Original editorial here:http://www.rpgfan.com/editorials/2009/07-28.html
RPGs are one of the few classes of games where timesinking is actually expected at times. The only turn-based game where I didn't care about grinding was the Grandia series since the strategy and battle animations kept me busy and happy just killing and slaying. ;p Dragon Quest VIII is a close second. And Chrono Trigger is either tied for second or at third.
I actually like the more action-oriented battle systems designed these days but I do have one complaint: The feeling of detachment from the party. Focusing completely on yourself for the main actions is fine and dandy for practicality but for emotional bonding that is so much a part of character development in RPG, it does become harder. Kingdom Hearts had the advantage of Disney characters we already know and love being the sidekicks. But with say .hack, the many partners you link up with become little more than satellites you visit occasionally. The emails help but it's not entirely the same as choosing the battle actions more directly than the occasional reminder/suggestion.
The Tales series managed to surpass that barrier by having phenomenal writing and switching of manual control across the party. (Multiplay is another aspect I appreciate though have no opportunity to use.) The various in-game cutscenes were a joy to experience (Abyss and Legendia so far are my favorites) and engrossed the gamer into the relationships evident or blooming amongst the various characters. The multi-control allowed both practical bonding with each party member and their skills as well as possible physical bonding with other real-life players.
Keeping the gamer's attention may be a challenge but paced right, there is very little cause for worry of losing the gamer's interest. I go back to Tales because I suddenly thought of the banter party members would go through after each battle. Or like in my current game of Persona 4 where you can choose party members and talk to them as you go through the dungeons.
Strategy RPGs also have banter and little quips from the party members as you progress them through the battlefield. Luminous Arc and Jeanne D'arc are two I could think of. In fact, many SRPGs use the field as another story platform, introducing new characters, tactics, and even plot twists in the heat of battle.
So, the need to suffer inactivity I think is a sad state that could happen in RPGs but I hardly think it's an excuse for designers to give up on the turn-based mechanic or believe that's the normal state for RPGs in general.
Fun is still in the design. Suck it up and do something about it, peoples. ;)