I think you're going to far with the semantic argument Neoconk - to use the term linear is to describe something as having one
line along which the player must walk. A non-linear story(line...pun
) in your strict definition of limitless is an irrelevant design - that kind of story can't be written, even with the modular 'emergent' story that Lee champions.
What you're essentially saying is that unless there are limitless 'lines' for the player to build himself (building rather than following) then a game is linear. The point I'm driving at is that this design is essentially life from a god's perspective, not a game, not a story, not even a world that is fabricated with millions of characters. That definition is therefore of no use to us.
No linear game exists given a clinical definition of the term. At some point it, by virtue of being a game, becomes non-linear because at the very least the player has some input. A single move of the direction pad means that some authorship of the games events has been given to the player.
The connotation of what makes a non linear game is what we're really talking about. That is to say that a game where you are given the background, then you perform prescribed actions (blow up this and shoot that, point a to point b to point c) is in effect 'linear' (again: connotation, not strict definition), and we are hashing out ways to avoid that kind of...well, it's at best uninspiring and at worst lazy storytelling.
Also, what did you mean by 'there are other ways of writing storylines', because that's the point of this thread - I could be completely wrong and you could prove it by discussing the 'ways of writing storylines' you're thinking of.