Well, honestly, "game design" does seem to be a fairly anarchic. It's pretty hard for me to discern any structure that covers all the designs across the board, so yes, I guess I agree with you -- game design doesn't have any form of organizing structured but instead pulls ideas from wherever seems good to the individual designer.But this isn't remotely helpful when apprehending the relevant touchstones and priorities that should be the foundational elements for game design.
If this ("most people don't care about design or at least can't articulate what they do care about in design") was what should be gleaned from evaluating the distribution of TTRPG play and the attendant approach that should be taken for game design...game design would be absolutely incoherent anarchy across the board.
As evidence, I submit the acknowledgements section of the recently released game AGON:
- Agon was first inspired by Jonathan Walton’s game concept Argonauts. Specifically, the Fate track that measures the lifetime of a hero was a core idea that sparked the original Agon design.
- The original playtesters for the first edition also contributed ideas and support that helped the game get off the ground. They were Brandon Amancio, Scott Dierdorf, Tony Dowler, Wilhelm Fitzpatrick, Philip LaRose, Ed Ouellette, and Cara Tyler.
- The gaming technique “ask questions and build on the answers” was taken from Apocalypse World by D. Vincent Baker and Meguey Baker.
- The experience of playing the epic, wandering heroes of Trollbabe, by Ron Edwards, was a big inspiration for Agon. Trollbabe also introduced us to the idea of portraying aspects of nature (the sea, a mountain) as characters in the game.
- The idea of using increasing die sizes to represent the potency of character traits was inspired by Savage Worlds by Shane Lacy Hensley and In A Wicked Age... by D. Vincent Baker.
- The battle sheet design was inspired by the range map in 3:16 Carnage Amongst the Stars, by Gregor Hutton.
- The Pathos mechanic was initially inspired by the exhaustion system in Don’t Rest Your Head by Fred Hicks.