In the architecture office, my colleagues would often use a curious phrase when making design decisions: "This is what the building wants to be."
Why the anthropomorphism? I suppose it's quicker than saying, "This seems to me to be the project's most natural direction, based on previous design decisions." And it sounds more emphatic, not to mention a tad romantic. After all, there is a mysteriousness to creative thought and the amount of influence our unconscious intuition has on that process.
There are so many different directions a design of any kind can take. It is a tree of possibilities, and each branch offers a number of new, unique choices. And like those "Choose Your Own Adventure" books I enjoyed as a child, if one of those branches leads to an undesirable conclusion, it's simple to back up and follow a different branch.
Game design is no different. There are so many options for a designer, and each one influences future decisions. At a certain point, I have an intuitive feel for "what the game wants to be," even if it has changed from my original vision.
And that may be the best answer yet for why I view my inanimate projects as if I had designed them to evolve on their own: it's an acknowledgement that, more often than not, the process takes me down paths that I could not see at the outset. I began with a goal and a vision on how to get there, but in the process of writing rules outlines and flowcharts, of prototyping, testing and tweaking, the journey revealed other interesting paths that I simply could not resist.
It's experiencing the unexpected that make me feel less like I'm in control and more like I'm playing a game--the game of game design.
But I am in control, of course--at least to the point of making the final decisions, of choosing the next branches of the decision tree to climb, and finally declaring when I reach the top, "This is what the game wants to be!"