I previously wrote that the “pleasures of interactivity in the absence of any kind of control over the plot are much the same as the pleasures of reading a book in which ‘nothing happens,'” the poetic dimension that is orthogonal to plot. Cat Matting calls these instances of interactivity without external influence “reflective choices” and has smart things to say about them:
Not all player choices have to have mechanical effects. It’s less interesting to establish this point (and constantly re-defend it) than it is to say: given that reflective choice is a legitimate technique, it can be used well or badly.
They offer the player information about the character’s personality or current emotional state and allow expression of that; they offer insight into what a character won’t or can’t conceive of doing…
That sounds to me like a window into a character’s interior life—something that is sometimes claimed to be accessible only to the novel.