Tipa over at West Karana got me thinking about the relationship between PvE and PvP. Like I said there, I think the best designs smartly combine the two. You can read my full comment there if you're interested.
But she also got me thinking that there's another type content that I'm a little surprised doesn't have its own term. It's a vice of mine that I enjoy making up terms and definitions, so here's a new term that may aid future discussions.
Or it will just make me look like "a sad little king on a sad little hill". 10 points to the person who can identify that quote! ;)
I made up the term as I was trying to describe one of my most memorable MMO experiences, something from Star Wars: Galaxies. In SWG, my ranger was able to slowly crawl through a lair of narglatches (like red-scaled lions with some serious bloodlust). I reached the very bottom before they finally saw me and chased me out (killed me too, I think). It sounds simple, but the whole thing lasted about 20-30 minutes. It was a purely PvE experience, but it was also an experience which was mine alone.
It was something personal, individual; which is why I say it was also PaP content; Player-among-Players.
To say an experience is personal is to compare it with the experiences of others, to reference the community. Hence, it's a way of defining your place among that community.
Competition isn't the only way that sharing the game with other players enhances our gameplay experience. One can only be unique if there are others to compare to. And comparisons are not always about thoughts like, "I'm better than you". That's usually a quantitative difference. There are also qualitative differences. One person is blonde while another is brunette. One person is Japanese while another is Chinese. One girl smells like flowers and another smells like onions.
These differences are important because we identify ourselves by them, and others identify us by them. PaP content is about enabling that sense of self. It's about moving beyond mere archetypes and creating a personal space in the virtual society. At its deepest, it's about taking players from "What is my character? Well, he's an orc shaman." to "Who is my character? Well, where to begin...?"