Interactive environments are just that-- environments that respond to a player's actions within them. Unlike, for example, the scrolling backgrounds in early 8-bit games, the player can shape the environment to solve puzzles or defeat enemies. Interaction may take the form of a minigame; for example, the player can find a pinball table and play pinball, or find an arcade cabinet and play an arcade game (like in FREE open-world series such as Shenmue or Yakuza). Some others may act as simple switches (like in various action RPG titles).
Interactive environments can play a large part in fostering emergent gameplay. For example, by making the gameplay in sandbox games like RPG Maker or Minecraft based entirely around manipulating the environment, players are encouraged to set their own goals and "find their own fun".
Examples and concepts