Take more than a passing interest in EVE related online content, blogs, media, forums, etc, and you will soon realise it garners strong opinions about what the game is.
While my MMO experience is not vast, I find EVE is one of those rare offerings that allow you to truly define your own game. Success might be mining and refining ore at the maximum possible efficiency, or amassing a certain bank balance, or running a corporation with more than 100 members, or maintaining a certain kill/loss ratio, or building a station, or successfully trolling other players, etc. Simplistically, the game allows you to set yourself a huge range of goals, including those the developers never considered as they first created the environment.
As you progress, you commonly change your focus. Even if you stay a miner, the scope is huge. You achieve your perfect empire miner, but then work on the skills for hauling, sales, and support from an Orca. Then you move to null sec, where you need new skills and tactics to survive the harsher environments, and maybe you move from your two character team into managing mining fleets, payouts from timesheets, and support from a Rorqual. At any time you can branch out in a myriad of different directions.
It is odd then that within this oft termed sandbox, many of its players can’t see beyond their own definition of what the game is. If you are not playing the game like they are, you’re doing it wrong.
I remember in the first week of the game, after furious mining in a Frigate, I managed to buy my first Cormorant. I thought it would be mining heaven, and the ISK would just start flowing in. I scraped together a partial and very poor fit, undocked for the very first time, and warped to a belt. Around me were lots of other new players in their mining ibis, and this huge Osprey that I thought might be my next goal. Within a minute, and before the first cycle of my mining lasers had finished, a Caracal started flashing on my overview, then explosions lit the hull of my new ship, and while I had the peace of mind to try to warp back to the station, my ship was dead before it aligned.
WTF? What sort of game is this! I think I was genuinely shocked.
Since then one of my in game goals has been not to make myself an easy target for griefers and pirates. Since then I’ve never been Can flipped, or been successfully suicided, or lost a hauler. I have amused myself many times over in low and null sec by quietly wasting the time of pirates. For me, avoiding PVP (unless it was what I wanted), and keeping myself safe, is part of what I enjoy and associate with success in the game.
I have had a huge number of different goals in EVE. I remember the satisfaction of climbing into my first Hulk, of looting my first faction wreck, making my first billion, anchoring my first POS, being involved in my first fleet fights, undocking in my first command ship, of making my first carrier jump. As I reach each goal there has always been more to do and try.
To me, EVE is a game. No matter how you are playing the game, if you are having fun, you are doing it right.