Last night in a fleet we were trying to get a Caldari defensive fleet to engage in a staging system they were actively defending.
At one point we sent in part of the fleet in an effort to get the enemy to engage with more ships and we lost a couple ships, including my Vexor. The pilot of the other ship that was killed got irate and the discussion went something like this:
Killed Pilot: "Why did you keep half the fleet back?! What's the point only sending in a few ships that either die or get all the kills?"
FC: "We were trying to get them to commit more ships to the fight so we can get more and better kills. If we all jump in to early they will just dock up and we'll end up with nothing but a Kestrel kill."
Killed Pilot: "The point is not to get lots of kills, the point is to win!"
And that encapsulates the fundamental tension of EVE Online, doesn't it? Hell, the tension of all Player versus Player games: the point of winning versus the point of having a good fight/game/time when for some people the winning is the fun.
We see the tension play out in null sec, low sec, blogs, news sites, forums, everywhere. And its not absolutes, there are many stops on the scale from Win At All Costs to Having Fun, Don't Care About Outcome. I tend to fall more towards the latter but still want to be competitive.
I remember back in my Warhammer 40K days this tension played out very loudly on an almost weekly basis. There were two extremes: the min-max power gamers who constructed army lists from a mathematical point of view and exploited any and every loophole in the rules for the best possible chance of not only winning, but crushing the opponent; and the players who cared nothing for the rules and best power combinations but built their armies from historical and lore perspectives. The former group did everything they could to win while the second group did everything they could to play an engaging narrative. It was never very pretty when the two met with the power gamer usually demolishing the lore player and the latter complaining about the unrealistic and "cheesy" army composition.
Back to Eve. Last night the question was similar to the Warhammer days yet different. While there was no question about "lore" versus min-maxing in that fight, it was the same dynamic of winning at all costs versus winning in a certain manner. There are of course many degrees on the scale from the two extremes and usually people find themselves surrounded by others with similar preferences for where they want to be on that scale.
Certain areas of space tend to attract a majority of pilots of one viewpoint. In my experience, sov null sec attracts the "win at all costs" pilots while NPC null sec attracts the more laid back "gud fitez" crowd. Faction Warfare low sec has many pilot itching for pitched battles while non-FW low sec has more hunter-prey dynamic in play. High sec PvP is almost always of the hunter-prey ganking kind where winning is paramount. And wormholers, they are just weird all over.
Even though I died in that initial engagement last night I support the FC's position to try and get a bigger fight. He didn't intentionally sacrifice me but it was a risk and one I accepted happily for the fleet's benefit. And we did get some good fights out of it in the end.