I have been playing RPG games on the Commodore VIC-20, Commodore 64 then PC since around 1981. I have kept every game I have ever bought so have around 800 games in my collection. I also spent from 1991 to 1997 running a small games publishing company, trying to become the next Microprose or Activision, but it wasn't to be.
Far and away for all that time, my favourite genre has been the RPG, and since around 2005 I have seen the genre under attack in terms of dumbing down, console orientated.and generally diluted like the adventure genre was before it. I will defend the genre with my dying breath, to try and slow it's decline.
One of my annoyances, is that since the advent of console style Action-Adventures, like Jade Empire, Mass Effect and Bioshock all being called "Action-RPG's", we now see all RPG games being called the same, just like a site did for Daggerfall and the whole Elder Scrolls series!
Given my long history in gaming, I can bring up two points. One, if all RPG's are now "Action-RPG's", please tell me the name of the plain old "RPG" that had no action in it!
As games companies budgets went up, they had to sell to the largest market, so by promoting games like Mass Effect as Shooter's with RPG elements (however little) and calling them Action-RPG's, they could sell to the FPS and RPG markets. Only after these titles started appearing did RPG's generally start being called Action-RPG's. Why the media have followed this marketing ploy I have no idea, but it now means we have a wide range of titles from Borderlands at one end and The Witcher at the other all called Action-RPG's!
For over 25 years games like the Ultima series, the Elder Scrolls series to Morrowind and every other "RPG" was called an RPG. Everybody knew that every RPG ever released had had combat in it but felt no need to call the games anything else. You had character skills and attribute dice rolls that impacted on how combat fared and that was good enough.
Today we have games that call themselves Action-RPG's when they have no character skills or attribute trees. Where attack and Defence is decided by the gun you have and the armour your wearing. These types of games should be in the Action-Adventure category.. Games like Mass Effect, STALKER, Bioshock, Rage, Bioshock 2, etc.
In a separate category of "RPG" would be those games that still have a character skills/attribute mechanic for deciding combat along with weapon and armour related to those skills. Games that are plain old RPG's would be Fallout 3, Skyrim, The Witcher series, the Gothic series, Wizardry 8 and a game that came out two weeks ago: Kingdoms of Amalur Reckoning. Maybe they could be designated as RPG's by virtue of having sneak or crafting? Whatever it is, all RPG's for all time have had combat (action) and yet only since the advent of the multiformat market in 2005/6 has everything become "Action-RPG's".. For you, a specialist PC site, were to use the term Action-RPG's for all RPG's would shock me in it recidivism. If you have gone down that road already the war is almost lost.
Remember, the Adventure genre was going strong until Tomb Raider came along and called itself an "Action-Adventure". Hardcore Adventure fans complained bitterly that Tomb Raider was not anything like an adventure game. The complaint was practically (always the case) ignored, and more and more "Action-Adventures" were released. Within 2 years the adventure genre was practically gone.
I think the same thing is happening with the RPG genre now. You can have such a wide range of genres within the all encompassing "Action-RPG" genre, that it loses all meaning. This allows developers to keep cutting out RPG bits without having to change it's genre!
For over 30 years we have had games like Daggerfall, Ulima VII, Darklands, etc released with no thought of calling these RPG's anything other than just that - RPG.
We have had isometric, third person, first person, realtime and turn based combat. But every one used the skills/attribute mechanic to oversee combat. We have RPG's doing exactly that today, Skyrim, Kingdoms of Amalur, Witcher 2, Drakensang, Risen, Two Worlds 2, Divinity 2, etc and yet they are all called Action-RPG's!
So media get off your high horse and call them RPG's, and those where your defence went up because you put on a better suit or your shooting was better because you got a better gun, but the game had no skill or attribute trees should be called Action-Adventures"!!
Has gaming got so dumb across the board that just because an RPG has combat it is called an Action-RPG however little or how many RPG elements it has in the game!?