Close your eyes for a minute and imagine the first time you played a video game. I don't mean a simple program like Minesweeper or Tic-Tac-Toe, but a game with at least some illusion of a three dimensional space. Perhaps vivid, not-quite-realistic, colors caught your eye. Maybe you were entranced by the pixelated reality on the screen that you could explore with only your eyes and a slight bit of hand movement. You could have been thrilled by the idea of watching a character fight valiantly, and with honor, but not feel any pain when it took damage or attacks.
What the exact feature that got your attention, and hooked you on that particular game in that moment is not the most important thing, particularly if you were young at the time. Whether it was over a time span of an afternoon or several weeks, that game ensnared your imagination and became the one thing you wanted to do most and never had enough time for. You might have tried to play it several times when you weren't allowed and been caught. You might have put off something you shouldn't have to make more progress and perhaps experiencing some frustration along the way. Your eyes were probably glued to the screen the whole time.
Now fast-forward to yourself playing RuneScape. If the idea of a character with some sense of progression has not become slightly stale, certainly the idea of a video game is no longer a novelty. You can only be fascinated by the oak tree with the leaves that appear almost real a finite number of times. Your character casting a rod out into the sea is not going to be amusing forever.
Then what do us RuneScape players do when it gets a little boring? Surprisingly, we strive to do the exact opposite of what we did when we first picked up a video game: look at the screen as little as possible. We'll go post on the forums, tweet, go on Facebook, or do all sorts of things. Some even have the nerve to write a Tip.It Times article as they are throwing logs onto a RuneScape bonfire!
In fact, we have gone so far as to invent this sport of "AFKing." There has been some ambiguity in the past (Jagex even explained that it was against the rules) about what qualifies as 'AFK' so let me make it explicit. The state of being "AFK" does not mean leaving some sort of macro on your computer while you run to the grocery store and return library books. That's against the rules and it is not what I mean here. Rather, it is switching tabs or windows or doing other things in real life, generally minimizing interaction with RuneScape to a few clicks every few minutes.
This is certainly in sharp contrast to the initial description above.
Of course, the things I described earlier on are not healthy, but one would expect people to at least be paying attention to the game they are playing, right? So why aren't we?
After all, something that is supposed to set RuneScape after from a similar offline game is that it is, to quote the first letter in its genre, 'Massive.' And massive in what sense? There are a lot of people playing, and hence a lot of others to talk to. I'm sure people see where I'm going with this argument, and their objection is simple: People are too immature, not worth talking to, are bots, etc.
At a first glance, trying to talk to people can make you want to perform the Head in the Sand emote. Even discarding harassment and disgusting behavior that has been documented first-hand in places, many people will simply not respond. For a male-dominated community not exactly known for being shy, this raises some questions.
The shallow (and easy) answer is that they are all bots. Some players might have botted, for their personal character gain (as opposed to the obvious gold farmers), but the majority are not actively engaged in it. They might have the chatbox minimized, or not really talk outside of a clan. They might have public chat turned off and private set to friends. I've even found the reverse and tracked down friends or clanmates that haven't been responding to find them alive and well, and willing to talk, once I call their attention in public.
There are many ways to play RuneScape, and (within the rules) I don't think there's a right way or a wrong way. However...the bottom line is that if RuneScape wants to really have a thriving social community where, shall we say, people talk, you have to try too. Only then can we find what we're looking for.