One of the questions I recently found myself pondering yet again is the difference between character interaction and player interaction.
More precisely, I was thinking about GM-free games where everyone chips in to provide the content and the conflict. Games like Fiasco or The Name of God or Microscope or The Quiet Year. In those games, it’s possible that characters might never be in the same scene but everyone works together and gets their hands dirty.
On the other hand, games where characters can be treated like playing pieces and the game master is basically a referee, you don’t have to actually interact with the other players. Your piece or pieces can interact with the other pieces. I have been in RPG sessions where some players were just taking up space on chairs. (And apparently having fun doing that so more power to them)
Of course, any game can have a strong level of cooperative interaction. But some games absolutely require it and some game can take or leave it.
I have been in Fourth Edition Dungeons and Dragons campaigns that were extremely collaborative where the players actively molded the story and developed the world with the dungeon master. And I have been in others where we moved from monster group B to monster group C and the other players could have been my cats with automatic die rollers as far as the actual game went. Still had a marvelous time.
Honestly, I think that fourth edition was designed so that it could be played as detached as possible and I think that’s a feature not a bug. It is definitively not a bad option. Sometimes, depending on the group and the need, it is the right option.