Computer RPGs

For this week's "RPG Corner" I wanted to step away from pen-and-paper for a moment and delve into computer RPGs for a bit.

I first got hooked on computer games via "King's Quest III", which is probably more of an adventure game than a true RPG. But the elements that first attracted me to D&D are there -- growth of a character over time, acquisition of new items and skills, figuring out puzzles, exploring hidden environments, and active participation in a story. My brother had a new PC at his house, and on my first Christmas vacation from college I was over there literally every night, sometimes into the wee hours of the morning. After two weeks we finally realized you could save your game progress instead of starting from scratch every time you died, and things went a lot faster.

Hey, we were idiots, what can I say?

Ever since, it's the RPG that keeps me coming back to gaming time and again. From "Might & Magic" to "Baldur's Gate" in fantasy on up to "World of Warcraft" and the "Fallout" series in sci-fi, these games keep me fired up and interested in the world of consoles and computers. I've been moved, challenged, excited, depressed, and obsessed more times than I can remember.

I have a hard time defining just what qualifies as an RPG, though. Clearly D&D has decided to move more in the direction of the computer titles, with combat-maximized rules, lots of power trees and a "build"-centric focus. Along the way the story seems to be getting less and less important, but to me that's really the core of a good RPG. The action and mechanics enhance the story, but without some reason for being there, without a character to build, it's all just a big fireworks show.

But as someone pointed out in the "Avatar" thread, sometimes fireworks is all you want, and hey, who doesn't like fireworks? If story's your thing (as it is for me), then great, but that's not the case for everyone. Why should an entire genre be defined just by what I personally enjoy the most?

All of that's a long way 'round to the point of this post (such as it is), namely, what computer RPGs did you / do you enjoy the most, and why? What is it that qualifies a game as an RPG? What is it that you like about computer RPGs better than pen-and-paper style games?

Edited to Add: You can play King's Quest III online for free if you want. I love the internet!