Sometimes, the pessimists are right. The entire basis of their message is, in fact, a statement of the obvious: RS is going to die. Indeed, everything that they do and say is little more than a hysterical, wide-eyed reiteration of this long-established fact. That everything must change, everything perishes, is not even debatable any longer, thanks in large to the prevalence of common sense in today’s world.
Perhaps the only distinguishing factor of these doomsayers is their use of causality to determine when the end will begin. Just as their message is correct, their causal predictions are invariably wrong; it is not bots or the removal of high scores for free players that will spell the end for RS; rather, its very existence is the only possible cause of its demise. In short, the root cause of the effect of demise is existence, with all that happens between the two being little more than an aside of sorts.
On the surface, these statements may seem rather glum, but in reality what I have described above is for the most part common sense. The same facts can be extended to the player, who will ultimately fall victim to Chronos. In describing this basal aspect of mortal existence, that old poem comes to mind.
“Nowhere at all
Would I live on; all
A hut of twigs
Is this fleeting world.”
Such a poignant memento mori raises the question which we have all asked ourselves at some point, though perhaps in a rather less fatalistic way: Why play RS? After all, anything one could be said to ‘achieve’ in the context of RS is not only immaterial, but just as, if not more, transient than most material things. More specifically, why do people lust after 99s, in spite of knowing – I know they know, whether or not they know they know – that there will come a time when all of their time and effort will be negated permanently?
As far as I am concerned, the primary reason for people opting to play casually can only be leisure. So long as there is time to be passed, people will do so in whatever way they see fit. Playing the odd bit of RS is no different in this sense to any other recreational activity, be it cricket, going shopping, or engaging in mortal combat with windmills. This is a simple answer that all should be able to understand. My second query, however, remains unanswered by this rather simplistic response.
I would like instead to propose a rather different answer to the question of those 99 chasers. In much the same way that they take playing RS one or two levels above a casual player in terms of time investment and, one must presume, enjoyment, so too do they have a rather heightened sense of time’s passing. I feel that Kenko aptly encapsulates this mentality: “If man were never to fade away… how things would lose their power to move us.”
My theorisations boil down to this: that a part of the motivation to obtain not only high skills, but also to devote oneself to RS in full, through clan participation, quests, mini-games, and so on – a general will to immerse oneself, a completionist mentality far beyond that which is quantified at present (ie, skills and quests) – is because of one thing: an innate drive to carpe diem, fuelled by the realisation, conscious or otherwise, that time is rationed. This realisation of time slipping from one’s grasp has fuelled a person to grab all that they can from it, and some just so happen to choose RS.
Though this may sound bizarre at first, considered in simpler terms it shouldn’t. Just as Kenko thought that we perceived, and were moved by, beauty because we see in all things their perishability and our own, so too are the RS addicts impelled to immerse themselves in this game, not necessarily because they lack anything in their real lives (though this can sometimes be the case, in which case an entirely different psychology applies), but because they are moved to vitality by the scale on which they see a fully-rounded form of ‘existence’ played out before their eyes; RS, or any other MMO, is almost like a minimised life in terms of what it offers – in that it allows for a greater scope than most virtual worlds, thereby allowing for a maximised completion in the context of this life; i.e., while one cannot be a chef, and a fisherman, and a magician in real life, one can be all this and more in RS, where relative achievement is more easily facilitated by virtue of it requiring less effort.
Every one of us must face up to the inevitability that, no matter how hard we try, we will only experience but a small portion of that which life has to offer us. Even the most outgoing extrovert sees but a fraction of the world. Many are assailed by feelings of futility in the face of this grandeur of existence, and the virtual world presented in RS and other such games is their chance to live to the full inside a microcosm. The fact that all this effort is negated when the inevitable server shutdown occurs is of no consequence, given the above enumerations—after all, is this not a way to compensate for a lack of lasting in-game mortality? The ever approaching demise of RS is the metaphorical egg-timer for this surrogated self that is one’s avatar. If looked at from the point of view of eternity, our real and virtual lives are equally fleeting after all. Perhaps, then, RS isn’t much more of a ‘waste’ of time than anything else? This question is interesting enough to merit of an article of its own in due course, and serves to highlight to me that I have wandered off topic.
Much of that which I have speculated about is likely an unconscious process if anything. The psychology of playing devotedly, as explained by the aesthetics of perishability and the desire to achieve more in a life reduced in scale, is the core of this article, which is itself nothing more than a light-hearted musing.