First of all, I would like to inform my readers of a disclaimer: I, the writer, am a gamer, and will always be. I have never seriously played any massively multiplayer online role playing games, and have focused my gaming primarily on driving, first person shooters, and role playing games. I have only gotten a small taste of what MMO's are like, so I will do what I can to be as objective as possible.
What are they?
MMORPG's are games which are played online over the internet, and involve the player cooperating or competing with other players to attain a certain goal, be it defeating another 'clan' of players, or becoming the most powerful. There is usually an economy of some sort, and prices for items rise or fall depending on their value, determined by factors such as rarity. This all takes place in a virtual world. MMORPG's are complex games, and in some ways, they are more complex than other kinds of games. The number of interactions, transactions, and conflicts that occur in such a game in a day is simply mind boggling, and to define an MMO based on a common pattern of activities would be impossible.
MMORPG's change and evolve as time goes by. Players shape the way the game plays and based on them alone, developers constantly make changes to make it more enjoyable. Unruly players, who make the game difficult for others to enjoy, are normally banned from the game, or imposed certain sanctions. In some ways, not just MMORPG's, but games in general, affect people's lives in both positive and negative ways.
One reason why I never seriously played an MMORPG is because they often lead most players whom I know into addiction. This is the state when a player is no longer able to manage his own time effectively, and in the end, loses precious real world time to gain virtual benefits in the game. It is not an uncommon sight, as several friends of mine were, at one point in their lives, addicted to an MMORPG, and eventually got over it. I however, was so into an MMORPG that I completely lost track of time, and it affected my schoolwork badly. In the end, MMORPG's weren't the right games for me, as I felt that for a game to be a game, it had to have a proper start and finish. In an MMORPG, there is no defined end (other than the decrease in the game's popularity online to staggeringly low levels, such that game servers are forcibly shut down due to financial losses). The player can never truly be the most powerful player in the game, since he is limited by the game moderators to only be slightly more powerful than the general population, which enables other players to catch up.
Although this rabbit hole may fall deep for some, it is indeed a colourful rabbit hole. There are hundreds of things to do, and things keep getting better and better as time goes by.
In the end, I believe that MMORPGS should be fantastic experiences for those who search for something unique and community based. Just don't let the rabbit hole pull you down too deep.