“Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”
These four simple lines begin one of the most famous poems in English literature: The Second Coming, by W.B. Yeats. In my study of the works of eminent poets like Yeats, I have found that one common feature of good poetry is that it can be applied to many more situations than the author originally intended. The more relatable the poetry, the better, and the longer lasting it will be. This is one of the primary reasons why Shakespeare is now taught in classrooms all over the world.
Therefore, it should come as no surprise that I will now attempt to relate Yeats’ poem, written in 1919, to Runescape, an MMORPG in the 21st Century. To begin let’s leave the first line, as it only serves to establish the atmosphere and setting of the work, and examine the second line: “The falcon cannot hear the falconer” refers to a partnership undone. In the ever-widening gyre of chaos (a gyre is a sort of circle or spiral), true communication is no longer possible, and the symbiotic relationship is dissolved. Two separate entities appear: the falcon and the falconer.
Does this sound familiar? It should. In the past few years, the mutually beneficial relationship between the players and Jagex has slowly dissolved into two opposing camps, each spouting ideas and demands that the other side won’t listen to or cannot comprehend. And all the while, the gap between these two groups only widens further. For instance, on the day that I wrote this article (17th July 2012), the ‘Great Divide’ that separates Jagex from the players was dug a little deeper with the addition of yet another microtransactional character: Solomon the ‘entrepreneurial genie’. Despite my obvious annoyance with Jagex’s cash-grabbing schemes, I do in fact still sympathize with Jagex as a company. I understand their need to make money, just as I recognize the desire of the player community for entertainment. I also understand that neither of these cravings can ever be satisfied, but that’s a topic for another article. However, the fact remains that it's never a good situation for both parties involved when the falcon and the falconer can no longer hear each other. And it’s at this point when things start to fall apart.
What, exactly does fall apart, though? It’s not really the player-base, because as I write it’s (supposedly) reaching 200 million players, and it’s not Jagex, because despite the plethora of doomsday predictions they have not yet gone bankrupt. Instead, it is something that is both more important and highly undervalued: the Clan world. The clans, which in the now-distant past were the centre of the Runescape player-base, are slowly falling apart. One of the inspirations for this article was a message from my clan leader, who told the three people in the clan chat that the clan was ‘basically dead’, and that he wanted everyone to ‘have a home’ in another, still functioning clan.
The gradual death of Runescape’s clanning community, characterized by the underuse of Clan Citadels and the end of once prosperous clans such as the one I was a part of, parallels the final line of The Second Coming that I have included in the article: “Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world”. While the word ‘anarchy’ usually calls forth images of total chaos and destruction, anarchy can also be interpreted as the ‘idea that you alone make decisions for yourself, and that you don’t have to justify yourself to anyone’ (this often leads to chaos and destruction). With the ongoing disappearance of clans, more and more players are becoming ‘anarchists’, in that they are alone - there is no-longer a group for them to rely upon through thick and thin, and they don’t have a higher body to whom they must rationalize their actions. In effect, the breakdown of the clan structure is leading to the release of a lot of unhappy, isolated players who have no-one to communicate with and no-one to restrain them.
So far in this article, the future of Runescape has looked quite bleak. Luckily, Yeats offers the reader a glimmer of hope at the end of his poem. Just as The Second Coming ends with the anticipation of rebirth and renewal, so too do I hope that there will be a rejuvenation of the player-Jagex relationship, a rebirth of the Clan world and that, at last, Runescape may rise out of its own gyre of chaos.