What I want to focus on, is thinking about how games are designed and how skills outside of game might directly help you with system mastery, vs. games where the road to mastery is only through knowing the game itself.
Chris puts into words something I’ve been ruminating about a little, at least in terms of my own preferences. I think my tendency is a preference for what he terms “Parallel System Mastery” games. At least, I think Isolated Mastery is a bigger hurdle for me.
It’s probably why, despite being a huge Burning Wheel fan, I still suck at a lot of the subsystems; I don’t get to play often, and so can never develop the skills required. Even with D&D 3.5, it took me years to figure out how to “game” combat, and I still paled in comparison to guys I knew who were good at abstract mechanics.
Likewise, it’s probably why I fetishize systems like HERO. IME, I felt like I could always approach the game by just reasoning “realistic” solutions, and the game supported me, for the most part. Likewise, games that are very genre-reliant, like MHR. or even Fate.