Old School Runescape (OSRS) is an MMO that fosters the two different types of personalities described by Dovey and Kennedy in Game Cultures: the Cyborg and the Hacker. One of the biggest goals for Old School Runescape players, myself included, is to acquire more in-game wealth. To do this often involves long sprints of grinding for resources. On it’s own this tends to be fairly tedious and take a long time, so often I try to have time in my schedule where I can simultaneously do grinding heavy OSRS tasks and “real world” tasks. This has had the interesting side effect of two parts of my life, gamer and student, becoming symbotic. From the gamer side, by doing AFK tasks in OSRS while I work on an assignment I’m increasing my in-game productivity. Looking at it from a real world perspective, I’m giving my brain a brief respite when I take a few seconds to deposit items from my inventory or click on a newly spawned resource. These small detours from my primary task allow me to work for longer periods of time, as they stave off the feeling of being burnt out. By emeshing my virtual and real world work I’m simultaneously in both of these worlds, which is in line with the fluid identity of the Cyborg. (Dovey & Kennedy 68) This phenomenon is not isolated to just myself, as conversations with other players of OSRS revealed that the practice of AFK resource gathering while doing real world tasks is a relatively common practice. (personal communication)
While engaging with OSRS from a Cyborg approach allows for an increase in productivity, and by extension earnings, other players choose to go a different route. This is that of the Hacker, where players use outside technologies to advance their productivity and earnings. Unlike Cyborg players, Hacker players use technology that is not part of the game’s original design to circumvent grinding. The most common way to do this is by using bots that automatically gather resources. Some might argue that this is not that different from the AFK routine Cyborgs utilize. The difference lies in how bots remove the necessity of shifting from real world tasks to manage game tasks, thereby making the player’s identity less fluid and more static in the real world. It should also be noted that the designers behind OSRS never intended it to be a game where players can completely disengage from their tasks, as seen in early versions where players had to click a resource almost continuously in order to keep harvesting. (Calvin 44) Someone using bots does not have to worry about periodically checking in to manually empty an inventory or click a respawned resource. Because of this they are changing the technological systems of OSRS in a way that was not part of the original design. (Dovey & Kennedy 67) Another, more nefarious type of Hacker approach is the use of scam promoting bots. These are often seen in popular areas for player to player resource trading, such as outside house portals or the Grand Exchange. These bots will spam messages promising fast cash and valuable items, often embellished by flashing colors and fonts. While some of these are real players who are liquidating their wealth prior to quitting the game, many more are just get rich quick schemes that at best will rip off players and at worst steal their personal information.
It may be surprising to those outside the OSRS community to learn that removal of these Hackers is something many OSRS players are not 100% in favor of. The use of bots has been going on in OSRS for so long that they have become part of the game’s cultural landscape. Whether it’s 2007 or 2022, every time I walk up to the Grand Exchange I’m filled with eager anticipation, excited to see what dazzling display of multi-colored flashing posts promising quick and easy gold I’ll be greeted with this time. The spamming of “EZ 1 MIL” and “FREE LAVA CAPE” are enticing reminders of the riches one can acquire. Visiting the Grand Exchange is a lot like going to the Las Vegas Strip. Most players know not to fall for the flashy ads for coin and loot, but knowing that doesn’t stop them from getting amused by the Hackers’ hustle. It may not be the approach to gathering wealth the game’s creators intended, but it’s one that enough players have acknowledged as a legitimate option that it has become accepted by the community. Just as Hackers and Cyborgs play an integral role in shaping overall game culture, so too have they had a hand in shaping the economic landscape of Gielinor.
Calvin, Alex. Runescape: The First 20 Years. Dark Horse Books, 2021.
Dovey, Jon, and Kennedy, Helen W. Game Cultures. Open University Press, 2006. PDF file.
Martin, Austin. Personal Conversation. January 2022.
Old School Runescape. Cambridge, England. Jagex, 2013. PC.