One of my many hobbies is playing table-top games. Of course, there is not that much time anymore, so these tend to be played only with imaginary friends (i.e. over the internet). And it does change its character over the internet (i.e. message boards and email). Because at that point it is more shared writing of fiction then a game. When I was deployed, a Marine in my unit enjoyed teasing me about this. After a point, when he commented that I seemed to feed this bit of entertainment, I replyed "if this is what you are ragging me on, I'm doing pretty good."
The premise of role-playing games is you play a character. And the character has a background which provides abilities, characteristics and motivation.
Like books and movies, there are many types of games, for different motivations for players. Some are more escapist, and the focus is on combating opponents in contests that follow set rules. These often involve lots of dice rolling. Dungeon & Dragons is the most well known of this type. Others are narrative, where the goal is to tell a good story and the characters are encouraged to take on weaknesses to advance a story line. FATE (Spirit of the Century) is like this. Others are focused on the characters, where the characters are written and played so they can be explored in depth. And in these later two, after the character is created, it almost disappears into the background, since the numbers do not matter as much as the description.
The idea is (unless one is escapist, or is playing a game that intentionally comedic) to see the world from another point of view, where you are faced with a different sets of abilities, skills, weaknesses, liabilities, strengths and knowledge. And you can make decisions that have consequences (in-game consequences that is).
I am in three games right now. In age:
Kanon: A non-commissioned officer in an army in a world that is mostly low-fantasy. Actually, because he is a very ordinary NCO, this is pre-industrial revolution. Other characters actually look more low-fantasy. There are actually two military branches in this scenario. One is focused on individual skill and its members have a upper class bearing to them. Kanon is part of the other one, whose focus is there professionalism. Kanon is sure that he is in the better branch. As he is also a racial minority (human) of a race that a large portion of which are in slavery, professional pride becomes a large part of how he engages the world. (http://www.kalyr.com, using Fudge (Wikipedia)
Adelson: a newly-minted university professor (biology) in 1920's United States. It turns out, finishing grad school and starting academia, brought him right back home. Which makes his mother very happy. The scenario (which he does not know anything about yet) is horror. What he knows is that there is an environmentalist vs. logging company fight not far from his university that he has been asked to study. (Call of Cthulhu, Wikipedia) )
Jason: a spaceship engineer/pilot who has just finished his enlistment in a space navy. And now needs work so he is signed up on a merchant ship. Actually, I don't know much about him yet. Yes, there is a character sheet and backstory, but the other players don't engage in much conversation, so there has not been much of a chance for him to have a personality yet. (Traveller (Wikipedia), using Fudge)
There is room for players in these games (well, not Cthulhu) if it is of interest.