It’s been literally years since I’ve ventured into the free for all that used to be World 2. The once crowded server has always historically been the ultimate trading hub for players to find bargains and barter their goods for lumps of cash. With the introduction of the grand exchange though, the open markets and the seas of flashing text have become part of the past; unless of course you happen to be playing Jagex’s legacy servers.
But I digress. Recently I found myself in the historically crowded world with the intention to find out the market price of a newly released item. What I found however, was a far cry from what I expected. Even post grand exchange, World 2 has still retained an essence of what the open market used to be before the automated auction house was released to the players. Yet, all that remains today is a hollow shell of what used to be. I ran around the whole perimeter of the exchange looking for any semblance of a thriving hub of player to player trade. I found a few small clumps of sellers scattered around the area, but these traders were a drop in the ocean compared to what I found in one of the tucked away corners of the exchange.
I thought I had found where the majority of players were doing their trades selling high end and rare items to each other, but when I actually read all the familiar text spam, only one phrase was visible: “In the Open.” To those unfamiliar with the newly coined quick-chat phrase, those three words are now the de-facto term used by the gambling masses after Jagex's rather backhanded decision to automatically mute any individual who used the previous advertisement of 'H/c x2'.
Gambling isn’t a new problem for RuneScape or Jagex, and anything you have currently read in this article so far is unlikely to be news to you, after all, I was aware of the problem that existed I just didn’t know how deep the problem was. The current situation of gambling seems to have simply reached a stalemate with Jagex and indeed, the players and I would even go so far as to label the whole situation as largely apathetic.
Toy horses, dice, and even certain emotes are all popular methods of gambling that Jagex have periodically gone out of their way to remove or modify to cease their unintended use as tools to make money. Gambling still remains however, and if past actions are any indication to Jagex’s intentions, you would assume they clearly want to slow, if not completely annihilate gambling entirely. So why did they stop short of removing such a popular gambling method after going through the initial effort to get rid of multiple other versions of the pass time?
Jagex have recently stated on a number of occasions that they don’t want to get rid of gambling entirely as there is “Clearly an appetite for ‘risk/reward’ gameplay.” There are remedies to such a situation, and with this months Behind the Scenes article, the RuneScape staff have offered talks and discussions with the community on the topic of gambling and what we, the players, think and want to happen with the whole situation. So, putting aside the discussed to death topics of the potential ethical and moral implications that gambling in a video game could have, there are three avenues that Jagex could take.
Leave it how it is
Jagex clearly don’t want this to be the ultimate outcome if prior events are considered. Not only is the risk of scamming very real, but the current system is arguably not in the spirit of the game. On top of this, it is undeniably harmful to the game as there are gambling clans that exist purely to sell any acquired gold for real world money.
Remove it entirely, making gambling a bannable offence
The other extreme and probably the most controversial of all. If there is an ‘appetite’ for such risk/reward gameplay outside of PvP gameplay, this move wouldn't just anger the legitimate gamblers (if gambling can even be rationalized as legitimate) but could also have other potential ramifications i.e. players will just resort to other methods of unintended gameplay to satisfy their habits.
Logically, it is the best decision for Jagex to make. Introducing an in-game casino or other alternative strictly for pixel to pixel money gambling would entirely remove scamming from the equation entirely. Likewise, conglomerate gambling clans would no longer amass huge amounts of gold to later potentially sell for real money. Obviously, there would be nothing to stop players doing this with any winnings from a legitimate gambling system, but the problem would be far, far smaller in scale. Win/lose odds would be largely irrelevant as the ‘house’ would not be run by the player and therefore no single individual would be in a position to take advantage of others.
Such a move could even rationally reduce inflation if Jagex could competently introduce a considered win/lose ratio model. Either way, I’m eager to see what Jagex plans to do with such a controversial topic as one foot wrong could spell total disaster.