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There's a really good article on this subject by Mark rosewater that you should read. It's called Timmy, Johnny and Spike and does a great job of explaining why people play games. I've found that this explanation goes a long way towards understanding why people enjoy different aspects of games.
Personally, I prefer puzzles and RPGs where you have to manage resources carefully. One of my favorite examples was playing through Pokemon Soul Silver where I restricted myself by not fighting any wild okemon and not buying anything from the shops. My brother prefers action and FPSs and any kind of game where he can mow down hordes of enemies. Our playthrough of Tales of Symphonia was rather interesting, with me managing the party build and the majority of the puzzels while he did most of the fighting.
You know, I think your kid is actually ahead of the curve here. Most of us cynical gamers will only turn to these fun alternatives when the 'proper' way to play the game is spent. But it's those alternatives that stick to mind the most. I've heard great tales of people playing races on Battlefield games, had a lot of fun when me and my friend got tired of shooting each other on GoldenEye and started shouting at each other 'Freeze! I have a gun!', and my most memorable CounterStrike session was when I somehow managed to get stuck inside a jeep that was stuck on the level's invisible ceiling.
Maybe that's why sandbox games got so popular. They're a game that have a story in them when you look for them, but when you don't let you do whatever you want. Although most of them have little secrets and missions hidden in the gameworld - are you really creating your play in childlike fashion when the game expects you to? Hm, let me know when your son is old enough to philosophise.
In response to "The Case of Dad vs. Phoenix Wright" from The Escapist forums:
Not to mention Layton vs Wright :P
I'm still waiting on Franziska Von Karma: Perfect Whipping.
A game that plays half PW half Beat-Em-Up in which you use her whip to abuse, attack and get the truth out of witnesses.
Seriously however. The Ace Attorney series of games are some of the best out there. Whenever people buy a DS or a Wii I make sure to put the series down as games to play. It literally has became much like Okami and Little King's Story as games you MUST play (or really shouldn't be playing games.)