I've been playing RPGs and ARPGs and MMOs for years. I've always been fascinated by a good story, but as I've grown older, the rails of a story can't kept my interest like it used to. I think it came with the realization that I'm not really working for the story. The designers created the game in such a way that it's not really an accomplishment to reach a specific mile marker in the game. The whole game is setup in such a way as to give the illusion of a challenge, that everything is built around a specific pacing that - unless you grind, run from combats, or don't go out of your way to reach necessary treasures - you will almost automatically be just as powerful as you need to be when you reach any given challenge. Now, this is an over-simplification of course, but not by much.
It was Skyrim, and the hopes I had for it, that finally broke my desire to play any new games. In Skyrim, I hoped for a game rich in lore and mystery, but I found a relatively shallow experience. I didn't just want a group of bandits to have taken over a mine; I wanted to know WHY. Who were they? Why did they choose this place? Were they actually doing any BANDITING? More and more, rewards felt like they were GIVEN to me, rather than me having earned them. Sure, there was combat, but it all felt the same. None of the monster felt like they had reasons. None of the lore felt like it went anywhere. I felt like I was just wandering from place to place, killing whatever showed up for whatever random loot was around. It just all felt so....shallow.
I crave a game where more thought has been put into the HISTORY, the WHY, than the story the devs have laid out before me. I feel like, with story, most of the time you are the only person who can save the world. Everything is happening TO you, not BECAUSE of you. Story makes me feel like I am being PUSHED toward something, rather than advancing willingly. In most games, nothing really changes in the world unless you advance a story point, but this is a change you are not responsible for. You are merely a pawn in the game of...well, the game.
I believe the next great incarnation of games, especially multiplayer and especially MMO games, lies in the shift away from story, and the shift towards history and lore. Progress will be earned rather than given. You don't follow a quest line in order to get the key to the Onyx Gates, you study them, search out old books, sages, perform experiments, and finally, open it based only off the information YOU have discovered and the efforts you have put into to perform the right rituals. Consulting other players with different skill sets will be required; and not just combat skills. People will play the game JUST to be a blacksmith. People will STUDY magic, rather than level up and get new spells. Some zones will have secrets that may NEVER be revealed, and that's fine.
What do you think? Do you see the value in a game with reasons, for how things got the way they are? Or do you believe that the idea of a rail-road story will always reign supreme? What would you like to see in the way of history/story?