When I was in my early teens, my friends and I would role play star-wars. We would tell a story that are within the rules of the game. Our focus was to develop our characters by learning new skills, new adventures, and taking on new missions. And although gear did play a certain role on our character development, it did not however, define who we were nor did it ever have a drastic effect on our characters outcome. In other words it helped but it didn't make us overpowered.
It was not like we were constantly seeking for more gear to make us more powerful. Our purpose was to experience a new adventure by playing the life of someone in the Star Wars universe. The possibilities were endless and the role-playing would last for hours. In simple terms, it was fun.
Now days in MMOs it's not so simple. The focus is on gear rather than setting up our own adventure. When you look at MMOs from a basic perspective they all have one thing in common, the level up process and the gearing up process. There's no real attachment to your character since your character does the same as everyone else and everyone's adventure is also your adventure.
No longer are players role-playing for character development, to be someone they wish to be like a tradesman, a treasure hunter, a hunter housewife, or even an outlaw who is trying to make a name for him or herself as the baddest character in the game world. No, MMORPGs have shifted from a role playing game to a role playing gear. Because all that really matters, is the gear.