In the most recent EVE post here, n0th brought up the subject of RP in EVE, and how its a major factor. I agree, and I also think the RP factor in EVE is somewhat unique not just in the MMO genre, but in all of gaming.
In most games, the ‘big bad’ is designed by the developers, and players have a chance to defeat it. This is obvious in single player RPGs, where usually the entire point is that final battle, but even in an MMO you have big bads like Illidan or Arthus, and basically everyone has a chance to beat them.
In EVE one of the major ‘big bads’ is The Mittani, and for 99.9% of all players, they have no chance to beat him. Most recently, the best the ‘good guys’ could do, all teaming up, was relocate the big bad of New Eden from the north to the south end of the map, and even that had a very debatable result (Delve now being the most economically active region in the game, Goons aren’t exactly hurting).
Prior to The Mittani, there was the Band of Brothers (BoB) alliance, a super power that seemed unstoppable. Before them there was MoO, and there are countless other names in EVE’s long history that are famous for their power and influence. It’s why someone can write a whole (fantastic) book about EVE in this way, while you could never do that for another MMO at nearly the same level.
Plus in EVE you can side with the ‘bad guys’, or start off as the good guys but somehow become what you once fought against (Rifter Goons fighting BoB vs today’s Titan-swarm Goons fighting TEST). You can remain truly neutral (Chribba), or a true third party (MC.). Mercenary work is a real thing in EVE, and it’s not just a bolted-on game system the devs thought would be cool.
The RP factor in EVE also extends to each war, with propaganda posts and images being made and put up on walls (Reddit, forums) to promote and rally each side. Perception matters, because you can’t win a war if your troops don’t show up, and people are far more likely to show up if they believe they are winning. It’s also why after many battles a debate rages over who really won. Was it the side that got the objective, or that won the ISK battle, or was it perhaps another factor?
We traditionally think of RP as background or the ‘table setting’ for what we do, but in EVE RP is a very powerful and important tool. When you don’t control the narrative, it can often control you.