Two weeks ago I set myself a goal of making enough money to buy a Staff of Light. At around 8.5 Million GP, it’s not the most expensive item on the market, but for someone like me who doesn’t have very high stats – it’s quite a task.
At first I turned to my main moneymaking method, Nature Runecrafting. With a long term goal of 99 I try to do Runecrafting every time I need money. An hour crafting Natures with a Spirit Graahk can make me a good few 100k gp. Combined with some farming, my money started to pile up quite nicely. So far, so good.
But, after a few days, I started getting bored. I’m not the sort of person that can grind at tasks for a long time. In fact, it was quite surprising I managed to last as long as I did. I just stopped playing, falling into a small slump with RuneScape. It felt like work, and when I thought of playing RuneScape my only reaction was ‘Urgh, no thank you’. Why would I want to play when it was more boring than other things I could do?
This led me to the question: Why am I playing? Why do we force ourselves to complete tasks that we don’t want to? A game is supposed to be fun. It’s supposed to be a distraction or entertainment, not a chore. People say that they’re ‘working’ towards a goal – why are we seeing something that is supposed to be entertainment as a job?
I suppose it’s unavoidable that a game like RuneScape would have some form of grinding. Pretty much every MMO-game finds it hard to avoid this aspect of games that has become quite familiar in the market. You need to grind or do tasks that you don’t want to do so that you can reach certain levels or get enough money for an item that you really want. But, do we do this too much?
A lot of players do the same thing day in, day out, to power their way towards a goal. Eventually the game becomes not about the journey, but the goal. We are convincing ourselves that if we earn a certain amount of money, or reach a certain level, we’ll have fun. Shouldn’t the fun come from actually playing the game? And not from slaving our way towards a point which then we let ourselves have fun?
Of course this doesn’t apply to everyone, but how many of us really do what we want to do when playing. Sometimes what we want to do is profitable for us (in terms of experience or money) but given the choice between a more fun, slower option and a faster, more boring option – people chose the fastest way.
It isn’t just that people want the fastest way, they want everyone to be playing that way. Say, you gain your levels for Slayer through the traditional way of doing tasks, and someone else chooses to get theirs by playing Soul Wars because they find it fun. You might say that ‘oh, well it’s their choice’. But what if Soul Wars became quicker than doing tasks? Heaven forbid, the more fun option becomes a better choice! If something like that were to happen, Slayers would be outraged. How dare someone not have the same boring time getting levels as they did!
Fun shouldn’t really become a secondary priority when playing a game, but it does, and this worries me. Because I chose to have fun when I play, not grind out level after level, I have low levels and little money. Because I don’t have high levels, I’m not as ‘good’ as the high level elite. So because I chose to have fun when I play, I’m not seen to be as ‘good’ or important as other people.
For the high levels that enjoy grinding, that’s good for them. But it’s setting the bar high for people who want to achieve what the high levels do. If people are being compared to maxed out accounts, then what chance do we have to gain any sort of recognition? If people want to be recognised, then they have no choice but to grind through tasks that they don’t want to do. It all makes me concerned for the future of RuneScape players. For the people registering today, what will the high levels be like for them in a few years? You’ll have to be 99 to even get on the high score board and opinions of ‘noobs’ without 99’s will be even worse than they are today. Our obsession with efficiency and ignoring what is fun for us is, to me, a great concern.