Once a day or so I read through Kugutsumen’s EVE forums.
It is full of trolling, propaganda, inflated egos, derision, personal attacks, in jokes, hate, racism, sexism – actually, just about any sort of ‘ism you can think of. If your Mum knew you read such dribble, she would think much less of you.
But in amongst it all are glimpses of the battle reports, politics, internal dramas, and myriad of stories which all come together to become the history of EVE. They are told by the ignorant, those on the peripheral, the lowly grunts, the spies, the fleet commanders, the corporation and alliance leadership, and everyone else in between. You are given an insight into the epic battles, tactical brilliance and folly, the conquests and losses that ebb and flow across EVE. You hear the cheering of victors, and from those who are crushed and humiliated. Like possibly no other source, it gives you a window into what is happening in EVE, and what makes it such a special game.
Dawdling around Empire as I am, you can certainly explore and experience the majority of the mechanics of the game. You can also get involved in many forms of PVP. But you can’t stake a claim to a system which then shows up on sovereignty maps, and you can’t have a system and station taken from you. You generally won’t be involved in battles that involve hundreds of players. You generally don’t take part in what eventually makes EVE history.