I use the term “real player” to describe a game in which your game play is not dependent on adopting a particular role or persona within a game. Classic examples of “real player” games include chess, solitaire, or any other game (whether standalone or online, single player or multiplayer) in which you play the game as yourself. In contrast, in a role playing game, you assume a particular character. In a “first person shooter,” you’re the guy with the weapon. In the classic game, The Curse of Monkey Island, you are Guybrush Threepwood and the entire gameplay centers on his perspective and his quest.
Before computers showed up, traditional games (such as cards or chess) were almost always real player. Exceptions included games like Dungeons and Dragons or Magic—card games that allow users to immerse in an imaginary world of mythical creatures and sorcery. While computer-based versions of traditional games have become popular, role playing games have benefited most from the power provided by computers, particularly in conjunction with a worldwide communication infrastructure as pervasive as the Internet.