A RuneScape Riot; One Spicy Meatball

(Time of writing – 16th of May)
A source on the ground in RuneScape’s capital city of Falador in the World 2 server, whom wishes to remain anonymous (being in their mid-twenties and understandably not wishing to be associated with online browser based MMO games) has reported mass protests and civil unrest on the streets. This news comes after an unpopular decision taken by the games developer Jagex was announced and players are clearly and visibly not happy with it.
DOWN.gif

 

Yet another riot in a long lineage of this gaming communities’ digital civil unrest, in favour of the little people and if you ask me, personally, one of RuneScape’s only redeeming factors that I can find. Beyond providing work for ‘farmers’ in less economically developed nations or allowing those who play a monetary means to justify the many months lost to this game over the course of their life. Jagex will find out once more that when provoked those little people can become one giant and infuriated people when they stand together. I kid.

Reportedly there are some ‘absolute scenes going down.’ As can be corroborated by our anonymous tipper who has been amongst those protesting, first as an observer then as a participant. They sent in some fresh from the front-line footage which you can view below to give you a better idea of the sheer scope of the matter. The video was captured earlier this afternoon and e-mailed over to us using the pseudonym, buying-gf-for-100-gold-but-not-renewing-my-subs@[Redacted].com, and it clearly shows that the tension is so thick it could be cut with even a bronze dagger. Players can be seen shouting slogans such as ‘We pay we play, save RuneLite, Jagex don’t let us down’ and ‘RuneLite or nothing.’

 

 

So what exactly is the decision making gaffe behind the grumbling gamers at Jagex’s gates this time? If you’re not in the know and haven’t guessed what the issue is already, let me be the first to sadly inform you that a well-liked client named RuneLite has been banned by the developers.

 

A Brief History

So how did we get to this moment?

OSRS (Old-School RuneScape) is the original 2007 version of the game that was re-released in 2013 by Jagex owing to popular demand. After, in the words of the game’s fans – they ‘fucked their game up.’ It was reportedly ruined over a number of years by worse decision after bad decision, such as an imposition of a trade limit as well as removing the wilderness where players could go to engage in PvP combat. These two reasons alone were huge controversies and the cause of past riots in and of themselves.

Fast forward to the current day, there are a number of different third-party clients that people use to play the OSRS version of the game, OSBuddy being the most popular. It has a few plug-ins which make the game easier and more user-friendly, for example, XP trackers as well as mini-games to add to the fun. The PRO version (paid for by subscription) has a few more of those plug-ins such as NPC markers and a health regeneration overlay.

A group of people from the community came together and decided to create an open-source client which included all of the paid features of the aforementioned OSBuddy and more … on top of all this it was completely and most importantly free, the absolute madfolks! Causing OSBuddy to lose popularity/patrons and therefore profits (RuneLite you MONSTERS.)

 

 

The Spice Coating This Meatball

Jagex have just this very day decided that by being open-source, RuneLite are infringing on their intellectual property. As the open-source nature of the client allows people who code bots free access to their code. Here’s where the spicy shady things start to come into frame.

When approached by Jagex with the request to remove their client, the owner of RuneLite said they would make the client code closed-source to abate the cited worries. This was not enough and Jagex said ‘No’ and has even reportedly threatened legal action if the project is not entirely shut down. It has always been speculated amongst the community that there has been dodgy dealings between Jagex and OSBuddy and here we are, faced with what seems to be pretty blatant concrete evidence if you do even just a little digging into the current matter.

Check out this statement from Adam, the owner of RuneLite;

 

adams statement.jpg

 

A statement which clearly shows intentions to meet the worries of Jagex and work with them. Jagex are yet to respond to it directly and have specifically stated they’re not interested in airing their dirty laundry of deeds and grievances in the angry eye of the public sphere. Couldn’t imagine why, could you?
The Sauce Of The Heat

Check out the developers of OSRS at Jagex try to brush it off and dance around the resentment and anger in the chat bar in their scheduled monthly Twitch streamed Q&A. A chat bar that is absolutely off the hook with unbridled rage of a fan-base scorned, a fan-base who they are currently blatantly condescending to. Those present immediately call it for what it is, bullshit, considering the offers from Adam at RuneLite to make it closed-source being met with legal threats.

Say what you like about RuneScape fans but they call it like they sees it.  Something fishy smelling is afoot and I’m only LVL 1 fishing so it sure as heck ain’t me! Especially considering OSBuddy made a few of their pro plugins free shortly after this whole debacle was set in motion;
OS BUDDY MAKES THINGS FREE

 

After the statement made by Adam surfaced about going partially closed-source and using RuneLites own API OSBuddy go right ahead with announcing this;

 

JAMES

 

Looks like they could do with a lesson in timing or at the very least better PR people. It seems, to this unbiased and critically thinking eye that mayhaps a certain 3rd party and a certain Jagex are in cahoots. You rub my back with money I rub your back with wiping out the competition kinda deal? A corrupt conspiracy with money at the centre? Surely not? (haha)

Well here’s something to add a little more fuel onto the raging dumpster fire that is Jagex and OSBuddy’s handling of the situation, a representative of OSBuddy admitting they have a non-disclosure agreement in place and that their client is safe as houses for one reason or another – undisclosed of course;

 

OSBUDDY IS GONNA BE FINE NDA

 

This is a developing story but from what has transpired I feel pretty comfortable in pointing my cursor at this conclusion following some cursory research. What do you think, spicy or nah?

 

For what it is worth, I would just like to personally congratulate everyone in the RuneScape community as well as the wider world of video games who have been involved in ‘riots’ for just causes. Not only for standing up for themselves but their peers and other consumers too. After all, games and gaming should be for the enjoyment of those who play them, not solely the company’s profit. Or at the very most, exist for each other in an entirely symbiotic nature. I hope Jagex listens to the people who make them successful and that their humble and just demands are met. Developers would do well to listen more to their respective gaming communities that pay for the profits they take home. As some have learnt the hard way, that is, if they ever learn at all.

[UPDATE: Since time of writing there has been a full u-turn by Jagex and now RuneLite lives on!  As can be confirmed by the screenshot below from a discord post by its owner in which he refers to Mod Mat K, who instigated the conversation regarding the shutdown. Thanks to the efforts of all those involved in the community riot, in the game and on the web they had no choice but to listen.]

 

ADAM 2

Special thanks goes out to; Thomas Calvert of Essex age 23 and a ½.

 

Trumps Roundabout Round-Table Talks

Recently I begrudgingly felt I had to write about video game violence in the news, writing an article in which I mentioned Trump wished to meet with games company executives to discuss the perceived issue of violence in games (you can read that here.)

Well he certainly followed through on this talk, bigly. Holding a bizarre and rushed get together with a handful of execs at a round-table meeting that was held on March the 8th, it was closed to the press but what we do know doesn’t do the stunt any favours. The current commander in chief followed in the footsteps of Joe Biden who did the same in the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre. A meeting that lead nowhere then has once more been staged, and I hazard a guess it will lead nowhere once more again. Another massacre, another meeting with little to show for it other than the illusion of action as a distraction piece.

The meeting was started with the president showing a heavily cut and out of context edit of video game violence. Which the White House laughably later posted to their official YouTube account, spawning a lot of comedic responses and disdain. It went viral before later being taken down, having become something of a laughing stock. If you wish to watch the out of context reel of ultra-violence taken mostly from the Call of Duty series, check out the video below;


After this ludicrous video which he obviously thought would come up top trumps, the Donald stated ‘this is violent, isn’t it?’ He could have literally had the same effect and message by pointing at the screen and repeating ‘BAD’ over and over again as it played.

Video game execs, such as the CEO of Rockstar who was present, must have felt something positive could have come from the meeting, being that they even entertained the thought of attending – let alone following through and going to it. However, I feel and say that nothing positive can come from circumnavigating the real issues just to simply point, hiss and boo at a political and media scapegoat. You can rarely, if ever, get something from nothing – let alone empty gestures.

The mainstream media itself once again has escaped the spotlight and gladly shone its own upon the gaming world, as well as the killer. How about we talk of the treatment of mass shooters and killers in the news, which lets face it, feeds into this mentality and the desire of killers to make a name for themselves. Always focusing on body count, immortalising the perpetrators and their name with 24/7 sensationalist coverage. Showing all to bare to those would be killers how easy it can be to achieve the same disdainful acclaim. The media makes them infamous and feeds into the vicious cycle;


Inaction or even worse, the illusion of action, cannot and will not save the lives of innocent Americans. It is the equivalent of doing nothing disguised as something – a dangerous game to play when there is a human cost at stake.

The dodging of the real issues at hand must stop. It has become nothing but a perpetual carousel in the violent act of flogging one of the deadest of horses. Wheeled out once again to be beaten like an empty piñata. Politicians who employ this diversion tactic lack the will, backbone or desire to rethink the second amendment and so attack the first outright. Gun ownership trumps freedom of speech and the lives of American children in the land of the free. With so much political power coming from lobbyists such as the National Rifle Association will the spotlight ever fully turn inwardly?

Lest we forget the current leader of America received $30,000,000 in presidential campaigning funds from the NRA. Perhaps games will be left out of the firing line if games company lobbyists put up the dosh, to make him shut up.

Alas, I remember the days when games lobbies were a simpler thing, a place to gather players before the start of the match, now they have become more than that. Games industry lobbyists are becoming much more commonplace. Perhaps to combat the political force rallying against their portrayal of violence, perhaps they have their own sinister political agenda too. In a world where games execs are looking to push micro-transactions and extort gamers in ever new ways I’d wager to bet it is both. To me it is a worry that these even began to exist, rising from ashes of this dumpster fire debacle of a debate. I doubt they are about protecting players, focusing rather on their pockets and looking to protect profits.

If you’d like a more in depth, colourful and hilarious look at the meeting check out this vlog by Jim Sterling who as always is putting the world to rights;

 

On Video Game Violence And Addiction; Something Old, Something New

Video games have once again been in the firing line of headlines recently, something that we’re all used to, especially in times of violence. But as well as a recurring debate, there is an unprecedented decision in the headlines this year.

In the wake of the horrific and most recent US school shooting in Florida, which left 17 dead, 16 wounded and many more traumatised, politicians and pundits have wheeled out the old cliché that violent games are the chief culprit. Alongside this, it has been announced that the World Health Organisations’ (WHO) 11th International Classification of Diseases has decided to include a condition called ‘gaming disorder’ as a major public health issue.

One of these pieces of news should be treated cautiously, whilst the other has become a farcical age old argument, yet is still given traction in media and political circles, when it should be outright dismissed by now.

Video Game Violence

Societal issues, especially horrific events such as the most recent school shooting, are the cause of moral panic, more often than not, a moral panic that seeks to scapegoat rather than solve the issue at hand.  Whether it’s comic books in the 50’s;

Or whatever new music is prevalent, it seems politicians look to blame popular culture rather than deal with actual causes, because realistically speaking – that would be difficult and requires real action. It’s easier to point the finger and blast hot air when you lack the political will to enact real change.

Donald Trump has suggested in a timely fashion that perhaps we should provide parents buying games a handy rating system to know what kind of game they might be buying their child. No further comment on that one, it speaks volumes on how much he really knows and cares about the matter. A Rhode Island politician has even gone so far as to seek a tax on violent M-Rated video games, which states lack the power to legislate against the sale of. He states that this extra money should be funnelled into mental health care. Should this not be something that is provided for without punishing consumers of video games? Especially considering that less than 20% of school shooters partake in violent games. Perhaps politicians could foot some of that bill with the money they receive from pro-gun lobbying groups, like the National Rifle Association. I think most rational people would agree that video games have more place in the home than weapons.

Choosing to look the other way or bury our heads in the sand when it comes to facing down the myriad of actual reasons that leads to violence, is traditional of our society. If we are to  actually face up to the real reasons, we might just shine a light inwardly and see that beneath the glossy veneer we present, our societies are often broken in so many ways it becomes overwhelming when trying to hone in on the factors that cause young men to commit such violent acts (I say men as statistically speaking this is the case.) This circular argument which takes us nowhere seems to have no end, as if the 90’s never happened and the diversionary tactics will work this time. We must outright accept that violence is not caused by games. It is embedded there to begin with, even if at the very least, these people play violent games to act out their fantasies.  If we as societies sought to actually be communities and look out for our fellow humans, these kind of events could be more easily avoided but there is so much inequality and alienation that people with these tendencies often fly under the radar until it’s too late. Or in the case of the Florida shooter, the signs are completely ignored by those around them. Politicians lack the backbone and will to do the right thing because it goes against the very ethos of our individualistic and capitalist societies, as well as the gun loving culture of the United States. Until we force them to face up to the many factors, they will keep trying to feed us a pill we just aren’t swallowing anymore.

It is time to end the debate and focus on the real meat of the matter.

Video Game Addiction

Most anyone who loves gaming will be able to recount times when pursuing it has somewhat negatively impacted on their life. Whether it’s the thirst for achievement and enjoyment that drives us to not put the controller down or walk away from the keyboard, making us get less sleep. Or the desire to own the best skins and other such loot hurting our wallet, it’s a simple fact we cannot ignore. Games have a certain addictive quality that needs addressing one way or another on an individual basis at the very least. After all games do have the potential power to affect lives and to change the world. But to what extent is the desire to pursue this hobby habitually a mental disorder? According to the WHOs’ recent classification, it is now considered to be the rule and not the exception.

Whilst I’ll be the first to admit my gaming endeavours have sometimes been slightly detrimental to my life. However the WHO needs to be careful not to view gaming as an inherent evil, as like anything people love and enjoy it can become a hobby people are passionate about or can even be a coping mechanism for other underlying mental disorders. Many psychologists are calling the decision to classify ‘games addiction’ as a mental disorder premature. Even if the WHOs’ heart is in the right place, they risk ‘pathologising behaviours that are normal’ for millions upon millions of young people, something that could do more damage than good. If games are treated as the issue and the true underlying problems are ignored, they have once again become simply a scapegoat.

Whilst the discussion and research of this topic are welcomed by me as a conscientious gamer who would gladly level justified critique at my hobby that would help people. This  classification would put gaming on a similar footing as gambling, which wreaks havoc on peoples lives and destroys families. Putting gaming on par with such an addiction is simply absurd, unless of course we are talking about micro-transactions and how it’s introducing children to gambling, which is much more of an issue than heavy gaming. What is clear, is that we need more solid scientific research and not to succumb to moral panic in lieu of facts, as the WHO potentially jumping the gun risks missing the real issues.

All this begs the question, if even scientific bodies are joining our politicians in succumbing to moral panic regarding games, what does that say about our society? And what hope do we have about getting to the truth of the matter? This is something that must stop, as in the long run it will only do more harm than good.

The World Changing Potential Of Games Rooted In Reality

Since they have earned their place in pop culture and especially to the outsider, video games have often been conceived as being associated with the fantastic. Imaginary far-fetched worldscapes enjoyed as a newfangled distraction from our boring reality. Whilst this isn’t entirely wrong and oftentimes is the case, to simply assume this at face value would be doing a disservice to the medium. As many gamers will know, there are a plethora of titles and genres which not only dabble in reality, but go as far as to try and replicate it, stick to its truths or influence it beyond the confines of the screen.

The game that is most widely remembered as the first home video-game had humble beginnings. It was an early iteration of Pong created by Physicist William Higginbotham in 1958, which was revealed to the public at Brookhaven National Laboratory open days. In a later interview he recalled that he figured –

“It might liven up the place to have a game that people could play, and which would convey the message that our scientific endeavours have relevance for society.”

Tennis for Two
The game Higginbotham created, he named it ‘Tennis for Two’ and’ it utilised an oscilloscope as a screen to play on.

 The origins of video-games as tools to aid proponents of the computer age is quite telling, in that it shows us, alongside being entertaining  they can be apparatus to inform and sway our opinions. We’ve come a long way from their origins in aids for computer salesmen, now games have the potential to reflect and explore much more, even to change the narrative of society itself.

I am going to look at how and why video games rooted in reality have potential world changing capabilities, as well as explore some of the ways that they have been used as tools to change reality. And most importantly why this should be something we concern ourselves with as a community.

Games As Art And Literature

Storytelling, it’s something our species have done since even before the advent of language – when we left our mark on cave walls to express ourselves, now we leave them on blogs. Like storytelling itself games have come a long way since their creation. In simpler times we had little pixelated avatars doing something for some reason but as what we could create in games advanced so did characters, worlds and the stories being told. It is clear that storytelling and video games have a symbiotic relationship, both have influenced each other, together. This is especially apparent when you look at games such as The Stanley Parable or Dream which have a heavy focus on exploration and narrative, as a way of exploring storytelling itself. Or any number of games that satirise real world events, such as the Command and Conquer; Red Alert series, which satirises the Cold War going hot.

 

ROOTED IN REALITY
A hilarious and far-fetched look at some of the awfulness that could have stemmed from the Cold War.

 

American film critic Robert Egbert is one of the most well-known voices in this old and tiresome debate and is of the view that ‘games will never be art.’ Whether or not academics or critics would argue against this mediums inclusion in these realms, doesn’t particularly matter in my eyes, it is clear to anyone who plays them and experiences them that they have artistic and literary merit. They are works that have visual and mental impacts on us, they are perfectly capable of making us feel and think. Most gamers, myself included, probably don’t really mind how their legitimacy in the world of high arts and literature is viewed by the respective gatekeepers but it does matter that they are art and literature that is developing a new narrative.

Games constantly break the fourth wall, from the tutorial guiding you to press ‘X’, to your characters commenting on your actions or inaction, such as when Sonic gets tired of waiting for you to play after a period of inactivity. They treat you as less of an audience member and more as a character, we are much more than just an audience when we game, we are an influencer, a protagonist on the stage. This is what I believe makes games powerful in the art of rhetoric and discourse, as we can relate even more to them and therefore they can sometimes be even better at influencing us than traditional literature. It is us who live through the story as the protagonist. Combining the worlds of art, literature and audience participation into one little multi-dimensional package makes them proficient at influencing us. It’s a form of storytelling that is interactive and can easily engross us as an audience, this is why it matters.

Sonic Waiting gif
Sonic growing impatient with you making him hang around, he knows you know he’s gotta go fast.

Historic And Current Events

There are historical games aplenty, for some reason nerds and geeks whom game, seem to have an obsession with these settings be they ancient or old. I am going to examine one such example as I think it best represents this fixation on historical games and the potential perils of rooting a game in reality. That example is World War Two games of which there are bloody loads.

One of the biggest triple A games of 2017 another timely timeless timed out ‘Call of Duty’ game set in WW2, showing us that love for WW2 games just won’t die, kind of like the COD franchise. But why is the historical narrative and accuracy so important? Somewhat sadly, simply put it’s because games are one of the primary ways many children and young adults will be engaging with the history presented. Whilst historical accuracy doesn’t determine whether a game is a great game or not, I feel developers and games companies owe it to society to be as accurate as possible when it comes to the historical narratives, at the very least. Where possible all sides should be put under the microscope for criticism. Allied powers committed atrocities in the war too and more often than not it is only the evil of the Nazis that is dealt with. In fact I cannot think of one game that deals with the atrocities of the allied powers and doesn’t treat them as simply righteous heroes [if you can think of one, please comment them as I’d be interested to see.]

Not to say that games should be propaganda, just that we must understand that they can inform us and if they do they should be on the right side of history and the nice side of morality. An example of propaganda in gaming that’s on the right side of history, is the controversy that ensued around the advertising campaign of Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus, where developers MachineGames and publishers Bethesda used the opportunity to double down on the anti-Nazi rhetoric of the game.

This ability to influence opinions becomes even more worrisome with regards to games that focus on the reality of current events and our future, they have the potential to impact the political narrative of the world. Sometimes this is owing to real world events not being done justice and misinforming those who play at best and at worst, because they are outright pushing an awful agenda.

Atomic Games, are an example of a developer which wanted to capture the truth of a contemporary historical account, yet the game they created remains unreleased. It was a game that Marines from 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines of the US army wanted made, to tell of their experiences in the Second Battle of Fallujah during the Iraq War, it was named 6 Days in Fallujah and to be published by Konami. These Marines had originally been assigned to help make training tools for the US army, but after their experience in war they wanted to tell the story of what happened to them personally and approached Atomic Games. The games creation caused much controversy from war veterans and anti-war groups who claimed it to be glorifying wars and disrespecting the many casualties as well as veterans. Ultimately Konami dropped what could have been an interesting look at war through the eyes of those on the ground. A former soldier who fought in Fallujah told the LA Times of the games significance,

“Video games can communicate the intensity and the gravity of war to an audience who wouldn’t necessarily be watching the History Channel or reading about this in the classroom. In an age when everyone’s always online or playing games, peoples’ imaginations aren’t what they were, sadly. For this group, books may not convey the same level of intensity and chaos of war that a game can.”

The fact that these soldiers had originally been assigned to Atomic Games to help develop training tools for the US Army goes to show how games can be used to further awful agendas. Now even ISIS and other terrorist organisations have been utilising video games  for recruitment and training. Even modding their own version of GTA V known as Grand Theft Auto: Salil al-Sawarem (loosely translating to ‘the sound of clashing swords’, artwork for which I used as the featured picture at the top of this article.  An example on the flipside of this issue is the new game designed to train teachers how to react during a school shooting. Games as a medium have become a way to influence the world to the developers’ agenda.

Rooted in reality 3
A screenshot from the recent teacher training resource game.

Video games can be used to teach us about our contemporary world and its past, as well as warn of potential future outcomes. This coupled with the possibility that the game you’re playing is being used to influence and inform your opinion on reality, should be something that you keep in mind personally. And something I feel we should talk about more as a community and society, to explore the ways we can use this as a positive as well as how we can avoid the negatives.

Tools For What And Who?

Games that are rooted in reality can potentially change the world, their usefulness as tools can and should be much more far reaching than learning tools and propaganda.  Alongside games, those who play them should be seen as a resource, a large community of people who dedicate their time and efforts to overcoming obstacles, solving issues and puzzles to advance, often sticking at something repetitively until they crack it and succeed. As such there should be games that are designed to help solve real world problems faced by our society because gaming can make a better world if we so choose to utilise it.

Some of the questions we should be asking as a society is if games can be tools,  for what and by who are they?

I believe games should first and foremost entertain, but if they are utensils to change the world, then they must be tools for the betterment of humanity by those who wish to see social change.