When I started to play Elite, I was hooked. I mean, I shut the curtains and sat there in the dark with Elite on my big TV. I was about as immersed as I could get without fixing my surround-sound (a project for later) and maybe investing in a HOTAS system. I was Nikolai Albinus, newbie pilot and wannabe pirate-hunter. I traded up to a Cobra, made some money, invested it in a fully-upgraded Eagle, then... I don't know, I think the story ended.
Some time around when Horizons hit, the illusion kind of collapsed and I found myself faced with a Skinner box situation. I was no longer a space-fighter pilot, I was a player repeating a task so that I could earn some more Imperial approval, some more combat rank, a little more virtual money.
All I can imagine is that there is a little progress bar now. I used to be able to main this odd conceit that I was working for the Imperial faction and hoping to catch their attention, but then I lost it. I've lost my sense of direction and I would rather like it back. I still have goals, an Imperial Courier and the chance to work for Aisling Duval's cause, but it feels artificial now. The veneer of story has slipped and left me with a cynical system of action and reward.
If anything, I think I am drawn more to the fiction - to the setting and the tales - than the game itself right now. I love the factions and the politicking, I love the history and propaganda (what really happened all those years ago in Achenar?) and the way that the powers subtly undermine each other. There's so much story there, but it doesn't feel like it bleeds through into the game.
Given time, I suppose I will work it all out in my head, but that's where I stand right now. There's a game, but it's just not doing it for me...