I've been playing MMOs for nearly as long as I have been online. The very first time I went online at my grandparent's house with a 14.4 modem and a copy of AOL that billed by the minute, I was playing games online. It started with the original Neverwinter Nights. I dabbled in Gemstone III and earned a taste for MUDs, so when we finally had our own internet access I found my way to Medievia and promptly tanked my grades for that year of high school. Various betas came and went as time passed. Everquest, Ragnarok Online, Asharon's Call... It wasn't until City of Heroes and World of Warcraft that I really got back into MMOs. It was around this time that I realized why I played them.
It's not the player interaction or teamwork. It's not the need for ever-better loot. Is it the exploration? Partly, but not quite. Why I play MMOs is to create a character.
On that note, I'll come right out and admit I play almost exclusively on role play servers. I can labor off and on for days over a new character design, cobbling together a personality like an author testing out a new lead for their 700 page opus. In a way, that's what I feel like I'm doing whenever I start a budding new Level 1. I want to drop them into a world and see what happens to them without suffering through the writer's block.
Over time I've grown attached to a number of my characters. Even when an account has been long canceled, sometimes I like to go back and revisit the little elf/robot/werewolf/whatever-shaped tamagotchi that I spent so much time with. This occasionally results in the terrible phenomenon known as fan art.
Meet Rushlight, my old troll rogue. Pockets were picked, dinosaurs were rode, raiding dungeons were ignored... Fun times. So when I got around to picking up a Munny, she seemed like a good choice of a model. It took a month or two of off and on cobbling, but here we are.
Even if I'm not playing the game any longer, I'm still coming back to it in a different way. I don't remember how much gold I had, what was in my bank or who I had on ignore, but my characters stay with me.
It's a different kind of replaying, I suppose.
(More stills of the Munny at Tomopop