Yes, the Channel F was important, and its cartridges made the Channel F the first programmable game console. No need to paint it as way more innovative than it was. The good people at Magnavox (no, not Baer personally) invented the idea that you could plug a card into your game console and it would change which game you are playing.
So the distinction is that the Channel F's games were in the cartridge and the Odyssey's were not? Were these jumpers used to select a game built in, or were they changing the parameters of operation in effect to create each game? If the latter is true, then the Odyssey cartridge would in fact contain game programming. It would also seem there would be a limit to how many such unique games could be made.
Also, I have played GTA from I think GTA 3, and I have always played it from the perspective of doing the least harm possible. When I first started, I didn't even run red lights, until I learned that the cops won't chase you for that. I still am disappointed when I am in the middle of a mission and I accidentally hit a pedestrian while being chased or even worse is when the story requires you to kill a bystander. Heck, even when they give me a choice about killing a criminal, I choose to let them go. Frankly, I think that most of the assumptions that people make about the GTA series comes from people who haven't actually played it. Just like most any other topic, most people who talk about it are talking out of their rear end.
I have always been the same way. The thing I like about sandbox games is that they are the most immersive for me. I like the feeling of being in the place as a tourist trying to learn my way around, and I find that trying to obey (assumed even if unenforced) rules and respecting the rights and dignity of NPCs is more fun for me than just running around as an unstoppable force of chaos. Gameloft's Gangstar games have a tendency to ask players to engage in wanton destruction and targeting of innocents, and I really do hate when the game forces that upon my character. Then again, I think wrecks in Nascar prolong the race and can disrupt hours of planning mileage/tire wear etc.
I bet the human brain is a kludge. -- Marvin Minsky