RuneScape has a very diverse population. I am convinced the majority is decent and nice; I do not believe the figures that say about half of the players are cheating. My experience is different. Of course this also depends a lot on the company I choose to keep and the attitude I choose to have towards the game and others playing it. I think playing a game like this can actually be beneficial to us even though that is likely not the reason we play. It’s more a side benefit that we get something useful out of it. Before I get to why and how playing a computer game of all things can be a positive influence, I’ll say this: Like everything in life, playing games should not be overdone - drinking water is good for you, but you can die from drinking too much water. Playing RS has something else in common with real life: your attitude in doing things is very important in what you get out of it. If you act like a total 'BLEEP-hole' you will likely get the same in return. RS has its own karma. When those things are taken in to account I think playing a multiplayer game, specifically RuneScape, can very well be good for us and I’d like to explain why.
Playing RuneScape is a way to relax and blow off steam by immersing ourselves in a fantasy world and lets us leave our real life troubles behind for a while. Unwinding is good for all of us and will make us function better when having to deal with whatever it is we do. Life is fast and RuneScape relaxingly slow.
As a separate but related point, I have noticed there are a lot of people with some kind of handicap on RuneScape. These people sometimes have no other way to interact with others, to work towards a goal. Many people have social games (and the rest of the internet) to thank for feeling less isolated and lonely. RS can be a place where your problems don't determine who you are.
It is not surprising to me to see this, if you have a handicap of sorts you often sadly do not have the opportunity to work and instead have the time to play a lot. People with social or mental handicaps often find it easier to communicate on the internet than face to face. Basically, a whole new world opens up for them.
We get to know a very diverse group of people; I for one have learned a lot about different cultures from my friends and clan mates. The world is being torn in two directions—on one hand there is globalization, with all our fates being more and more linked, especially economically; on the other, in many places, at least the western world, there is a surge of nationalism, of wanting to keep all that is strange (and because of this frightening) at bay. We want to determine our own future even if we often really can’t.
By meeting people from across oceans, faiths and backgrounds on RS we might learn to understand each other a little better and see we have more in common then we might think.
When you know and like someone from a faraway place or other faith it becomes a lot harder to hate people who also have that background.
Many people I know have learned English while playing, I have seen kids grow up from knowing barely more than ‘Yes’ and ‘No’ to speaking English very well and they usually say they learned more on RS than in school. The same goes for adults who may never have had English in school. I myself already spoke reasonable English, but certainly improved it. My 11 year old nephew who plays RS understands English better than his older sister who does not.
Talking about seeing kids grow up, many that joined my clan as young teenagers are now in their 20's and have learned to work for what they want, to be polite and how to interact with people very different then themselves. Successfully slaying a beast together teaches the value of teamwork - getting your 99's, perseverance.
I realize you can also learn to cheat your way through life from a game... That is where personal attitude comes into play. Then there are these things called parents and teachers who often have a lot to do with these kids turning out so well... But I am convinced our clan and many more clans and other groups have helped a lot.
Let’s not forget adults like myself, who certainly have learned something about patiently working towards a goal as a team!
There is even a lot more to learn from playing our game. The historical and pop culture references certainly spark the imaginations of those open to it. But it can be very practical also.
You can learn to make deals, trade and use math to get a profit. Supply and demand, the basics of economics and even how harmful monopolies can be. To a lesser extent many other subjects are covered. Virtual farming stands out to me: you learn where a potato comes from. Now... Do not laugh… But being a cooking teacher myself I know many urban kids and even adults who do not know a potato grows in the ground; many think it is made in a factory (out of potato starch) like pasta is.
In the end it seems to come down to social aspects and learning new things. If a player is open to it, finds the right friends and has the right attitude, including a little patience, RuneScape can teach you useful life skills. If not, then at the least it is a nice place to find friends and share experiences.
So when a parent, spouse or friend tells you how you throw your life away playing this game, you can tell them it is an educational tool... or realize you might very well be doing so, if you don't know how to limit yourself. Lets be positive though and assume for most of us playing this game is a win-win situation, its harmless and fun with benefits.
So: make the world a better place, start with yourself: play RuneScape!