heuristics which can help measure the success of a game design in concrete terms.
The notion of actually testing for fun is something thats quite alien for many of us game developers. But I can definitely see the value in actually scoring ourselves in terms of some heuristic. Of course we all do this intuitively, however intuition isnt always infallable.
Now what we would do once we have these metrics? Thats another matter.
The next place is the microsoft usability center. These have some good playtesting articles and movies to watch.
Usability testing is something that doesn't happen very often in the games industry. Unless you're at a bigger publisher. I do think there is something in it, in that we as an industry can learn from the usability testing experience.
However a lot of the time they do suggest using a "professional", which I can't see many developers doing.
I think there is a big lesson to learn for all developers about the concept of testing and developing for your target audience (and I guess in identifying clearly beforehand what that audience is/wants).
I think Dan is definitely onto something in his blog (http://www.lostgarden.com) but I think there is more to this than just the product design aspects.