Games are fun to play. Toys are fun to play with. Often, we create games by combining our toys with rules and objectives.
A ball is a fun toy. You can kick or bounce it or throw it. We can make a fun game by adding some context to any of those activities.
What if we added a target? Throw the ball at something (or someone). Kick the ball into something. What if we added a constraint? Maybe you can only run if you are also bouncing the ball. What if we added a time limit?
It’s easy to imagine lots of fun games when we begin with such a fun, simple toy. For this reason, I often find it useful to think about components of my games as toys when I am designing.
Making a racing game? Forget about laps and opponents and maps. Forget about making a game that’s fun to play. Instead, focus on making a car that is fun to play with. The rest will follow.