For those of you who have seen the movie Surrogates skip to the next paragraph, otherwise, keep reading. The movie in question paints a picture of a world in the future, where everyone lives their entire life through a robot. Not just any robot but completely customizable to however you want it to look, and it transfers any sight, sound, smell, taste and touch right back to you. In short, the world is still populated and run by human beings, but all from the comfort and safety of their own home, never needing to get up from your chair other then food or toilet breaks. And yes, it too featured the beautiful young woman who was really a dirty old geezer.
The second the scenario was clear in the movie, I started wondering how much this resembles our own "lives" in RuneScape. We too get to pick how we look. And although there is no smell, taste or touch, many people have already adapted to talking to one another using programs outside of RuneScape. So how does this affect us?
I think it starts right when our characters are first created. A lot of people tend to pick a look that they will stick with for the rest of their gaming careers, and this choice often reflects how they play the game and interact with other players. Just think how much your avatar and the way you behave around others in the game reflect on us; who we are, what we aspire, what we can be motivated to do (even against our will), and the opposites of that.
Of course there are various degrees in which this happens. One can take it just as far as their player interaction, or down to the last detail of one's outfit and stats, and even role-play the character while you're in a clan of friends. And over the course of our RuneScape careers we've all met all kinds available; from the friendliest person that would take us from Falador to Ardounge, to the ultimate [wagon] who would come back to gloat about a scam he just performed on you.
But do not be fooled how close RuneScape can get to real life. Some people spend entire days in their basement just to attain the next level, and at some point be closer to their friends in the game rather then their friends next door. It even seeps through to real life in legal matters too, or have you forgotten about the court case in The Netherlands (an EU nation)? Two youngsters forced a third one to give up two of his most valued items and transfer them to the culprits accounts, and the judge deemed it stealing, making it legally binding that virtual items are someone's property too.
What I am most interested to see is how this will change over the years. We've all seen what the "Miniclip" generation brought us in the past, for example. According to a few of the louder veterans out there, the Miniclip generation brought in a lot of new players, but in turn was ultimately responsible for updates like the Wilderness Ditch. RuneScape culture demanded that the game would be child friendly, and so it happened.
Another aspect that might influence RuneScape is the marketing to the Spanish speaking people, which is basically everything below Texas, except for Brazil. Most of the people from there are very religious in comparison to the current 'Western' nations that currently make up RuneScape's population, and we may see adaptations in RuneScape to that. But I am sceptical about this, especially seeing the lack of success of German, French and Portuguese servers, I do not think we'll see a large influx of Latin-Americans. It will be interesting to see if JaGex decides to make Mandarin or Hindi servers, but I am not sure if, and this is an issue pointed out by JaGex themselves, the killing of level 2 Cows will make the game popular in India at all.
Obviously, where you come from, geographically as well as the type of milieu, determines a great deal how your RuneScape character is going to look and behave (when will we be able to adjust character height and weight?). If you're born in Poland, you're very likely to grow up to be a Christian, just as if you were born in Iran, you'd grow up to be a Muslim, just to name one factor.
To some extent, all these influences from outside the game have some effect on where the direction of RuneScape and its culture will go, as Jagex will continue to adapt to what is desired by their players. And especially as technology progresses, more and more player-to-player interaction will be available to us. But it is hard to make a final point or to reach a conclusion (there are few actual facts available on this). But just think how RuneScape has changed due to its players, and how much RuneScape has changed you in return. And now fast forward to a time where you will have put in twice the amount of hours compared to today. Do you like what you see?