I posted about this post by Jim on LoFP earlier. On Sunday reading through some of the responses on my blog and his there was a nagging feeling of "I had this argument before."
Then it hit me, it is a variant of the older hack-n-slash vs roleplaying debate that been with the hobby from near the beginning. The reason the debate exists is that D&D is not monopoly or even Talisman. The idea that a character develops and grows in a game setting is built in from the get go. So it is important point to consider for RPGs as it what sets them apart from other types of games.
This is important to point out because in my experience treating your character like a bundle of stats makes the player more apt to treat it like a game not a roleplaying game. The roles that Jim talks about will go unfilled and result in a boring game for all.
For the roleplayers the hack-n-slasher treating D&D just as a game drove us crazy. Because roleplayers try to work towards some long term goal and more often than not they would screw it up with some crazy antic that does little than nab a few extra gold or some item.
It been my experience that having players provide some minimal background goes a long way to make the game interesting in the long run. Obviously for a classic dungeon o' death you are not going to invest anymore than a sentence or two.
But having that sentence or two will prove invaluable later on if the character continues to grow and survive. For no other reason that it makes the players think of his character as existing in an alternate world where there are consequences to their actions rather than just as a game pieces out to pile masses of gold and treasure.
If you combine this with the "Don't be a dick about it" rule then you find that even the most hard core hand-n-slash player can be brought around to think of his character as more than just a killing machine. It is important to remember this because everybody is having fun with their play style. What we have to work around is the fact that roleplaying games are a group activity so we need to find a middle ground rather than yelling "This is the one true way"
To be fair Jim in his post is more about getting back to basics. It is obvious that once his games get started they differ a lot from what everything thinks hack-n-slash games are.
P.S. If you haven't guessed I was firmly in the roleplaying camp.