Post of 2013 so far! I'm sure some people want games to be like War and Peace! I agree about the "ooh, just ten more minutes" pull too, usually that 10 minutes turned into 2 and a half hours for me.
@FWB and @caligari
Maybe I'm getting a bit meta here, but the purpose of the game is to entertain me. The outposts were so much fun, possibly the most fun I've had in a shooter for years and years, that I honestly don't care if my motivation was to liberate the last pot of marmite or save the universe. The game was fun.
I'm the same in Halo. I don't give a flying fuck why I'm saving the universe or whatever, I just like the mechanics of playing the game. I'm the same in Dishonoured. I don't care so much about the dystopian future because I'm having too damn much fun with the excellent stealth game mechanics and the world of possibility. But I love the _setting_ in each of those examples.
I guess it comes down to how much the story takes one out of the experience. It's rare for a story to ruin a game for me. Even Baldur's Gate 2, one of my favourite games of all time, had a bobbins story. Didn't stop the game being fun.
Far Cry 3 succeeds as a game. I guess I'll just count myself lucky that I don't need to delve into the moods and motives of my arbitrary gaming avatar in order to enjoy a game about shooting humans in the face, then punching sharks in the bollocks, skinning them and making a new wallet.
The exploration element of the open world didn't have purpose in and of itself, but what it did do was give the outposts and missions a real sense of _place_. If they were just "levels" then it would have left me cold. But they existed in this connected grand environment.
More than once I beat an hasty retreat from a botched outpost assault in a vehicle. Heart racing. Great stuff, and very much dependent on the open world being there. There's also nothing quite like smoke, or a radio tower, looming in the distance to trigger that "ooh, just ten more minutes" pull that I so love about a good game.
Can't argue with you on the collectibles - I skipped them almost entirely 'cos they weren't fun. But some people are OCD nutters, so I can see why they're in there.
Like you, my gaming time is also limited. Extremely so. So I'd much rather play one that I find contains fun. Pure, unadulterated fun.
I'd certainly counsel both you to just approach this as a fun simulator. Make your own. Do an outpost with only the knife. With only the sniper rifle. With only animals. It's amazing, enthralling, emergent awesomeness. Fuck the story. Right in its arse.