Purpose – Usually before we even begin to start interacting within the game world, we are told the overall purpose of our need within it, usually in the form of some global crisis (i.e. an evil is spreading and it needs to be stopped).
Role – While you may look at a list of classes, you’re usually determining what type of role you want to have within the world first (i.e. tank, dps, healer).
Class – Once you’ve clarified your role, you usually decide upon a specific class that fits your play style (i.e. tanks can be warriors, paladins, etc).
Notice that the above approach is top down in nature and assumes at least a general sense of global awareness from the very start. We see the challenging purpose before us and then we decide how to “heroicly” overcome it through our role and class.
Class – Usually once we reach a certain age, we’re told we need to figure out “what we want to be” and sometimes we’re given some aptitude tests to help us figure out our optimal class or “job” in life.
Role – After living a while and having gone through a variety of jobs (classes) in life, we may start seeing a pattern within our lives that there is an optimal role for us to fulfill within the world which can sometimes be figured out through behavioural means (i.e. personality profiles) or metaphysical means (i.e. astrology, numerology, etc).
Purpose – After living almost our entire lives (and sometimes not even then), we may finally see the greater purpose needed within the world around us.
Notice the above approach is bottom up in nature with almost next to no awareness at the start and sometimes almost no full awareness at the end. Even more so, due to not knowing our real role and often picking the wrong class numerous times, we don’t feel very heroicly able to tackle such a large and challenging purpose, even if it is clearly presented before us (i.e. I’m just one person. What can I do?).