Rioting Through the Ages: Putting RS Protests in Context with Modern Sociology Research
by DiggyJohnson (/u/kennygaming)
While it's unfortunate that it is ever necessary, the Runescape community has a long history of protesting. RS riots predate other familiar vectors through which players voice their discontent like bitching on the subreddit and crab emojis. In fact, rioting predates both Runescape subreddits and the crab emoji itself.
While rioting is fun in and of itself, the real goal of a good protest is to affect change. This goal is backed up by notable IRL players:
Be the change you want to see in the world.
"Hope and Change"
Just wanting change really really badly is not enough to ensure a good protest. Considerable work has been done investigating the effectiveness of civil unrest, with some scholars even claiming that protesting is outright ineffective.
UPenn sociologist Daniel Q. Gillion disagrees, though he agrees that not all protests are effective. Almost all sociologists agree that protest salience is one of the most important qualities of a successful protest (n.b. "salience - def'n - the quality of being noticeable or important"). It is on this factor - salience - that I want to analyze Runescape protests, focusing namely on the most recent Falador protest sparked by the embarrassing execution of the 2019 DMM Spring Finals.
In his book The Political Power of Protest, Gillion identifies 5 relevant factors affecting salience, in turn increasing the likelihood of the protest affecting real change.
- Whether the protest lasts longer than a day
- If there are more than 100 people involved
- If police were present
- If there were arrests, injuries, or reports of property damage
- Whether a death occured
So without further ado, lets go through each of these factors and see how they relate to the DMM riot and other Runescape riots through history. I don't expect to make any huge claims by the end of this; I'll be satisfied by robust analysis that sparks discussion.
Factor 1: Whether The Protest Lasts Longer than a Day
We didn't quite hit this mark last weekend. I logged in to Falador the next morning to an empty square, occupied only by myself and a gaggle of shell-shocked guards sporting glazed eyes behind the literally shittiest helmets in Gielinor. More on these guys later.
We didn't manage to make it a day, but maybe that's fine. Most Runescape riots don't last that long. However, there are some notable exceptions:
Duel Arena Riot (20 November 2007 - 21 November 2007)
Lasting just over a day, rioters protested an update to the Duel Arena that implemented a 3k cap on stakes. Sand Casino frequenters were tickled by this, and began rioting in World 83.
The wiki also claims there was considerable rioting in the runescape.com Rant's forum which was a heavy dose of nostalgia. We should starting doing this again. Honestly, let's make the forums great again.
Pay to PK Riot (10 December 2007 - 14/15/16 December 2007)
The most controversial update in Runescape history deserves the longest riot, and we saw just that. Not much to say here honestly; no matter how large a problem RWT was (and still is) to Runescape, Jagex's decision to remove free trade and BH will forever live in infamy. Riots lasted for days, with outraged players gathering throughout the week.
Though it took years to come to fruition, we did eventually see the return of free trade to RS3. A feather in the cap for the notion that riot duration affects change.
Factor 2: If There are More Than 100 People Involved
I believe every notable Runescape riot has involved more than 100 people.
Further analysis isn't really needed on this point, but kudos to us. Though now that I think about it, maybe a niche PvP update could incense all of the 50 dedicated PKers that give a shit to gather in Edgeville. I'd consider it a privilege to glory tele into something that funny. They probably wouldn't even be able to set up protest cannons because fuck quests amirite?
Factor 3: If Police Were Present
Surprisingly, there is an example of the 5-0 intervening at a riot:
Evolution of Combat Beta Riot (1 September 2012)
With its beta revealing just exactly how game-altering EoC would be, players amassed in the Grand Exchange of W2 to scream bloody murder over in planned update.
Apparently, those screams scared Jagex so much that they temporarily muted the Grand Exchange for about an hour. This is police (read: "Jamflex overlord") intervention. While EoC was never reverted, perhaps we can imagine that the two major EoC riots were part of the decision to pursue OSRS.
Honorable mention here to...
The Falador Massacre / The 6/6/6 Event (6 June 2006)
While not exactly a protest or a riot, this is one of the only violent events in the history of RS and it deserves a mention here. It also involved police intervention. In the early morning of June 6, 2006, player "Cursed You" threw a house party to celebrate becoming the first player to achieve 99 Construction. Due to a bug in the new Construction skill, some players who had an interface open in the PvP-enabled dungeon of Cursed You's house retained the ability to attack players when all partygoers were kicked from the house due to extreme lag on the server. Some of those players, namely 13-year-old Durial321, began slaughtering innocents throughout Misthalin. Since the incident occurred in the small hours of the UK and nobody was at the office. As Mod Ash was hustling to the office to patch the bug, Mod Murdoch logged in and started manually banning the offenders.
While the notion of JMods being woken up in the middle of the night to swing the ban hammer is funny enough, you can see powerless player moderators (the mall cops of this analogy) frantically telling players to bank their items. That's hilarious.
In my opinion, Durial321 was anti-hero straight out of fiction, and we should all smile upon his legacy.
Factor 4: Whether There Were Arrests, Injuries, or Reports of Property Damaged
Ohhhhh baby. While obviously none of these things occurred in this weekend's riot, one incident stands out in history:
The Brick Incident - Pay to PK Riot Day 2 (12 December 2007)
Two days in to the abovementioned Pay to PK riot. The following news story circulated through the community:
A 14-year-old teen was arrested in Cambridge on Thursday morning for throwing several bricks through office windows. The teen, who was not identified by police, was charged for property destruction and will be due to appear in court on December 14th. According to police, the office belonged to Jagex Ltd., a company that specializes in Java computer games. [According to police officials, the teen was upset about a recent change in the company's game, RuneScape.]
This was one for the ages, long before the creation of /r/outside, a brave (idiot) adolescent boy logged out of the Falador riot, got on his bike and pedaled across Cambridge with only a brick and a mission. He was going to make this real for the JMods that were about to ruin the game, and was willing to pay the cost.
Only one thing is wrong with this story:
It never happened.
I still hear players talking about this incident. Here's a link to the post on the illustrious Tip.it forums. Note the date: 13 December 2007.
Damnit Demon Vanquisher, you ruined my perfect story. I feel like the Harry Potter obsessed kid who's parents told her she got into Hogwarts on her 12th birthday. Absolute disappointment.
The only thing that cheered me up was his forum signature. We've been making the same jokes about Runecrafting for over 12 years now. Here's to another 12.
Authors note: Honestly I think I'm going to do a series on random posts from 2005-2008 3rd party Runescape forums. There's some amazing stuff still out there.
Factor 5: Whether a Death Ocurred
I hear you, I really do. You're saying to yourself: "Diggy don't be crazy, nobody has ever died in a Runescape riot."
Ok then, you be the one to tell the family's of the over 5400 Falador Guards killed last night.
No wonder they looked so terrified when I logged in this morning. Turns out that a chain-linked shirt and poorly fitting helmet are no match for 8 cannonballs (great immersion though). There are 10 guards in and around Falador square. If you weren't already aware, players love to set up "protest cannons" during riots to add to the mayhem.
By my observations, there were about 30 cannons in the square last night. A cannon can point in 8 directions. (for simplicity let's imagine all cannons can hit all guards. I'm comfortable with this simplification because honestly I think there were way more than 30 cannons anyways.) This means the second a guard spawned, there were 4-5 cannonballs on the way.
There are 10 guards in Falador, with an average respawn time of 20 seconds (I did the necessary research this morning). (3600/20)*10 = 1800 guards killed/hour. The Falador guards handle riots worse than the LAPD handled Rodney King.
"Oh, the humanity" - a guy with a camera in 1937.
Reading back through this, I realize I never really had a point or drew any conclusions. But you know what? I had fun writing this, and I hope you had fun reading it. Runescape has a really quirky history and an unrivaled capacity for nostalgia, and hopefully this serves as a reminder of a small few of those things.
That all being said, Runescape protests are dubiously effective. Mod Emilee once claimed:
"Rioting" is non-constructive & gets ignored, but [it is not] not against the rules. Spamming or being offensive at a riot would be, though."
Laaaaame. I refuse to believe that you don't notice when thousands of your dedicated players throw down their karambwans and bank their void to grab a cannon and a pink robe top. I'm sure Dr. Gillion would agree, the voice of change sounds like:
And I wouldn't have it any other way.
Thanks for making it this far. To show my thanks, leave a comment in the Reddit post and DM me on Reddit either your venmo or your RSN. You can choose either 1 penny USD or 1k GP. Go buy yourself something nice.
"Be the change you want to see in the world." -DiggyJohnson, Gandhi
Gillion, D. (2013). Conclusion. In The Political Power of Protest: Minority Activism and Shifts in Public Policy (Cambridge Studies in Contentious Politics, pp. 147-160). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9781139381277.008