I agree with you and have a hypothesis as to the why.Just FYI - I don't feel like this conversation is going anywhere (in part because too many threads are being pulled at) and I'm growing increasingly perplexed by the conversation (if I'm wrong, I'm so far away from seeing it that I don't even know how to parse what I'm reading in opposition to my view...this is a bad place to be).
So I'm going to give the rest of the conversation a miss. I'll read any subsequent responses to what I've written, but I'm losing steam/interest in this.
By using the term "skilled play," I am using it in a certain "jargon-y" way that differentiates between player skill and character skill.
My thesis starts by saying that in an important sense there are no characters in games, there are only players. Say I generate a character for 5e and do nothing further. What happens? Nothing. That character will not go on to explore, fight and carouse by itself. It can only act if I speak its actions.
The only skill that can exist in games is player skill. There are no character skills. Think of an example that came up - persuading the Queen - and compare it with your own discussion of skill. If players are smart enough to compare persuasion ability scores and let the Bard roll, then they have exercised some degree of skill. If the bard player chose expertise persuasion on levelling up, and played to it by pressing for negotiation over combats, then they are exercising some degree of skill. If "skilled play" is a broad church that only cares about players exercising "more skill" then we're not going to get anywhere interesting with it.
"More skill" is a synonym for "any skill" when I don't control the baseline skill of a group, what they count skillful, what the goals of their play are, what they enjoy. If I want to say that some games are harder, but I don't control the referees who enforce "harder", then I can't make any claims to that game being more skillful. In Chess you win by being more skillful than your opponent, but that doesn't imply that you are very skillful... only that you are more skillful than that opponent. Objective skill is assessed in Chess only through the metagame construct of the Elo that measures skill by looking across all games. Elo is a tightly defined construct: how likely am I to defeat a randomly chosen opponent? Our relative Elo scores tell us.
So back to why we are not getting anywhere. If "skilled play" means players playing skillfully, its meaning lands within each context of play. If we think about facets of that - choice of rules, player culture, chosen topics and goals - we find that RPG is highly diverse. Highly proficient play at one table could seem unskillful at another, because the tables prioritise different things.
I've several times suggested that "skilled play" is either a chimera, or it means a preferred style of play that must make some commitments if it is going to land anywhere. It may seem paradoxical, but it's going to have to exclude some types of skillful play. In order to be valuable, "skilled play" must be something I can do unskillfully. I must be able to attempt, unsuccessfully, "skilled play". Bringing more into the church just sets up another church.
Well, I am horrible at explaining things. I'm not saying that there is no such thing as "skilled play". Only that to conflate "skilled play" with skillful play can't go anywhere. If "skilled play" is only skillful play, it can't do interesting work: it has to make other commitments.