This is written as a counter point to Master_Smither's September 18th article "Disinterest."
I'm a pretty typical twenty year-old gamer with a pretty typical history of gaming. I started gaming when I was ten, was introduced to RuneScape when I was eleven, started playing it seriously when I was thirteen, played it seriously until I was sixteen, alternated between it and WoW until I was eighteen, then got into competitive RTS games (Warcraft 3, Dawn of War, Starcraft II) and MOBAs (Defense of the Ancients, Heroes of Neworth, and League of Legends).
Now for the record, I still like RuneScape. I still think it has the best questing, story telling, and puzzle solving of any MMORPG. The only reason I'm semi-retired is because I only have two hours a day to play games and two hours a day does not cut it if you want to get anywhere in RuneScape. Still, I understand why a lot of my fellow college age gamers look down on RuneScape, especially those like me who are into competitive gaming.
The author of the Disinterest article had it mostly right. Still, a lot of other things were only semi-accurate. Many competitive gamers like me (those of us who play games like Starcraft II or League of Legends) are deeply interested in player matching our skill sets and knowledge of the game against real opponents online. We have lost whatever interest we once had in grinding. However, it's deeper than that. We also strive to compete on a perfectly level playing field and, in the case of team games like LoL, have perfect team co-ordination.
RuneScape is a game where character skill trumps player skill virtually all the time. The top of the heap, in terms of PVP, is dominated by rich players that have grinded out thousands of hours on their characters. The fact that there is no level playing field turns off a lot of potential players and keeps former players away.
As far as player skill goes, though, I'm afraid to say that RuneScape really dose take a lot less skill to play than a, "simple" RTS like Starcraft II. If you want evidence, type "Day9 Daily" into YouTube and watch a video or two. Micromanaging multiple units, balancing an economy, and base building all at the same time is far more of a challenge than playing a single character with virtually no active abilities. If you have played these games and think they are easy, you are either not getting matched with difficult enough opponents or your teammates are carrying you.
Then there is the random number generator (RNG). Unlike a game like League of Legends where a lot of the abilities are "skill shots" that rely on the player's skill to aim them, RuneScape relies on an RNG to determine hits and misses. Most competitive players want to win or lose based on how well they played, not how lucky they get. The RNG element really detracts from the player skill. You can time your attacks perfectly with the game's ticks, eat at just the right moment, swap prayers like a pro, and still lose to an unskilled noob that got lucky with his D claws.
Even compared to other MMORPGs RuneScape's hardest of hard boss encounters are only moderately challenging. When compared to the most insane bosses in games like World of Warcraft or Everquest, the Nex fight is not very hard at all. It would actually translate very well from RuneScape to WoW (it's actually very similar to a several of WoW's boss fights) and depending on how you scaled her damage, she would be somewhere between dead easy and an early tier-two raid boss.
Then there's the mechanics. Show RuneScape's stat system to any tabletop RPG veteran and they will laugh, or cry, or possibly both. Allowing damage to scale with gear but not hit points? There‘s a reason virtually every other RPG allows your HP to scale with gear. Avoidance as the primary defensive stat? Games that use mitigation have much smoother more predictable combat. Active abilities tied to weapons that are only available deep into the game? Combat that consists almost completely of auto-attacking? Allowing players to build insanely power characters that still have a low combat level in a PVP game? I understand if you can live with and maybe even embrace these mechanics but to an experienced gamer they definitely do smack of an overly simplistic and poorly designed RPG.
Ultimately, gaming is supposed to be about having fun. if you enjoy playing RuneScape, I'm not about to call you down for it. Different strokes for different folks and all that smooth jazz. Personally, I would like to beat every quest in the game. I would love to see the conclusions of the storylines that captivated me when I was thirteen. However, I just can't bring myself to stop playing competitive games for the amount of time it would take to grind out all the required skills.