Saradomin, Zamorak, Guthix, Zaros, et al: the pantheon of RS gods is impressively diverse, yet also largely neglected. These gods are largely reserved for quests and role-playing types. Personally, I would find this reassuring – worshipping RS gods is likely a sign of madness – were it not for the fact that the players of this game are still reverential towards something.
Observing RS is like holding a mirror to the real world; the reflection is eerily accurate. The RS userbase is primarily based around the USA and Europe, a part of the world where religion is on the decline (especially in the latter). This is all well and good. If people don’t want to be religious, that’s a personal choice, but it saddens me to see what a great many people revere in the place of God, saints, and so on: the celebrity.
Instead of prostrating themselves before a statue of the Virgin Mary, people today read glossy magazines and use them as the focus of their aspirations. Rather than pray for salvation, they search for inspiration on how to better themselves by finding role-models. Of course there is an overlap – some religious people will be celebrity-worshipers, some non-religious people won’t - it seems that the pious tend to have divine, rather than celebrity, role models. It is always saddening to see girls talking of how they want to be like the promiscuous Katie Price, or boys of their admiration for the criminal 50 Cent. The idolatry of these figures carries over into fashion and behaviours that are considered ‘cool.’ The entire notion of coolness, fashion and so on is based on imitating so-called ‘trend-setters’ who are modern day societal equivalents of, say, Achilles or other ancient Greek heroes. Whereas these heroes encouraged virtues such as bravery, modern idols – mere humans, after all – encourage largely superficial qualities, such as ‘beauty,’ ‘fashion,’ and so on.
This attitude has transferred over into RS, where certain players are lauded for their purported abilities. Be they top-ranked players or machinima wizards, RS has its own sacred cows to rival Jeroboam’s. There is Zezima, who combined top levels with an ability to create a sort of mythic intrigue around himself. Other top skillers, such as Gertjaars or King Duffy1 are famous, but fail to emulate Zezima’s infamy. Durial321 attained legendary status for exploiting a bug and going on a US-style rampage. Tehnoobshow is the most prominent machinima filmmaker, and I’d say the best.
In the ‘Zezima Song,’ Tehnoobshow’s parody of these attitudes, lyrics such as ‘Add me right now Zezima’ and ‘Zezima, I’m into you’ encapsulate perfectly the irrational reverence we have for certain fellow players, not just Zezima (though he is by far the most famous). There is a fundamental difference between knowing a player because of his or her achievements (more on that later), and appreciating them, and going overboard and stalking them, as Tehnoobshow rightly picked up on and satirised. The people I’ve mentioned always have their Clan Chats full to bursting with people who are either obsessive stalkers or bored. Either way, I find it deplorable that they are, because it shows that the worshiping mindset is still very much intact.
More fascinating still is the reason behind the idolatry that takes place, both in these channels and on forums everywhere. These players, after all, are largely people who have high stats (ie. people who just spend a lot of time on RS). Though this is an accomplishment, in the greater scheme of things I cannot see the magnificence of it that seems to have others so excited. Zezima is renowned for none other than spending a lot of time on a computer clicking on things. All skills boil down to clicking. The only “skills” needed are time management, patience, and not to mention a lot of free time. Trying to canonise people for a talent that involves no talent is like congratulating someone who’s given birth to eight children. People are awestruck by these big numbers and fixated on ‘XP.’ Players from across RS society – be they skillers, clansmen, role-players or anything else – all feed into this sickening culture of fawning over these people. Even the Times has kowtowed to this widely held view that people who spend a lot of time on RS are worth listening to, as the interview with S U O M I showed.
Indeed, these sacred cows have become quite adept at playing the publicity game. They go to great lengths to ensure that they can portray themselves as ‘normal’ players, and capture the player interest in some way. After all, many people on the high-scores are not well known. A rare few are. I am thankful that S U O M I shed a more honest light on the world of being a ‘top’ player: he admits to having racked up over 850 days of play time, to have had people drop logs for him to train on, and asking people for donations. All of these factors detract from the very achievement we’re praising them for (not to mention exposing the ‘normal’ guy claims as bogus), and rest assured many of these famous players would prefer to keep such revelations on the quiet. Reaching the top ranks, after all, is usually an exercise in egoism more than anything else. If there were no public forum for flaunting levels and XP – ie, if people were unaware of who the best players are – then there would be little to no incentive to max out.
This is not to say that I dislike those who wish to spend their time maxing out their skills, but the culture of being awestruck by those who spend a lot of time on RS is ridiculous. Their ‘achievement’ is little more than a byproduct of a large investment of time in what is, at the end of the day, just a game. It takes no true talent or special quality to max out in RS. True, determination is a prerequisite, but I’d argue that such determination is better channeled into a more productive medium. The idea of gaming for leisure has been overblown into a competition, in which the purported ‘victors’ are seemingly deified for putting all their energies into this game. There’s nothing inherently wrong with doing so. After all, it’s not inconceivable that some might do so purely out of enjoyment. But it’s implausible that this would be the case for more than a select few. For the most part, the desire to beat others in a list that measures someone’s ability to click on things is driven by a desire to be known for something, to feel victorious, perhaps even superior. Both victory and fame keep egos well nourished. This aside, it’s the almost filial devotion that surrounds these people, the Stalinist personality cults, that are the insufferable part. Though the players themselves might seem far removed from this, by publicising themselves they are, inadvertently or not, laying the foundations for the Ziggurat that others shall use to revere them.
Part of the problem is the RS mentality in which a vast majority of players feel superior to those with lower levels than them and inferior to those above. The high-scores list has, in order to keep people playing and paying, created an ultra-competitive mentality in many that in turn breeds the sort of inferior/superior feelings among losers/victors that primary school children might feel during a game of some sort. Those who are right at the top become communal paragons, and people’s aspirations to emulate them drive them to keep skilling. It’s a good way of maintaining user interest, utilising human nature quite effectively. But the skilling is only half the cause of renown. As previously mentioned, these people have to drum up awareness of themselves and their superiority to feel as if their effort has been vindicated. Many adopt the façade of a laid-back average gamer. I cannot accept this as anywhere close to reality, as the interview we published shows.
These idols’ egos are fed further by the hordes of idolaters in their Clan Channel, clamouring at the remote possibility that they may have the opportunity to meet their idols. This either keeps the idol motivated to keep up their copious skilling, or they rest on their laurels, content that their infamy is secure in hands of the legion of worshipers.
There is little that can be done to remedy this unfortunate situation. People need something to aspire to or admire, and in the case of RS, it’s always going to be those top-levelled players. There is also a degree of achievement to maxing out on skills and so on, but one must also realise that it neither involves actual talent, nor can it be considered an achievement outside of the context of RS. People seem to forget both these facts. Other people of arguably far greater actual ability, such as a prominent clan leader blessed with leadership ability, or a talented member of the Stories community, are shunned in favour of the well-publicised skill aficionados and their devout cults. Unfortunately, this has and always will be the case. The vicious cycle of reverence and idolatry on one side, and egoism and vanity on the other, will always continue, driving those patient and canny enough into a public awareness that not only validates their efforts, it venerates them.