Change is something that is not often embraced, particularly by older people. Somehow, there is an impenetrable aura of resistance. There is an air of complacency; there are memories of worse times that inspire a sense of fear of departing from the status quo. And then, once change has taken place and pushed through, there is a constant stream of wistful thinking, supplied by the lack of knowledge regarding what would have happened otherwise (known as the counterfactual).
This kind of human behavior naturally carries over to RuneScape. In the MMORPG, change is delivered in sharp doses as updates. As TS_Stormrage recently described, one can trace the behavior of the RuneScape population regarding most (major) updates through several main phases.
But through this tiresome cycle, a gradual trend has slowly emerged.
Gradually, the voice of established players, some with years of membership under their belt, has started to almost be ignored. The protests of veterans to the Squeal of Fortune and Solomon's General Store were drowned out by the wave of newer players eagerly buying their products. The Evolution of Combat update not only raised virtually everyone's combat level, but easily halved (or more) requirements for the maximum combat level that the game would display. Rewards at the end of the summer let you instantly kill any monster up to four times over, including quest monsters. Despite a statement that they would reconsider bonus XP weekends, Jagex hosted one that not only yielded a huge amount of XP for the whole weekend, but extended it to free players as well.
Most veteran players have been strongly opposed to every bit of this. They give a compassionate argument about how each successive update devalues their skills by making them easier for new players to attain. They recall with pride slaying a difficult quest monster shortly after it came out and look with disdain at players defeating bosses with the ease of a one-click insta-kill dart. They argue that hours of bonus XP, as in the case of the last weekend, can be exploited to the point that it's not even funny.
While those are all good points, I beg to differ.
Indeed, one of the common clichés about RuneScape is that there are not enough new players.
Recruiting for your clan isn't much fun when everyone is already in one, is it?
Doesn't life get a bit boring when it seems half the RuneScape population is maximum combat and the other half either barely logs on or stands around chatting most of the time?
Isn't it a bit tiring when no one has the energy to do anything: to make something new, to try a new idea?
I think many veterans would agree, and I would encourage people to put their money where their mouth is. Am I saying that free stuff and endless promotions are the way to accomplish that?
I'll answer that in a minute, but briefly return to real life first. Although no one can give a precise definition of the time span, a generation is regarded as the amount of time for a sufficient amount of the population to grow up, marry, and have children. And as an Africana Studies professor told me in a class, they provide "youthful energy." I don't want to incite anything with historical comparisons, but I'm sure you can think of plenty of examples of fresh people and new ideas leading that have led to a change for the better.
Are there generations of RuneScape players? It's certainly not in the same sense—how many people do you know who cite their parents as introducing them to RuneScape?
But on the other hand, it's not all that different. Many players had their start on RuneScape when they were 13 or 14. How did they hear of it? It was probably from an older sibling, or a cousin, or referral from someone online, or even from wanting to be cool at the time.
If RuneScape is going to get more players, targeting older demographics is not as effective a way to do it. Those players have an embedded stereotype that RuneScape is not something they want everyone to know about. And if Jagex is going to attract them, certain necessary evils must exist.
If you started RuneScape at a young age, think about what it was like to play then.
Remember when you wanted to go do that quest with a friend, but your parents didn't let you play that night?
Remember when you were trying to get a 99 while you could only play an hour a day?
Remember when you missed out on a bonus XP weekend because your parents had a trip scheduled and you didn't have a computer?
It might seem like all these bonuses are a bit game breaking for people power training constantly (which they are slightly) but there has to be something to level the playing field for people with essentially no control over their schedule. The real challenge is how to provide a substantial reward for new players wondering around figuring things out without high levels exploiting it.
Of course many people will be weary of opening the floodgates to new players. Why would we want even more immature, screaming kids in the game? The truth is...they are a mirror reflection of almost everyone when they started. Sure, some will quit after six months, but not before they've given their heart and soul into creating something—whether it's building a community or establishing themselves as an example for years to come.
They will make mistakes. Recall the free trade issue and all of the new players from 2007 on: they all thought Jagex would simply flip the switch and their new anti-botting measures would work flawlessly. Despite all the excitement for free trade and the eager voting that ensued, we've barely gotten two days' rest from bots and gold spammers, in the form of a brief period following a major bot nuke in late 2011.
But nothing will ever happen if people don't give them a chance.
I think we're ready for a new generation of players to step forward. In the words of one of the most famous cartoon teachers, it's time to take chances, make mistakes, and get 'scaping!