I have always been interested in what makes RuneScape the game it is. Why do we play it and keep playing. When looking at myself I know I am certainly not unique in that what normally hooks me is a good sense of immersion, feeling like you are your character, or at least care about it. What happens matters because you are 'really' there. One of the things that make this happen is hard choices, a subject I explored in my last article 'Shades of grey' and dismissed as a reason for being a loyal player of RS, since there are no real choices in the game that matter. Another aspect of immersion is a good story, but instead of exploring that right now I decided to look further then myself. It was time for some real research...oh dear...
I went out and asked a sample of RS players the same question: 'why do you (still) play RuneScape?' and got a good amount of answers. Combined with what they in real science call a 'literature study', in this case me reading forums that had the same question posted, I got about 50 useful responses.
After tabulating the totals, sifting trough the results and bribing the officials I came up with the top ten reasons we play RS:
- I have no life.
- I like repeating myself.
- I am (wo)manly enough to resist the urge for instant gratification.
- I can kill a chicken!
- I can fr*cking say whatever I bl**dywh*ll want... ehm, where did those stars come from?
- The girl character's—ahem—boob sizes increase almost yearly.. and the amount of clothing correspondingly decreases.
- There are a million hours of YouTube videos I have not watched.
- It makes me sleep better at night..knowing I saved the world again... or maybe because I just did agility... over and over and over and..
- I can get to know my 'friends' all over again, every month, after their regular name-change.
- I get to blame Jagex for everything that goes wrong, reasonably so or not.
- Did I mention having no life?
Now that we got the obligatory joke out of the way it is time to try and really extract the reasons we play out of the answers I got, which is a lot harder then making up that top ten. But, getting ahead of myself does include some overlap with the made up ones! It was good that I moved away from myself, since I found some results that surprised at least me. When dividing the reasons we play in the categories some would fit two of them and I took that in account when adding up the numbers. For instance: when someone is motivated by wanting to keep their compcape I put this under personal, but of course it also is a feature of the game driving us to this.
In the end, I divided these reasons into three main categories:
1. The game itself :
It might be obvious, but a big part in the success of RuneScape is the game itself. Jagex defiantly offers its audience a lot of things they want and need. Leveling is slow, but simple to do wile doing other things. The game is basically never ending with the quests adding a lot of seasoning. I have not played many other similar games so I have to go on the reactions I got, but it seems RS quests are considered to be of a very high quality with a wide variety of things to do. Variety is also an important word when it comes to skills, which unlike most other games does not only revolve around combat and allows us to master them all without having to choose. An other aspect named a lot , which I shared between the game and personal reasons is the sense of accomplishment RS can offer when reaching certain goals. One thing Jagex needs to be careful about is the aspect of working for something to gain a reward in a fair way while they still have to change to cater to those who have less time to play and want faster rewards, a subject that has been covered before in the Times. It is interesting to see the ever increasing production-values of RS, better graphics, voices and interface. It seems the quality is keeping up with demand without actually being a reason people play. One reason I did not expect to find anymore, but still did, is the relatively low demands RS puts on our computers. I am sure Jagex can increase its customer base by a lot if they make RS work well on the ever growing amount of tablets out there!
Below you see several quotes that are representative of the answers I got:
“My story is simple I always loved games that took forever to beat and I didn’t care about graphics just content and when i found out about rs it had it all and after almost 5 years i still have so much to do...and they will continue to add things to do”
“The game seemed fair. If you worked for it, you got rewarded.”
“It is logical, cows give milk, chickens eggs, mill some flower and you can bake your own cake. Amazing!”
“These days I have less time to play, with a baby and wife and all, I am very choosy what I do. I generally go for quick and easy xp: daily tasks, penguins, tears of guthix, player owned ports, sinkholes.”
“RuneScape is challenging, it takes a lot of time to master”
“Every quest is a little game in itself and not just 'bring me 3 animal skins and you get a few coins'”
“Other games don't have the variety of skills, it is all about combat.”
“RuneScape is relatively simple , it lets you browse, watch videos and study wile you progress. Besides (that) you can do EVERYTHING and not just one class or one profession.”
2. Personal reasons :
A lot of people seem to have reasons of a more personal or internally driven nature. Of course there is the ever elusive 'addiction', the habit of playing this particular game. I think for many it will likely also have to do with things mentioned by others, like the extensive history they have on this game. They build something that they do not want to lose. Specially if this is a rank or a max/comp/questcape it takes a constant investment of time to keep it. Something else that showed up could, in a rude way, be described as 'having no life'. Quite a lot of people need something to do with their time, preferably something they can feel a sense of accomplishment from. In some cases this will be because the 'real world' is out of reach. This can be because someone is very shy, or socially inept but also have to do with illness and handicaps. I do admit I did not take this part from a lot of the answers, but more from people I met on my journeys trough Gielinor. I think RuneScape provides a specially valuable service to these people.
I again follow this with interesting quotes:
“I feel obliged to play because I invested so much time into the game”
“Pretty simple for me. Bored housewife. Looked up an RPG on Google and been stuck on the game ever since. The bonus is that it keeps me out of trouble!!”
“When I first started I was in graduate school and really needed an outlet and people to talk to that didn't always want to talk about research. :P I've lived in places where I don't have many family or friends”
“I've put so many hours into this game that I feel compelled to master the latest content and get my comp cape back.”
“…..Addiction, I hate RS, but I cant stop playing.”
“I kept playing as it gave me a sense of accomplishment. I never had to study much so I had time for 'do this and reach that goal by doing so', which can be a good feeling. Things don't tend to work out so easily in real life.”
“Well, yeah, I nowadays mostly play due to force of habit”
“It would not be logical to start something else when I wasted so much time on RS already. I will never get this far again.”
3. The social aspect :
Here we get to the main reason I play RuneScape. The game itself has become a little bit 'been there, done that', and no wonder after the huge amount of hours I spend on it. A lot of the people on it though, my clanmates and others have become friends, some almost like family. I want to spend time with them and I also feel responsible for keeping the clan in good working order. My little survey showed I am not alone in this. People, real human beings, some that we know in real life and some only online, are a very powerful reason to keep playing or at least visiting RuneScape. Often it was friends or family that got us to start and even if these original ones moved on we found new ones. RuneScape is very suited to getting to know others. Not only are there the many chat options, but it also is very good in showing what type of person is behind the pixels. Someone who is nice, calm and helpful, or maybe the fearless companion to go killing. Nowadays, even though the rules are a bit restrictive most players seem to use many other ways to communicate with each other outside the game itself. The old IRC and off-site forums are joined by chat and voice-chat programs like Skype and Teamspeak. It allows those interested to get to know each other even better, but somehow for most the central hub around which all this revolves remains our game. Mostly for the underage readers I do want to stress how important it is to be careful online, especially chatting with others outside RuneScape where the rules cannot be enforced. Be discriminate and don’t be shy in asking for help if something happens you do not feel comfortable with. We all make mistakes!
You will not be surprised to see more outtakes from the answers I got:
“I started to play since my best friend and another friend played it, to play with them,”
“My nephews invited me to come play because I was the cool aunt :), was the first online game I ever played and I was hooked, been here almost 10 years now, RuneScape changed my life in many ways all for the better. I have great friends here that I can ignore when I want to.”
“I doubt if I would still be playing the game if it weren't for the social aspect”
“Well like a lot of others I started playing because my young son wanted to play and I wouldn't let him into this unknown online world by himself.”
“My son started playing RS in high school along with his friends. They were all F2P and decided it was time to join members. That's where I came in, he introduced me to the game and asked me to buy him members. Very good tactic since I was hooked right away. He has since moved on to other gaming systems but I am still a die hard RS fan.”
While reading through the answers I came across what seems to be a pattern I was not looking for. It seems the same reasons that make us play are also the ones that make us quit. The game itself being the one named most: changes that are disliked. The other two also tend to be involved. Personal lives change with jobs, school and family taking up more time and allowing less time to play and with people moving to other games taking their friends with them. I myself think the main reason is not the changes but the personal one. People tend to like to blame Jagex for changes when it is they themselves that changed. But that is a different subject altogether, so lets get back to the one at hand. I tallied up the reasons and it turns out social reasons are named most times, but surprising to me the game itself is a close second with personal reasons being about half of the others. Maybe it is because it takes a bit more to open up about personal things. I got more answers in that category from people I knew well. In the end the category that really won was: 'multiple' since most people actually named several reasons. They do of course also influence each other, certain properties of RuneScape lend it well to filling personal needs and to a lot of social interaction.
In the end, we build ourselves a character with all its accomplishments and many friendships. It seems it's those that keep us coming back, in doing so exposing us to the ever continuing story of RuneScape. That gives the game itself the chance to draw us back in, offer new challenges and new goals.