By hacking games, we can start to understand their “ingredients” and how they affect the play experience. We can start to grasp what a game is.
Take rock-paper-scissors. You could hack it by simply replacing the three standard elements with another three elements, maybe linked by a common theme (eg: 3 animals, or 3 types of people, or 3 different feelings…). That’s a good start, but after you played a few turns you’ll probably realise under the new “skin” it plays just like rock-paper-scissors. But if you introduced new rules, like a different way to score points, or a different goal (for instance a coop one, like you both win when you both do the same move) then you have a different game, even if you kept the three original elements.
Let’s take a closer look at what you created. What does your game say about you? Maybe you swapped rock, paper and scissors with objects that are familiar to you, or you injected memories from a trip, ideas from another game you played, a story you read or watched, or a conversation you had.
What you created is an expression of you. You have infused an old game with your own interests, and turned it into a new game that is meaningful to you.