Scaping a Re-Birth



Through audio-visuals and text I will be exploring how nostalgia can revive a games popularity or ruin its evolution potential. specifically exploring the question of; why bringing back an outdated version of a game result in more response and play time? leading to the re-birth or division of a gaming community.

Firstly before discussion of these concepts I want to provide some context to my readers. Please see the pitch and BETA pitch to see the initial plans and current trajectory of this analysis project.

This context has been formed and researched by breaking it down into an analytical framework.

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Runescape is an online fantasy game that is currently split into two games, Runescape 3 and Old School Runescape

RuneScape 3:

“More than 18 year since the making and acclaimed by PC gamer as “one of the most endearing and unique MMO’s available”, RuneScape is an ever-expanding, living game that’s bursting with activity and life.

Set in a medieval fantasy land, begin by creating a character and then embark on epic journeys through a vast sandbox world that’s full of gods, warring races, unexplored dungeons, and glittering riches.

Propelled by the game’s narrative, choose your own path through enthralling quests, and progress through 27 diverse skills to shape a single character in a classless world.

In runescape, you get to be the hero you always wanted to be and, with new content added almost every week, there’s always a new and adventurous experience to look forward to.”

Old School RuneScape:

“Old SchoolRunescape was originally created to be a copy of the games as it was in 2007- an exact replica designed to entice nostalgic adventurers. It’s not a snapshot of the universe as it was, however, as it’s still a living game with updates, additional quests and even a new continent appearing. It’s in a uniquely strange position, growing alongside its successor, RuneScape 3. The fundamentals,though, remain the same ” ( touring the old runescape where 2007 never ended) 

RuneScape is a form of retro gaming known as a remake, remakes are extremely popular, and while there are fan made remakes, typically they are the result of publishers and developers reimaginations of older games, adding new designs,controls and modern graphics.

In February of 2013, a player poll gave the RuneScape community the power to decide whether to launch a nostalgic 2007 slice of the game. Before the months end OSRS was brought back into existence as its servers went live. Today, that player and developer collaboration continues as millions of old school players work with us to shape the game by voting for new content and features in polls.

Old schools competitive gameplay has made it to the #1 MMORPG in competitive gaming thanks to its gripping deadman tournaments. Streamed live on Twitch, the tournaments have helped establish old school as one of the most watched titles on the network

With everything from adventures and quests for solo play through top 100-player strong raids, old school runescape always have something new for every brave adventurer.

Runescape is a fan stay based MMORPG( massively multiplayer online roleplaying game) created by British developer of video games, Jagex Games studio ( or Jagex Ltd. as its more commonly known) With over 250million accounts created multiple spin-off games, a series of books, and a very dedicated fanbase, Runescape is arguably one of the most popular franchises of online games ever.”






OSRS- nearly 75% majority of total player base

JUly 18 and quarter 3 of 2018

  • RS3 = 22.0k
  • OSRS = 54.2k

However to take into account when looking through these statistics if there’s less risk of bots in RS3 than there is in OSRS, moreso however, with the introduction of mobile phones, the capabilities of Jagex to track bot use has become less managagable than it was through computer sources.


From Jagex:

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Nostalgia is a powerful and lucrative tool in pop culture, its bases itself into our subconscious and marketers use it as an advertising tool to draw out a desire for a product we weren’t aware that we had. Causes of nostalgia can be found here

“The scientist who coined the term ‘nostalgia’ in 1688 thought of this emotion as a neurological illness caused by demons. Other scientists latched onto this conception of nostalgia as a disease. It took marketers, centuries later, to realise that nostalgia has benefits” (Cohen, 2017)

Nostalgia is normally defined as longing for sentimental actions or objects in the past. especially if it’s thinking about a time when things used to be better. “Researchers in psychology and consumer behaviour have decided these questions, and what they’ve found out suggests that video games may have the potential to elicit more nostalgia than any other medium”(Madigan, 2013).

“Beyond using nostalgia as a blunt marketing technique, video games as a medium in particular appeal to players longing for the past. Clay Routledge, a psychology professor at North Dakota State University who’s made a career out of studying nostalgia, has said gaming lends itself to the feeling more than other mediums because of its immersion factor – games have the potential to be more immediate and personal than other forms of entertainment players aren’t remembering the time they watched a hero defeat a bad guy. and they’re remembering the time they beat the bad guy”.

In terms of political economy, the games industry is obviously capitalising on nostalgia as an opportunity to make a profit through a range of strategies including tapping into the participatory media culture of retro game communities, but also through remastering and remaking older games, and through facsimile console packs that resemble previous era hardware: there is also a range of paratextual products like adapters, controllers and upgrades to support retro gameplay.

“One the power of memory and nostalgia- returning to or referencing classic games or stories can be a strong attractor”(Pearce, 2008).


However, to consider popular nostalgia is also to consider consumer culture: Consumers re-purchase items from the past (or that look like they are from the past) so as to have a material connection to a time and place that has passed.  As Edward Casey (2000) explained, nostalgia is an emotional response to the recognition of an impossible return:

“We are nostalgic primarily about particular places that have been emotionally significant to us and which we now miss: we are in pain (algos) about a return home (nostos) that is not presently possible.” (p. 201).

So what is nostalgic about RuneScape?

Nostalgia is a powerful effect, which is crucial to participatory media culture.

“Nostalgia doesn’t work on memory and meaning alone, it works through stimulating the senses and enhancing the bodies response to various stimuli.” (week 12 lecture)

[Nostalgia] is a powerful effect because is an embodied form of knowledge apprehended by the senses, (Dipesh Chakrabatty 2002, cited in Gregory and Witcomb 2007: 63)


Reddit thread: Speaks about nostalgic actions and places for RuneScape players 


Why players stop playing and than return:

“Nostalgia certainly has an undeniable pull that gives old titles longevity. As for MMORPG’s, though, they’re different story. None have really run for as long as RS. many players have stopped playing for weeks, months, or years. They go back to skilling, farming ( either actual farming or Runescape gold farming), or socializing. Again and again, they come back to RS. With each new account or log-in, the games is always slightly different yet somehow the same magnetic draw. Updates are regular, so you can’t expect the game to stay stale and be exactly the way it was years ago.”(Anon, 2018)

But why do they keep coming back to Runescape?

  • Our brains like routines and patterns. It’s like the predictable and controllable. Also it likes challenges but only the easy or solvable ones. So it’s not too far fetched to see old players return to the game that they know so well again and again
  • games , especially MMORPG’s are designed to be played for extended periods of time.
  • During the mid stages of this project i conducted interviews with current players to get some primary research, those interviews can be found here.

Response from people on reddit: Further research   

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How does Runescape keep the nostalgic and not let it be boring?

The majority of RuneScapes success has come from its abiltiy to involve participatory media culture into its framework. Its current method of involving the players in decions making about the games develooment keeps the gamers involved and the majority pleased with any updates.

Any new additions, then, have to take into account  all that history, as well as the expectations of the      players. “When we add new areas, they have to be broadly speaking, consistent with what players already know from the other runescape,” Bridges says. “A good example is when we added the snake boss Zulrah in the depths of the poison swamp. This area already existed in runescape 3, but when old school came out, the world cut off abruptly because we hadn’t done any more map. In rs 3, the swamp  had nothing there, so when we added it, we also made village made out of old assets, a cult, Zulrah and his high priest.”


I had the opportunity to interview a player that had grown up through the devlopmnent of runescape and also players in its intital stages as well as the later stages.


Riley, 27, Male 



It seems to be that people play because of nostalgia but also because they OSRS is easier to play, there’s an easier chance of fulfillment. They know the map and world better.

“I always call it the ‘runeScape comfort blanket,” Ogilvie says. “These players, when they log into the game, its muscle memory. Everything is where they expect it to be , and the game plays the way they remember. That’s one of the main differences between old school and runescape 3. While all that nostalgia is still there in the new runescape, its hidden behind this veil of updates. This feels like a different game.” ( touring the old school runescape where 2007 never ended)


So does nostalgia limit the game’s potential?




Riley contribution:


Old-School RuneScape was launched in 2013 and was a re-release of the 2007 version of the game. It has since received minor engine improvements and tweaks, all game content updates go to a public poll which has to have over 75% of the community on board to be passed into the game. OSRS is targeted at older fans of the MMO who prefer the original experience over the more modern iteration Runescape 3.


In 2018 OSRS was released on mobile devices giving players the ability to play the game almost anywhere. The mobile version has seen over 5 million downloads in less than a year.


Runescape is now 18 years old, but only last Christmas reported its highest earnings ever. Beating a record set back in 2008. This is further proof of the success of the mobile launch allowing access to the game through iOS and Android devices. 



research such as Jaakko Suominen’s ‘The past as the future? Nostalgia and retro gaming in digital culture’ and Anthony Byrnes’s ‘Theater’s nostalgic connection:nostalgia’s impact on the entertainment industry and strategies to solve an age-old problem’.


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