> I spend countless hours toying in Total Annihilation
Heh heh. One of my all-time favorite games.
> even when I don't enjoy the actual mechanics of the game
I'm having a hard time getting my feelers around this topic. Are you saying the game play and mechanics are not playing a part in your enjoyment?
Sure, I think having a goal or achievement is part of the fun, but I find most of my enjoyment comes from the actual game play elements. It's fun deducing and figuring out puzzles, for example. I like the thought process and thinking things through. And sometimes, discussing things out with someone else (like talking things through as I play Lego Star Wars with my daughter).
I think of an RTS where game play is somewhat infinite. Sometimes you win and sometimes you lose. If I did not enjoy the actual game mechanics, though, I would not play. And...hahaha, actually, I don't really play them anymore as I have grown tired of the same style of game over the years.
A personal example for me is Mario Golf Advanced on the GBA. I will sometimes grab the game and just play a mini-game or a round of golf because it's just fun to play it. I've already beaten the courses (except one), but it's just fun to play. I'm not even trying to beat my previous score.
There is a Wii game called Endless Ocean
with no goal. You swim around a large area of water and discover things, but you can just bob around, slowly meander, search for items, whatever. It's totally open-ended and you don't have to do anything but relax and watch. It seems to get positive remarks.
When I look over games I've enjoyed, I remember the mechanics and the process more than the actual achievements.