What everyone gets wrong about AC
As someone who has played every single assassins creed game to death, with the exception of unity (because it was unplayable due to ridiculous matchmaking times) I can honestly say that the In-Animus story is given a whole new light because of the Animus and what takes place outside of them.
Like you, I also had my moments in the first game where I found being pulled out of the "fun-part" jarring at times.
However, being an Xbox Achievement miner, I stuck all the external animus lines to the bitter end. I snuck around as Desmond in the first games animus downtime, I read every last shred of email, audio tape, collected everything.
I can honestly say, AC is a game that is meant to be played by almost everyone. It defies genres in the sense that your in animus play is very different to the external animus play. As is the content. Outside of the Animus, is the place where you get a picture of the very psyche of the developers. As someone with an AOE (Area of expertise) in philosophy and ethics, some of the deepest content in the game takes place outside of the animus.
Here is a prime example from the newest game, Valhalla: If I asked you, why did Desmond respect Shaun so much? Or why Desmond chose to run away from the Assassins to become a bar tender? Most people would not have the foggiest idea, because they ignore the majority of what goes on outside the animus, because it really forces them to think about the creed, the templars, order and chaos, good vs evil and the vast grey area between. AC is not a warriors game, Valhalla especially. AC is a Skalds game. A warrior Scholar. That is what the templars and Assassins have in common, they aren't just warriors, they are philosophical scholars. As are the developers to some extent.
So why did Desmond respect Shaun so much and why did he leave the Assassins and run away from his family? Desmond has a major problem with the creed. He has a problem with the hypocrisy of valuing freedom above all else when he was never really given a choice as to whether or not he was to be an assassin? He was born into it. If the creed was to be respected, he should have been able to join the templars, if that is what he wanted. Ultimately, Desmond deep down always knew that he really did want to be an assassin. He just had to find a way to make it his choice, so he left. That is why he respects Shaun so much, because Shaun grew up not knowing about any of this stuff, yet when given the choice, Shaun chose to join the Assassins and accept the creed.
Both Shaun and Desmond agree that the Assassins creeds power, comes from its danger of devoting itself to freedom, over control. Freedom in the wrong hands is a dangerous thing, the templars act with freedom after all.
All in all, people really ought to do a deep dive into the external animus lore because I promise you, it changes your life.
If you think it is bad that they use the animus to create a virtual environment for people to go around in, it's a bit of an irony that you have a problem with that when you don't realise you are doing the same thing with your gaming system. Our gaming systems are just low tech animus for every type of game we play, from historical to fanciful.
So isn't it a little hypocritical to chastise the developers for introducing characters that are so like us, they are even playing video games within the game? I can't say that I blame them. If the true to story animus existed, I'd probably rarely get out of it myself.