At a Worldcon there was a discussion of sf and romance, and Catherine Asaro, who has written both (sometimes at the same time) said that sf is like jazz: The audience wants to see what you’ll do. Romance, on the other hand, is like ballet: The audience knows what you’ll do and wants to see how well you’ll do it.
I would suggest seeing the difference as one of reading approaches, rather than category. Certainly there are sf books one reads with a reasonably strong expectation of the plot but curiosity about how well or poorly they conduct the journey. Brad Torgersen called them Nutty Nuggets books.
In a discussion of a Nutty Nuggets book one might praise a particularly clever trick of plotting while saying that extreme deviation (e.g., the Bad Guys win) is simply a failure to follow the rules, like a 15-line sonnet, and we can argue over which a particular bit is. Brad Torgersen considered a Meredith Lackey book a deal breaker because it attracted our sympathy to the central character and then revealed that he was gay, Some of us would consider that an acceptable variant of the Old Juan Rico Trick.
OK, let’s turn this upside down and look at it from Both Sides Now. Vladimir Nabokov famously said that a good novel should be read twice: once to purge the need to find out how it comes out and once to appreciate its excellences. A Nutty Nuggets book is one for which the first trip is sufficient, but some of us find the first trip an annoyance and like those and only those books that supply a good second trip.
There are similarities between the pop fiction experience and the game experience that I am incompetent to discuss, but I was fascinated by this story from Metafilter:
Ubisoft made a fascinating announcement this week. They revealed that the latest Assassin’s Creed is to add a “Discovery Tour” mode, removing all the combat and challenges from the game, to let players just freely experience their in-depth recreation of Ancient Egypt. It’s fascinating, to me, because it’s a big deal. And goodness me, it shouldn’t be a big deal. Because games should be delighted to include modes that remove all their difficulty and challenge, and players should cheer when they hear about it. Oddly enough, a lot of players don’t cheer. In fact, people can get awfully angry about it. Since the announcement I’ve seen on Twitter a combination of people declaring, “Hooray! I’m interested in playing Assassin’s Creed for the first time in years!”, alongside others pointing toward those utterly furious that it demeans their hobby, cheapens games, and most heinous of all, lets in the riff-raff.”