Rolling Your Own

Rampant Games' Jay Barnson writes on character generation on his blog, and why he doesn't consider it an integral part of the role-playing experience. Here's a snippet:
One character that I'd created but never played ended up getting (loaned) to another player. She hadn't had time to create a character of the appropriate level for a game, so I handed the sheet to her. She became a regular in the campaign, and the character became her own and one of her favorites. I didn't miss the character too much. I ended up marrying that player, so I kept the character in the family or something. :)

I've played and enjoyed a lot of CRPGs where I little or no say in what character I played, and often little control over their progression as they increased in levels. I've played CRPGs where I had full control over their stats (even to the point of being able to enter any values I wanted to (import) my D&D character into the game) from the get-go, and even (had) to create an entire party of characters from scratch. Let me tell you, I almost didn't get started playing Icewind Dale 2 because I was having so much fun making characters!

I don't really consider one style superior to the other, or gauge the (RPG-ness) of a game based upon whether it gives me a pre-generated character and background or not. With a pregen, the game can do some nifty things with story that are much harder to do when the player's character is a blank slate. There are some tricks to give you a little benefit of both worlds, like how Knights of the Old Republic gave you a back-story you didn't know about, or how Dragon Age: Origins gave you a selection of possible backgrounds. Or well, Planescape: Torment. Almost any RPG at least hints at some background you are expected to drop your character concept into. For some reason, you've answered the kings' summons or something. You figure out why.

I certainly would agree that character generation isn't essential for the role-playing genre, but I admit I consider the move away from it to make games more accessible misguided, at the very least.