We live in a world where video games are often criticized for their “infectious” qualities and their possible psychological effects on the younger generation. People see games as a detriment to one’s social capabilities, deleterious to one’s moral compass, and, in general, brain-mush-inducing. Even despite the evidence suggesting these statements are untrue, the stigma remains, especially amongst a certain age bracket with whom a change of opinion is always difficult. But no matter the criticism and strange looks it may draw, I’m not afraid to say this firmly and proudly: I want my kids to play Runescape. Right off the bat, let me just say that I don’t want my kids playing before they’re mature enough to handle the anonymity of the internet with respect, and I also want them outside. However, if they DO find video games entertaining and have a desire to play and mash buttons as I did as a lad, I want Runescape to be their first choice. Runescape, as many of you will likely agree, is not only a source of cheap and long-lasting entertainment, but so much more.
First, let’s just eliminate right here that video games will hinder your ability to be a normal, social human being. In this article, in fact, video games in which there is a multiplayer sense of community – as is present within Runescape – may actually improve one’s communication skills. Additionally, although the stigma may remain of flaming 12 year olds flooding the chat channels, this is no longer the case and there are two reasons as to why.
For one, the game is aging. Nearly 15 years old, a large subset of the player base for Runescape started as kids back in the infancy of the MMO, and as the game has evolved and matured, so have they. Those that began in 2006 at 11 years of age without a clue (*hint hint*) are now 19-20 and have learned how to function like respectable human beings. Once again, there are those out there that are exceptions, but by and large, that group that has grown with the game has also found maturity over time.
Second, we can thank Old School for helping filter out some of the, shall we say, “Undesirables”. Now I’m not trying to take shots at the players that decide to play Runescape’s red-headed step child, but it’s true. When the Evolution of Combat was released, the community split, essentially in two. One camp, the arguably more mature, took its alien and buggy qualities all with a large grain of salt and decided to deal with the changes. The opposing camp chose to whine, complain, and bitch their way into convincing those behind the game to further the divide even more by creating a “new” version of the game. Once it came out, many of these folks turned their backs on the modern game as we know it, never to return. Is it a coincidence that the chat flaming has died down significantly since then? Maybe, but I highly doubt it.
Other than giving a child a social outlet among a more mature crowd, Runescape can also offer more practical lessons. Chiefly among these is the fomentation of an economic mind with a basic understanding of markets and dealing with finances. The Grand Exchange is a lovely example of a marketplace which one can experiment on with no physical consequence. One can learn how prices rise and fall based on the Laws of Supply and Demand, how to manipulate said fluctuations, and ultimately how to cash in on new market opportunities. And of course, I want my child to be a good little capitalist! Moreover, if you want to level up in Runescape, you’d better learn to handle your money well. Throughout my personal journey, I learned the cost of getting what I want, how to earn what was needed, and through this the value of my own time. Is it worth it to me to spend 20 hours killing frost dragons to get from 95 to 99 prayer? The answer does not matter, only the fact that investing in your character inherently brings with it a mind that’s always thinking of opportunity costs and how to best allocate one’s time.
This leads to what really separates Runescape from other MMO’s, in my mind. Time. You can’t buy base levels on your character, and it ain’t a quick process. For heaven’s sake, I’ve played off and on for nearly 10 years and I’m yet to breach 2500 skill total! Runescape is different from other games because instead of the game being all about getting things checked off, it’s about the journey. Playing a game that forces you to dig deep for a long grind taught me how to find joy in the everyday, the mundane. Why did I power mine iron until I got to 77 in a matter of a couple days? Because I wanted to do Ritual of the Mahjarrat and no amount of boredom was going to stop me from achieving my goal. Some days in life aren’t very interesting, and it takes a person that can grind to make it through.
The world of here and now is all about catering to ME. I want it my way and I want it now. Instant gratification. Runescape goes against the grain and says, you know what, sometimes it’s not just what you wanted. Sometimes it takes years to achieve a goal. Sometimes things change. Sometimes you lose. Runescape is a safe way to show a child that life, although full of possibilities and options, isn’t always candy corn and gum drops. Sometimes the Drygores you just bought and had saved up for over the last few months tank in price and you lose millions from your net worth. Sometimes you can’t kill the new boss. Sometimes your friend gets a drop in one kill that you’ve spent a thousand kills searching for. And that’s what it all comes down to. Life takes time, life takes effort, and above all else, LIFE IS NOT FAIR. I want my kid to know that he can fall, and still get up because, in the end, this is a game.
However, to me and many others, this sure feels like more than just a game. More than just pixels on a computer screen. Runescape has quests and tasks that encourage a sense of adventurousness, independence, and critical thinking. It has treasure trails which teach you small stuff like learning how to read a map, how to do slide puzzles, and how to do Celtic knots (because who in the world even knew what those were before playing). Every skill has hidden lessons in it, like the fact that tin and copper are the components of bronze metal. All this I was taught and so much more by sitting down at my dad’s desk as an elementary school kid and opening up my web browser to Runescape. Of course, I had to make sure no one was expecting any important phone calls any time soon, but you get the point.
As long as Jagex can keep this game afloat, I’ll always come back to it and one day I might just pass that on.