I got into RPGs in 1975, at that time I ran across the APA zine Alarums and Excursions and it’s publisher Lee Gold. Lee and her husband Barry had just come back from a short time in Japan and Lee had gotten smitten with the culture. She had also learned about DnD and had decided to try it adding the culture she had just learned about. Her friends were agreeable, so they created a few characters, equipped them, and sent them off on adventure.
Now Lee and her friends had not come to DnD through gaming. Instead they had come to the activity through fandom, science fiction and fantasy fandom, so they evidently saw things through a different set of eyes. From what I can see she started from the premise that she and her players would be adventuring through the worlds of Japanese legend and myth, so how they would approach matters would be different than what a group of game players would take.
So led by a young Japanese noble man they headed off to nearby village where they would do some adventuring on behalf of another party. But instead of Lee telling them that after a few weeks of travel they got to the other village, after a rather short amount of time –a few hours I think–they had their first encounter.
Now I don’t recall how they handled the encounter, but when they were done they went on to the next encounter, and then the next, and so on and so forth. I do recall that one encounter was with a kappa at a ford in a stream, and that took some smart play to handle. To keep this short, her players found themselves in the world of Japanese myth and legend, which from all appearances they rather enjoyed.
I had experiences of my own in those early days, one of these being my encounters with a dragon and a balrog. The latter I sort of talked into killing the dragon for me. To make this short, what I learned from all this was that my characters were living in an imaginary world. An imaginary world and an imaginary life that just did not qualify as any sort of story. In the close to 50 years since then I have run across nothing that would ever change my mind on this subject.
So my understanding of RPGs was set at a rather early age, being 21 at the time, and over the years it has be reinforced by all that I have read and done.