Here's a pretty image:
Guess what game this is from. Go on, I won't ruin it for you (well, spoiler tag ahead...since its related to my rant)
So I'm playing the above mentioned game today, when I realized that the fireplace there and the whole setting is really relaxing and beautiful. Only... no one that I'm aware of has stopped to see it. In fact the areas of the world that don't have any gameplay elements seem very deserted. In contrast, I just spend over half an hour sitting on a bed in that room, randomly chatting with my guild while I could. No one even came close to the Inn to check it out.
So, is that what gaming is about these days? I mean from one point of view I understand - gamers follow the gameplay elements - and some places (like the above room in the inn) have no gameplay elements in them. As far as interaction goes, that might as well be a blank white room. The only difference is that it looks relaxing, and interesting.
But what about gaming for just interesting things? Just cause you find something interesting, and not because it has some in-game effect? I tried offering a random "I'm hiding, try to find me" challenge, with a small in-game currency reward just to see who's interested. Well, no one was. Maybe it was kinda late, so fewer people were around, but none of them showed an interest in doing something just for the fun of it, that didn't contribute any sort of real reward or achievement. Maybe if I offered significantly more money someone would be interested, but then it would be for the money only.
I can't even describe the amount of time I've spend jumping up places where nothing of interest was to be found. It works best with a friend of mine who also has this interest in the abstract sort of exploring for the sake of just seing new things. We'd see where we can get than just sit there and be like "ok, this is awesome, didn' think we'd make it up here."
Sure, getting your character in games to be more powerful, to have the coolest looking gear etc. etc. is one part of the fun. But I feel like a lot of gamers don't even care about anything else. It's almost taboo in mmorpgs for example, to stop and care about anything other than your dmg/support/heal abilities. Everything else is just considered meaningless.
Even in some single player rpgs. For example, I have seen threads of people complaining that Skyrim housing doesn't do anything. But that's not true - its just skyrim housing doesn't provide much in the way of increasing your dps, or provide you with unique abilities. Yet, I've spend a lot of time just sitting in front of the fireplace there too, doing nothing but .. well, sort of role playing. Immersing myself in the atmosphere is a better way of putting it. (this might also be linked to the fact that i've never owned a home with a fireplace, but regarless!)
It just feels like a lot of art, design, and generally cool environments kinda go wasted due to the prevalence of meta-gaming, which basically makes you play just so you can become a more efficient killing machine. I know, MMOs are not really a good example. Dragon age for example had your camp, which was kinda useless but developed characters, so it was well received. But Bioware games focus much more on a fixed story (With few branching choices) than an open world rpg like skyrim or a MMO like GW2. Ambiance and story go hand in hand there, but players still look mostly to complete what the game rewards them for.
I feel like one of the culprits is achievements - they have conditioned many gamers - do this, get achievement! instant-reward! No instant-reward? No need to do it.
There was some picture floating around.. let me find it... yeah: http://www.nerfnow.com/comic/450 .... the aspect illustrated there is how I feel alot of gamers are these days. Jump in for some quick time to earn some xp/gold/gear, don't care about beautiful landscapes that dont have anything truly important in them, and then leave. (it's even funnier considering how much these very same gamers who avoid all non-gameplay related things, including beautiful scenary will then go on to demand extremely polished next-gen graphics from all new games.. but that's another conditioning alltogether)
Yeah, rant over, this could probably all be worded better and strung in a more meaningful and coherent sense, but there you have it. Gaming for the sake of having fun seems lost to me. It annoys me, and I hate meta-gaming. /rant.