Why I started playing Runescape
When I look back on my 21 years, 2003-'06 are bit murky. They mark my early teen years, that awkward time in life when suddenly, overnight, you become too old for a lot of things. You become desperate to shed yourself of any traces leftover from childhood and yet you're still a long, long way off being seen as an adult. You know this entirely of course and you know there is nothing you can do about it. Where do you belong? Which box do you tick? You tell yourself that if you can just lock yourself away somewhere and get through the next few years, everything will be alright.
Enter Runescape! Runescape (or RS for short), if you haven't heard of it before, is an online adventure game played by hundreds of thousands of people across the world. It is the world of quests, gp (gold pieces), dragons, runes, the wilderness and "noobs" (a derogatory term for a new member, evolved from "newbie"). It's similar to a game called World of Warcraft. Accounts are free, although most become paying members at some point, and for many the game becomes highly addictive. You can (and many do) waste away many hours, full days,weeks, months, even years doing little else but playing RS. The game can be a great source for pure escapism and, before you know it, you can easily find your online, Runescape life taking priority over your very real, offline life.
This notion of an online game taking over from your real life to many must seem incredibly sad, not to mention highly unproductive. However, I would like to challenge this view. Now I am not trying to attribute everything good in my life today; personal achievements, hurdles I've overcome, etc. to Runescape. Neither am I advocating that children spend hours on end in front of a computer screen. I am simply trying to put across to you that, in my opinion, playing RS certainly didn't do me any harm and I'd even go as far to say that it even taught me some important life skills whilst, at the same time, keeping me safe!
It wouldn't be untrue to say that this period of my life was, by enlarge, fairly uneventful. I wasn't going to bars, clubs or on dates-too young, I wasn't going to the park, playing with yoyos and riding my bike around anymore though either-too old (or at least I thought). So what was there left for me to do? I had no money, and (apart from school) nowhere to go. People in their early teens are massively under-catered for!
Runescape vs. Anti-social behaviour
I wouldn't be the first to put forward the theory that these elements largely attribute to anti-social behaviour. The image of large groups of teenagers hanging out on street corners or in parks, drinking, doing drugs, vandalising public property and being abusive is a grim but all too familiar one. Of course, I would like to think that, no matter how bored or misplaced I felt, I wouldn't have ever stumbled down this path. Looking back, I'm thinking "no, I just wasn't like that" but who knows? It's a fact that people from all sorts of backgrounds participate in anti-social behaviour. So just because I was middle-class and had good parents certainly didn't make me immune to it.
The fact that anti-social behaviour was rife where I lived could only have increased the liklihood that I too might participate, although I never did. While there was a group of young people that used to congrugate in the area literally just outside my house, night after night, starting fights, drinking, blasting footballs against garden walls, the list goes on...I was in my attic bedroom with my computer on, playing Runescape! Keeping me entertained for hours, I played RS for a little over two years. Of course, in keeping me occupied so well, I didn't go out very often. This ensured I didn't go down the wrong path and meant equally that I was never on the receiving end of any verbal abuse readily given out by my more rowdy peers. I also never got mugged or attacked either. I was a cocooned teen waiting, biding my time, waiting for adolescence!
Further benefits of playing RS
Now I mentioned that I thought Runescape taught me some important life skills. What did I mean by this? Well if you have ever played yourself, you will know that Runescape is as much about developing your "skills" and making gp (gold pieces, that's the RS currency) as it is about completing quests, slaying dragons, castle wars and killing fellow members in the wilderness. Although the latter is by far the most fun, the former definitely takes up the the majority of your time.
There are lots of different strategies that people use to make money (gp) on RS, some more efficient than others. As you progress in the game, you need better armour and weaponary to become a more powerful warrior/wizard/archer. Just as in the real world, better quality products come with bigger price tags! Suddenly, you find yourself needing more gp and have to come up with more innovative "gp-making" strategies.
Having my cousin play at the same time as me just made everything so much more fun. He was a great source of competition, particularly in terms of who had the most gp, throughout the game. Knowing now how competitive and money-driven society is, I would say RS provided me with some really relevant experience. Over the course of my time playing RS, I made a lot of gp and I lost a lot too, but the beauty of this was (although at the time I really felt like it was) none of it was real money!
When my studies began to get more serious I gave up playing Runescape, it wasn't too difficult. It had served me well for over two years, keeping me out of trouble, out of my parent's hair and most importantly keeping me safe. I also genuinely feel I learnt some important lessons about real life too- thank you Runescape!