In "Paying to be the hunter", Tobold made the point (with respect to MMOs):
Many other games don't have character power levels or gear, so it is totally possible to create a game in which playing a lot would only make you stronger in as far as you become more skillful in the gameAs 8f and Samus pointed out in the comments, there are plenty of games which require player skill, such as Call of Duty; but one of the unique features of virtual worlds is that we players are more like actors than athletes. Our skill lies not in dexterity, but in playing a role.
The premise of virtual worlds is the same as in D&D. It is the character that progresses, not the player. The fun is not in improving your keyboard skills, it is simply in acting the role of the character, and seeing the challenges from her point of view. As a player, I'm still rubbish at casting fireballs, but I act the part of my character, who is expert at it through the effort she has put into improving her magic abilities (not my keyboard abilities).
Of course, given equally powerful characters, player dexterity will matter if both are in competition. But it be the end, we players do not play these games because of our superb keyboard dexterity, or we'd be playing games in which keyboard dexterity matters more, and the second-by-second and minute by minute game-play was more attractive. We play these games for the epic stories told (and our part therein), whether player generated or developer generated; and for the personal development of our characters within that world.
It so happens that in most virtual worlds, character progress only happens when the player is in-game. That's not a law of nature, though, and I can quite imagine games in which characters are set skill-building tasks that progress while the player is offline. Skills in Eve online are trained while the player is offline. In WoW, followers level up by doing missions that progress while we are offline. In fact, the legendary quest is progressing through such naval missions. It would be interesting to see what could be made of a game in which our characters could train while we players are elsewhere.
Blaugust, day 21.