More game/D&D stuff. Here goes:
When I first got my hands on fantasy role playing, and then shortly after, actual D&D 2nd ed, there was no battlemat. No minis. Sure, there were maps. I can't swear that we didn't sketch out environments and movements sometimes on paper, but I don't clearly recall doing that. So, what I mean to say is that ages ago, we didn't use any kind of tangible representation for movement and positioning. This also means that scenes were painted using only words, gestures, and creativity.
D&D 3.0 (re)introduced battlemats and minis, 3.5 solidified that, and 4e seems to be continuing that trend. Now, I'm not here to rail against that, merely to conduct my internal debate about grid vs not-grid. I sorta like the grid and minis, but I feel torn on it. For me anyway, too much in the way of boards and grids and tiles and minis and so forth reduces or eliminates my imaginative space. Let me compare it to monopoly for a moment. Never have I played monopoly and fleshed out in my imagination the thimble rolling down boardwalk, checking into a hotel, and spending every dime to its name. So too I think that you can overkill D&D into actually being a boardgame with a lot of rules. And I guess I don't want D&D to be just a boardgame. I still want to see it all happen in my mind's eye. I do appreciate how a board and minis can make the experience easier in some respects. It provides an immediate and easy medium to convey positioning and spacing and some general environmental stuff.