Ever since their creation, games have had one thing in common that has attracted their players: their distance from the real world. In games, you play in fictional worlds more or less distant from reality, you fight imaginary monsters, play the role of mighty characters with a wide array of fantastic abilities... you live adventures far out of reach in real life. Games are an escape from reality, a distraction, and therefore a source of fun. In our days, most game developers still work on delivering this unique experience; they may put more effort into the looks rather than into the difficulty, but that's a whole new topic. However, this tradition seems to have started breaking in one precise game - Runescape. And for an old school gamer like me, it's being a disgrace.
If I believe Runescape breaks the tradition, it's for the following reason: the majority of players are playing much more for the skill levels and the money than just for the fun of it. I don't even understand why things are going like this on such a wonderful game. See, since Runescape isn't the only MMORPG out there, it shouldn't be the only one breaking the tradition - in theory they all do. But curiously enough, in other games players try to find as many alternatives to grinding as possible, in order to have fun. Go on their forums and suggest bosses such as Nomad or Jad, suggest quests such as Desert Treasure or While Guthix Sleeps, and you'll get most people to claim your ideas as awesome. Having played other MMORPG's, especially Silkroad, I know this to be true from experience. In other games, I came across guides about characters in game that suggested you to focus much more on the journey than on the destination itself, explaining that there are plenty of ways to have fun without having reached the highest possible level, and explaining that it's best to keep playing at your own pace and not be concerned about other people's levels.
This is something that you would never, ever find in any Runescape guide. In Runescape, you have everything most players from other games would like to have: real quests, minigames, very difficult bosses ect. Yet, the mentality is the complete opposite. People love to spend hours and hours skilling, heck you'd think that spending 10 minutes in a different activity would be a waste of precious time. People need extreme efficiency at skilling, it's a constant urge for levels, to get a cape and beat all their friends at skilling. It's even encouraged in some guides. But why? Runescape wasn't always like this. What happened to playing just for the sake of having fun here? I remember a time where random people would randomly gather at the Blue Moon Inn just for fun, without the need of organising a full community event on forums with a precise date and time so that nobody would "waste their time". I remember times when I didn't struggle to find someone else besides me who actually did quests without guides just for the fun of it. And I remember times when just strolling around with a friend was doable at any time, not just after he was done with his skill. In other words, times when players saw Runescape as a fantasy world, an escape from reality, and not a calculator. But today, it's not the same anymore. The ultimate goal for a vast majority of players is to hit as many level 99's as possible, and have fun afterwards. But how many people even get to have fun then, when very few of them ever hit 99 in all the skills?
Did you ever once stop and think, "today I'll just take a day off and take all the time to do some master quest by myself", or even "I'll take a little break and go stroll around trying features I have never tried before"? Most people like efficiency, and thus dislike walking around during quests or just for the fun of exploring. As skilling is the most important thing to the eyes of most players, the skill experience is therefore also the most important thing in any activity. But did you ever ask yourself if the fun you get from questing or other activities could be worth way more than some skill experience? It's what any game is about after all, isn't it?
I don't quite understand how come the mentality on Runescape differs so much from other games, especially when you're given so many features. But I'm sure that a community where discussions would differ from "what is your level at x skill" or "yay got another level!", and where people would be more open to other activities, would be a better community, and as Runescape is a well known game it would also serve as a good example for future games and communities.