I'm a pretty collaborative guy, so when I'm working on a new design idea I talk to my friends, my family, and other designers. I pepper them with questions.
Most of the designers I know, or have worked with, tend to keep their new ideas to themselves, which made me wonder if my approach was a knock on my creativity? In a moment of self-doubt I wondered: Why do I ask so many questions? Am I relying on other people to help me design my games for me?
I thought about these questions for awhile and here's what I discovered about myself. I'm a very creative problem solver. If you give me a crayon and a piece of paper and ask me to come up with something cool, I'll be kind of lost. Won't even know where to start. But if you give me the same mission with a shoe box, a paperclip, and a piece of string, I'll immediately start to generate crazy ideas.
What this made me realize is that when I'm asking all my design questions I'm really just defining parameters... I'm building myself a puzzle to solve!
This is how I design games. If I am making a casual RPG, for example, I play the top games in the genre and do a bunch of research. From this I learn that there are certain core staples that players expect. Then I ask friends, family, and colleagues, "What do you like and dislike about the casual RPGs you have played?"
When I have enough information I filter out the noise and anything that goes against my own design sensibilities and that leaves me with a core set of features that I MUST include, and a bunch of design goals that sometimes conflict with those core features, or even with each other. This all becomes the puzzle that I must then try to solve.
Fortunately, I'm pretty good at solving puzzles, especially those that force me to "think outside the box". And that's how I design games.