I know many people have chimed in on the debate about what precisely VNs are to them... but the three main schools of thought pretty much come down to 'story-delivery system', 'pretty picture delivery system', and a mixture of both. To an extent, I can sympathize with all three... but I fall mostly with the 'mixture of both' school of thought with a leaning to the 'story-delivery system' end of things. Why? Because, when it comes down to it, all forms of otaku entertainment are story-delivery systems, when you get right down to it... even if that story is somewhat out there, disjointed, or so mixed in with pointless moe that it is hard to recognize. Of course, that is in the larger sense, so it is basically playing with sophistry on my part to think that way... *loves making it impossible for anyone else to win the argument*
Nonetheless, it is a valid point. I love stories, in general. I live for fiction in all its forms, though the written word is my preferred way to receive it, preferably with narrative, not just dialogue. More than anything, my taste in VNs is shaped by this simple root cause... in the end, I'm a narrative junkie who needs his fix. Chuunige like Dies Irae give me that in the most obvious form, and every once in a while, a fantasy masterpiece like Ikusa Megami Zero comes along and revives my love of world-building and deep settings. Even more rarely, I hit gold with something like Konata yori Kanata made, which burns so deeply into my soul that it causes an epiphany.
The last half-decade of my life has been pretty much shaped by my addict's pursuit of good VNs. As a result, outside of my work I'm pretty much the picture of the hikikomori erogamer (actually, since I work from home...). At the same time, I've more and more come to realize that almost no one across the water has any real idea of the potential of the medium in general for storytelling, despite having the best of all tools in all areas relatively easily at hand.
If I walk through a section my local bookstore (any fiction section), I can pick out at least a dozen titles I've read and left their mark on my way of thinking and expanded my mind in general. Going through all the VNs I've played, I can name only about forty out of the five hundred that left their mark in a significant way on my mind and spirit... and that is seriously a small number, even proportionately speaking. Less than a tenth of all the VNs I've played have been something worthy of remaining for the future... and how sad is that? This is despite the sheer potential the medium has... When I think of it objectively, I'm sometimes driven to despair.