It's that time of year again-as people have gone or are going back to school and summer draws to a close, many of us are soon to be given an (unpleasant?) reminder of the feel of a regular schedule. Classes meet at regular times. Assignments must be completed by a given due date. The list goes on.
Many aspects of scheduling serve to increase convenience. By fixing a prearranged time, a group of people can nominally all get together without much strife to do whatever activity they please. If one person (say me, however unlikely that might be!) doesn't show up at that time or shortly after, it is generally mutually understood that it was, to put it colloquially, "my bad."
Of course, like nearly everything else in life, scheduling everything has its cons. Many people feel confined or restricted by a schedule. Indeed, it involves blocking off some time in the future, and while that's easy in a superficial sense, following through on such a commitment is not entirely trivial for everyone.
And where are we going with this with regard to RuneScape? I would like to discuss (mainly player-run) events in RuneScape.
Obviously at the beginning of things, there were generally fewer organizational tools one could use. Clan and even friends chats were nonexistent, and you can forget something like a private clan forum! We didn't have Twitter/Facebook, Skype or the like either-or at least, they weren't acknowledged/accepted by Jagex as a suitable way for players to communicate.
Eventually, there was a transition. When one wanted to set something up, you made a forum thread, and quite possibly spent a bit of effort to make it look pretty. Remember there were no colors, no italics, no bold print...just one font, capital letters, and symbols (copy and paste or alt codes). People set a time, and almost remarkably, other people passing by would sign up, show up, and there would be a successful event. Out of strangers meeting for a common interest, friendships would be forged. To summarize, rigid scheduling and a well-organized forum thread were the staple of any event that would attract a decent number of people.
Notice how I've been using past tense. That was then, but what about now?
Now first, before anyone jumps on my throat, I am well aware that there are some important exceptions. Large or established clans may have some leverage in drawing people, between a community with at least some consistent interaction and other motivation or peer pressure provided from the clan. In other words, although it's clearly not possible for everyone to know everyone in that kind of arrangement, there is still plenty of interaction and discussion to induce people to come and join. This is in comparison with a static announcement, potentially from someone completely unknown to them! However welcoming the thread may appear, there is still that element of an unfamiliar face.
These days, the forums (specifically, events forums in RSOF) seem more than a little empty. At the time of writing, the threads at the bottom of the page are already two weeks old. A number of threads do not have even a single reply. Even some of them that do have replies are simply bumps or thank you's from the thread's original author.
Maybe people just don't see any benefit to socializing, or they aren't aware that others are still trying to organize these things. Is everyone so focused on xp or money that they always identify other people as competition rather than companionship? If more advertising is the issue, there is a little Jagex could do. They already have an 'In-Game Events' page accessible from the homepage, as well as an Events Calendar in the 'Events - Regular and Ongoing' subforum. The latter has a few things, but the former sits empty! Maybe we could sacrifice Squeal of Fortune promotions for a week and advertise these, or at least make a news post.
But I digress. I don't think the current slate of affairs is nearly that bleak, for there is one very important...commodity, I guess one could call it, namely free time.
I hesitate to call it a commodity because it's not simply an issue of how much a person has, but also quality. In our consumer world it can be hard to understand what a commodity is, since we have products which are nominally the same thing, but aren't (for example two different brands of soda). To make what I mean more concrete with respect to the situation here, consider for a second the following two people:
Person #1 has a job that only requires them to work four days a week. However, on a given day, they do not find out if they are required to work until early that morning. Further, they have a long workday and are so exhausted that by the end of it, they don't feel like doing much.
Person #2 has a different occupation which entails working Monday - Friday on a set schedule, and often has some housework or chores that need to be done over the weekend. However, they are pretty confident that on Sunday, they have a free schedule.
Now let me ask you: who has more free time? And what about quality? Having lots of time off is great, but if it's somewhat unpredictable, it would make scheduling events quite uncomfortable!
RuneScape is an MMORPG, and one of the infamous characteristics of that whole genre is that people keep coming back and play, even if not intensively, for perhaps a number of years. I think most people would agree with me when I say that at least a large subset of the RuneScape population has grown older. I'm not saying that every single person has grown older and continued playing while no younger ones have come to replace them, but maybe people this does indeed seem to be the case.
So maybe we should ask: how does the quality of free time correlate with the age of this group of players who "grew up" with the game?
To start off, for very young players, playtime will often be restricted. For a number of reasons parents may only let them play for an hour or two, and maybe not at a consistent time. They may also be less likely to have membership, which puts somewhat of a limit on activities they can do. As they become older, maybe high school age, they are given more responsibilities and generally have more time to play, possibly becoming members as well, as rewards for good grades and whatever else. For a while they may have quite an abundance of free time, but as school work becomes more intense or they go to college, perhaps eventually getting a job as well, it rapidly falls off.
And if you've noticed, the pattern matches, in a way. One goes from being young and carefree and not really bothering to stick to a schedule to acquiring it to attaining that amount of maturity, but soon enough, of course, it is reserved for real life rather than a game. As an afterthought, maybe it resembles more of going over a camel's hump than returning to the beginning. Does this theory explain all of what has happened regarding events? No, but it's far from an empty shell of a thought experiment either.