Time Literally is Money: How Time Spent in Game Should be the New Definition of Wealth in Runescape

posted by on 29th December 2012, at 6:52pm

Ben Franklin wrote in an essay entitled “Advice to a Young Tradesman” the following:

“Remember that time is money. He that can earn ten shillings in a day by his labour and … sits idle one half of that day … hath really spent or thrown away five shillings [that he could have earned].”

While that maxim is great in modern times as it was in 1748 when it was written, it holds little credence in Gielinor. When a player can jump down into God Wars to throw a insta-kill dart at Nex or gamble 500M in a 50/50 chance duel, it makes little sense for someone to take the time to go hunt chinchompas or slay frost dragons for their bones as means to gain money. A player can literally go from flat broke to rich in a matter of moments and with no real investment or skill required. Whether this should be possible or not is a pretty common debate, but what can’t be debated is how damaging this is to the game.

The GP has long been as much as a pursuit in this game as gaining levels or finishing quests. For some, the acquisition of wealth was the sole objective of their playing. Gaining and then flaunting wealth has always had a place in the social aspect of RS. With the advent of the GE, gaining GP became easier to those who took an economics course in their life and understood supply and demand and that, in a system like the GE, these can fluctuate and be manipulated to a seller’s advantage. What once took years of accumulating could be gained in under a month if you knew the right items to invest in. With this, the hoarding of wealth had begun. Flash to modern RS, and we see Youtube videos of players with billions and trillions of GP in assets. Where a single party hat was a status symbol years ago, people now have amassed hundreds, to the point where they have to tie up their cash in assets because they have hit the limitation of how much raw cash a player can have.

So what happened? All MMORPGs – and the real world for that matter – have a balance of their currency and the time and effort it takes to acquire it. That quite literally gives that money its worth. You get a pay check at the end of the week, and you say “I earned this by my hard work and effort”.  When you look at your money pouch in Runescape do you think “this has worth equal to the effort it took to make”? Chances are if you played for a few years, you would agree that it has less now than it once did. This is a problem, as the imbalance is creating deflation within the Runescape economy. Runescape has money being made at a far higher rate, and just as if a country prints more dollars/Euros/Etc. than what theirs is worth, that currency has lost value. Couple that with items being created at a faster and faster rate (because all those Torva plate drops are staying in the game and not evaporating into what their value is, thus becoming less rare, as opposed to Santa hats that have limited amounts), we have a major problem.

While this should be alarming to a game developer, Jagex has done little to correct this problem. To their credit, you can’t really stop it. You can’t update a game weekly and expect past values to stay the same while you constantly increase items and drops on the higher end.  Developers have cited concerns about this and are at least aware of the issue and seem to have tried to minimize the impact of each update since. That’s why we haven’t seen many things like quests give us cash as a reward since the free lump of the dragon plate from While Guthix Sleeps. As a reward, GP or free tradable items just aren’t very…rewarding.

So what do we have left in this game if the pursuit of wealth really isn’t a challenge? Well, there’s always skills! Surely they will always have value! Well, not quite. We’ve seen money sink skills gobble up a fair amount of the surplus cash and now it’s not uncommon to see even moderate players with very high levels in skills like firemaking, herblore, and even prayer. Then Jagex, now not able to give cash as rewards, gives us lamps at the end of quests, effigies as drops from high level monsters, and  free exp simply for logging in! Again, think about all MMORPGs when it comes to time – this time how it relates to gaining experience. If you lessen the time it takes to gain exp, it cheapens the “worth” of leveling skills. We are effectively seeing the same spiraling plummet that GP went through not too long ago happen to skilling. Experience is quickly becoming devalued in the same way. Skill mastery, ironically, doesn’t take much skill at all.

So, as a player of nearly 10 years, where does that put me as a measure of my account’s “value” either in cash assets or experience? The answer here is very similar to the one when I look at my money pouch: Not worth as much as it once was. While I’ve seen many people leave the game – perhaps citing other reasons or updates – this is the real underlying issue why those who poured so much of their life into this game are now gone. So what do I work towards or hope for? Well, the max cape or completionist cape are still very viable ‘status’ symbols, but I feel my wealth -my worth – lies in the knowledge and memories I have in Runescape. That is value that will never deflate or become obsolete. As for what I hope to someday achieve in Runescape to where I feel I’m done with the game – I’m not sure. For now, I’ll just keep hold of my most prized possession that has everlasting value. If you see me in game, be sure to ask me to flaunt it. It’s my Christmas yo-yo, and it says more about my “experience” or “wealth” in Runescape than any mastery cape or party hat can.

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