In response to "Midgar is Burning" from The Escapist Forum: It's really fascinating to see what people do with the tools that are available. And the evolution of that micro society matches similar situations I have witnessed, from SCA groups to MMO guilds to rock bands. So many things are generated out of passion, its no wonder that they cannot last forever. As a veteran 'passionista', I usually know, while I am in the moment, that it is transitory and should be treasured while it is happening, it won't be around forever. Adds a bittersweet note, but makes me pay attention and try harder in the meantime.
For a few short years, I was amidst not the AOL chatrooms, but instead, the IRC. It was there where there were true macros and calculation systems being used, some so elaborate and detailed, actual RPG battles could be held, with number generations, move lists, health, magic, and turns. Sure, there was no "role playing" outside of our internet personas, but it certainly was fun.
The group I was part of was called #BOTVGH, short for "Battle of the video-game heroes." They had a website and everything, where people wrote what was essentially script-style fanfic of video game characters. Personally? It was boring as hell to read. I was more fascinated with the chatroom itself, and the personalities within. Eventually, near the end of middle school or so, I got banned, so eh. Had a great time, though. Was an interesting introduction to the internet, full of scapegoats, drama, and ostracization.
I think that world is gone now. There are remnants found through google, but it seems like it died around 2004.
In response to "Are You Evil?" from The Escapist Forum: One problem with the expression of evil, or personality in general, in RPGs is the reliance on dialogue trees. A position thrown at you a lot is one covered in the article: demanding payment for heroic services rendered. If I were playing a game through "as I would do it" I would probably accept as reward as possible for my actions, but actually saying "I think I deserve more gold than this," or "Hand over more or your daughter dies by my hands," just seems ridiculous.
I don't know if this is an especially solvable problem, but I did recently find an RPG that successfully tempted me into evil actions: Vampire: Bloodlines. Even though her creation was originally a "humane" act, I found myself more and more willing to accept the power I held over "my ghoul", ordering her around brusquely, accepting the money from her college loans, and was made really uncomfortable by how natural the actions felt.
I totally agree that the "goody goody or prick" choice that most games give you are highly unsatisfying, but it doesn't help that most gamers will play that way. Neither the games nor the players are stepping up to the challenge of looking at these issues in a more complex manner.
One of the few games I've seen that gives you greater choice is Neverwinter Nights 2, which is pretty surprising considering D&D's black and white alignment system. The characters that joined your party had motivations that, while still fairly primitive, were much more interesting than good and evil. The dwarf fighter that joins you early on is, while still an out and out good guy, always looking for a good punch-up. So, despite alignment differences, a violent, evil character is more likely to gain favour with him than a diplomatic, good one.