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RuneScape is a lot weirder than I remembered


RuneScape launched as a browser game in 2001, and changed so much over time that a version called Old School RuneScape was released in 2013 for players who prefer the MMO’s earlier years. For everyone else, the modern version is just called RuneScape, and was recently added to Steam. I’ve always had the sense that RuneScape is a bit esoteric (I’m sure I tried it back when it launched, when I was a teenager), but I didn’t realize just how weird the free-to-play MMO is until I gave it a try this week. Nearly two decades after it first released, visiting RuneScape is like entering a PC gaming pocket dimension that split off from our own years ago, perhaps accessed by passing through the infinite loop of a GeoCities webring.

I type in Burrp Bram and the name is accepted. I am now Burrp Bram.

Like any other MMO, RuneScape begins with character creation, and I design a bearded man with a bald-on-top monk cut. I have no name in mind for him, so I opt to let RuneScape generate a random one. I’m expecting it to hit me with something fantasy-ish, like Illhard Earling or Haglbar or Revvyn. It suggests Deathlum1934. I hit the randomize button again. 59Bork2396. Again. Dingo2429. 44slender392. 40rulecolor.

Clearly, randomized names are not RuneScape’s strength. No problem: I type in the name of German author WG Sebald. It tells me that someone has already taken the name WG Sebald. Who could possibly be running around RuneScape as German literary figure WG Sebald? I don’t know, but the game’s been around for nearly 20 years now, so I should’ve figured that no niche would be untouched. I type in Burrp Bram and the name is accepted. I am now Burrp Bram.

(Image credit: Jagex)

In the tutorial area, I learn there’s a skill called Prayer and that burying the bones of my slaughtered enemies will increase my Prayer skill. Later, those enemies include innocent tutorial bunnies that I stab to death with a dagger and make sandwiches out of, innocent tutorial cows that I pierce with arrows while they helplessly bustle about a pen, trolls who live in caves directly beneath the town, gelatinous abominations, and some skeletons, who were presumably buried at one time, and now need to be reburied. I bury all their bones, even the bones of the gelatinous abominations, which somehow have bones. I level up my Prayer skill in the process, although I don’t bother to learn what Prayer actually does. I’ve never been very patient with tutorial text.

Two deaths

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