While checking out the new forums I noticed the following question in the EVE Trial Citizens Q&A forum. Is pirates the best race in Eve? Judging by the numerous responses to this possible troll question... this is a confusing topic.
So what is a pirate in EVE?
Their are two answers, one that a new player would give, and one that an experienced player would give.
New Players: For a new player a Pirate is a rat from a 'Pirate' NPC faction. Some of these like the Guristas have a back-story consistent with piracy. Others, like the Sansha, not so much but are still referred to as pirates by the game. In general players start by clearing the spacelanes of these threats to all that is good in the universe. Some players desire to join up with one of these factions, only to be thwarted by the discovery that the agents are out in 0.0 (oh noes doesn't that equate to instant death) and the lack of any real ability to join forces with these red crosses.
Non-new players: For a non-new player these red crosses that we shoot at are not pirates. They are simply resources to be extracted, effectively asteroids that shoot back a little while being farmed. The truly ridiculous amount of carnage that even a single capsuleer can cause to even a massive Lv4 mission sized pirate fleet defies a RolePlaying explanation. Rather, for a player who has had a few months of game time, or even just a couple non-consensual PvP experiences, a pirate is another player that attempts to engage in non-consensual PvP. To be considered 'piracy' this PvP must take place in either low-sec or possibly as a suicide gank in empire space, and not part of a war-dec or a militia. Oddly enough PvP in 0.0 is usually not considered piracy. A player doing piracy will invariably suffer sec status hits and will usually be unable to even enter hi-sec without being shot at immediately. Often the trademark of a real pirate is the ransom demand. In an attempt to recover some of the cost of their destructive PvP activities a true pirate is more concerned about income from PvP then their killboard efficiency. Like the real pirates of old... EVE pirates do not fly the expensive and flashy ships, rather they fly efficient ships for their purposes.
As I once advised some new players who were ratting in a belt when I pounded in and blew them away, when there is another player on the field... the NPC ships, no matter how many or how large, are not the real threat anymore. Just because the pirate is in a Rifter and you are blowing up NPC Cynabals and Macharials means nothing. That pirate in the Rifter is the danger.
So is pirates the best race? Sort of a meaningless question. Is piracy the best thing to be doing then the answer is, like most things, it depends. Toterra tried the pirate life briefly and found it frustrating taking a major sec-status hit. However pirates do seem to have among the higest ration of doing that most desirable EVE PvP activity, small gang warfare so I understand the attraction. Maybe in some future expansion CCP will get it right and make piracy an easier activity to get into. We can only hope.
TL;DR - Pirates are players, not NPC ships.