Jay has a post titled, Are Graphics Really Killing Gameplay? He talks about how interesting gameplay elements like climbing walls and vaulting over things are often left out of games simply because of the expense of depicting them in 3d. (An odd aside, I have a post with almost the same title in the queue planned for next week, but mine focuses on the way 3d hardware evolution is screwing up graphics evolution.)
This reminds me of how the game Fallout handled this. Your character had many skills they could use in the game: Heal, hack computers, repair things, tie ropes, pick locks, etc. Rather than making animations for all of these activities, the designers just had this animation of your character leaning forward and sort of moving their hands around at the target object. To my eye it looked like you were tickling it. This was really funny, watching my character “tickle” a door open. However, once I got used to it I stopped thinking about it. The fact that I could do those things was way more important to me than how I looked while I was doing it.