This is an appeal to the network effect of the internet to see if I can reach out and contact a lexicographer (or more than one). If you know someone who works in lexicography, please can you see if this is something they might be interested in - thank you.
Over at Lost Garden, Danc has a piece on the Game Innovation database. I heartily agree with him that we have a language problem in game design. We lack any common language in our field, and also lack the mechanisms to bring such entity into being. I also tend to agree that an academic approach is unlikely to succeed in building a common lexicon. However, I'm not convinced an open database of 'game innovations' (whatever that might transpire to include) will have the desired result of building a common lexicon.
Right now, even as we speak, people working in thousands of different developers are employing terms that apply to the game design process. These terms are already in use, but they are not catalogued or recorded in any shape or form right now. This is a 'hidden language' of game design - and because it is concealed, the effect of natural selection upon it is to create many 'local ecologies' of words. In effect, we are each marking out our separate 'language niches' and defending these, effectively working against the goal of building a common language of game design.
In order to build a common public lexicon of game design, a possible step would be to build a dictionary of all the game design terms currently in use. I do not know in any great detail the process that lexicographers use to formulate a dictionary, but I am assume that it works by having a group of people who make a value judgement based upon the evidence available about what to include and what to exclude, aided by some criteria-driven protocol established by tradition or developed over years of practice.
Perhaps cataloguing game design terms used in books, papers and articles on the subject would be a starting point - although many such instances contain words used solely by just the individual in question, and therefore have shaky claims to belonging in a public lexicon. For example, no-one uses the term 'game world abstraction' but me, I think; should it qualify just because I managed to get it into a book? I'm not sure this should be sufficient. Whereas the term 'play style' does seem to have begun to seep out into more wider usage, and perhaps should qualify. Similarly, 'market vectors', which I feel I might have helped spread to wider awareness, I believe originated with Wil Wright (although he may have borrowed it from elsewhere).
We therefore need a lexicographer (or a collection of lexicographers) to work on the problem of the game design lexicon, thus bringing the terms currently in use into public knowledge, so that natural selection can work upon the entire vocabulary and refine it into a common language. Presumably, such a person (or people) would also be able to publish the resulting 'Dictionary of Game Design', in the manner of many such specialist dictionaries (e.g. A Dictionary of Computing). I would be delighted to lend my support to such a project as a game design professional.
Perhaps such a dictionary would have too small an audience to justify publication, or would require an investment of work disproportionate to the expected returns. If this is the case, a (lexicographer) moderated wiki-style lexicon (wixicon?) might be the way forward. Perhaps this would be a sensible prior step in any case. Certainly, any such venture needs to be moderated by someone who knows the best practices for lexicography, to avoid being a sink hole for everyone's random terminology.
So, if you are a lexicographer and you fancy being the person to lead a project to produce a dictionary of game design (or you don't want to lead it, but would like to be involved), I encourage you to get in touch. May the network effect of the internet bring you safely to my virtual door!