Some caveats upfront:
(1) If you have found yourself disagreeing with every post in the "Balance of Power" series so far, you probably won't agree with any of the posts to come.
(2) This series of posts is in reference to traditional role-playing games. In philosophy, there is something called the anthropic principle, which stems from the point that if we are here to observe the universe, the universe must exist in a condition that we can be here to observe it in. IOW, any universe observed by intelligent creatures must be a universe in which intelligent creatures can exist to observe it.
There are all kinds of versions of this principle, but one interpretation suggests that the universe we see is the result of our collective beliefs and expectations. I.e., if enough of us believe in unicorns, unicorns will not only exist, but they will always have existed.
A traditional role-playing game assumes that the players are dealing with a world whose basic properties are in some fashion set. In other words, the players, through the medium of their characters, explore that world, and their growing understanding of the principles by which that world works, including knowledge of peoples, places, etc., lead to increasing success within the game. Just as we must adapt to the real world, while attempting to use our increased understanding to alter our environment to our benefit, the PCs adapt to the fictional milieu, and attempt to change it to their desires and/or take advantage of its properties.
If you are playing a game in which the PCs' beliefs and desires shape the world around them, or where the world remains formless except in the immediate field of view, where there effectively is no "real world" within the game because flux occurs either due to lack of prep or the inherent nature of a world where the presence or absence of a guard behind a door is based upon a character's convictions, while that game may be incredibly fun to you, it is not a traditional role-playing game.
Outside the context of this discussion, I don't mind if you want to call it a traditional role-playing game. Inside this discussion, I would appreciate the acceptance of terms for the purpose of discussion. If it makes you feel any better, it would be no different than describing what I am referring to as "traditional role-playing games" as "apples" or "balmaranas"; the term is only used for clarity within the conversation.
(3) There is certainly no obligation to agree with me, and your comments are welcome. Assuming that I have thought through every objection you might have, that I am automatically right, or that I know exactly what all the repercussions of any idea might be will never be a prerequisite to commentary here!
In the type of game that I am discussing, the players require that there be something to explore and interact with. Although it is impossible (and, in fact, undesirable) to eliminate the information disparity between the GM and the players, the players seek to reduce the disparity in order to make more effective choices within the context of the milieu.
That information disparity also means that the players require the ability to trust the GM, and the GM requires trust from the players.
While much of the dissociative game is played alone, in the creation of materials, and while the GM may move timelines forward without players being present, the GM requires players to bring the whole to life. Without an associative element, supplied by the players, a traditional role-playing game is nothing more than preparation for the game. NPCs cannot supply this - there is no discovery in "exploring" that which you have already created, and if you have not yet created it, you are probably writing fiction rather than playing a game.
Writing fiction is a fun pastime; it is not a traditional role-playing game.
Likewise, there is a reason why solo play - for example, generating a dungeon using the tables in the DMG while you play through it yourself - falls rather flat. Without both sides at the table, the prospective player-GM is like Gollum, who thinks that great secrets must be hidden beneath the Misty Mountains, but discovers only darkness and a sort of half-existence gnawing old fish bones.