You will pardon my hiatus. A perfect storm of illness, work crises and lethargy keep me from my RPG rounds. Also, I have been playing the rather nifty Realm of the Mad God, a Flash-based MMO with NES style graphics.
While I am not generally a fan of MMOs, this one is about my speed. There is no back story worth discussing. You spend almost no time rolling characters. And, most importantly, PC death is permanent! Sound familiar?
As I have previously posited, D&D is a kind of wagering game. Players attempt to achieve goals by betting their PCs life. Like RotMG, PC death is very hard and expensive to overcome which is what makes their pretend lives meaningful.
Jason McIntosh has written about the trend in modern games to lessen the sting of the death of the player's avatar. In many ways, the death of video game avatars is a legacy of the co-op arcade origin of modern games. I certainly enjoyed CRPGs more when characters could be raised from a premature death (like in the Might & Magic series).
With real PC death, even World of Warcraft starts to look interesting. PvP anyone?