Of late I've been doing a lot of thinking about the social dynamics of game players.
While there are always exceptions to every rule, for the most part, I think players can be grouped roughly into 3 categories.
These guys play to win - end of story. They're goal is to master the game and become the best player they can possibly be.
They memorize all the hot keys,unit costs, build times and work out the optimal build order and winning strategies. Fun for these guys is the mastery of their craft, crushing an opponent quickly and skillfully and becoming the "best". These guys use tactics that lead to victory with little regard for their opponents sense of "fun" or sportsmanship. Basically if it works, it's a valid tactic. Their motto is "If you're not good enough to compete with me, then don't waste my time".
These are the guys who ride on the backs of talented gamers. They've never had an original thought in their heads when it comes to the game or its strategies. They utilize every exploit and cheap trick they can find to quickly crush an opponent. They often give up once there standard book of tricks runs out. With not enough imagination to compete with the Pro's, these guys get pleasure out of picking on newbie players. Their idea of fun is basically making themselves feel good through exploiting the weak or unexperienced. They're motto is "man newbies suck.".
The Casual Gamer:
These are the guys who play the game on weekends, after work or when ever they can find a spare moment. They have 9-5 jobs, social responsibilities, wifes / girlfriends and family commitments. They'll be lucky to log 4-5 hours a week on the game and thus are no where near as skilled as the "Pro's" or even the "Smurfs". Basically, these guys play for fun. If they win, great - but its more about the experience. It's quite common to see casual gamers back off another less skilled player to give them time to learn and experiment. The casual gamer doesn't really care much about ratings or "being the best" - playing games is strictly a social thing, a way to escape the daily grind.
Now we enter the problem - These 3 types of people have to somehow co-exist with one another online. The rating systems are "suppose" to pair up gamers of similar skill level, but we've all seen this system can be a little hit and miss (and easily exploited).
I'd like to see better player filtering options built into games like dawn of war. Some additions might include the ability to create games with a rating range, where you can specify the range of ranking you which an opponent to have in order to join your game. This way, Pro's wouldn't have to worry about playing people of lesser skill and newbie players would have a way of ensuring that the people they were playing were of a certain skill level.
Of course this still leaves us the problem of smurfs, which I think could be addressed by a player rating system similar to the one utilized on "ebay". At the end of online matches, players can give a "rating" for the other player based on how they felt about the game. If both players felt it was a good game, they rate the other player favorably. If on the other hand, players found the game to be a negative experience, they can rate the other player poorly. While this system may seem open to exploitation at first, generally speaking, good players who are fair and sportsman like will have a high positive rating, thus encouraging other players to play against them. Players who have a high negative rating will quickly fall out of favor with other players. This allows players not only to see the "skill" level of their opponents, but also what kind of person the gamer they're up against is.
Whew, sorry about the long post - comments are always welcome.