Illustration: Samantha Moya

Zoned out: How RuneScape made me lonely

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By Peter Ash

When I was in the seventh grade, RuneScape was the bomb.

It was the year 2009, and I remember asking my friend what game he was playing. Being the video game junkie that I was, I immediately told myself that I had to get into it. For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, RuneScape is a fantasy multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG).

As a pixelated human, you can interact with other online players, as well as non-player characters (NPCs) which are controlled by the game. Basically, you’re free to do whatever you wanted, because everything is optional and nothing is necessary.

Without putting much thought into it, I created my first and only account choosing the username ‘Chrisbosh18’ (because Chris Bosh was my favourite basketball player and I was born on the 18th). In no time, I found myself strolling through the occasional ‘type 111 if you’re single’ groups, the large, iconic town of Lumbridge and the patch that was Draynor Village, where I’d burn my first ever whole chicken.

After playing for about two and a half hours, I logged off and all I could think about was how many skills I could develop in my next run. I didn’t know how my eagerness to play was going to change the next few months of my life.

At first, it was at school. Instead of focusing on my math equations, I found myself thinking about how many coins I needed to buy a full set of rune armour. It was the same at lunch. Eating out of my thermos would never be the same, as I started to do the firemaking motion whenever I had something that required an oven or microwave.

Over the next few months, all I did was play RuneScape. It got to the point where I didn’t even want to play basketball or see a movie. All I wanted to do was make virtual money and spend it on a new pair of dragonhide pants. I even tried to get some of my closest friends into it, because this game could bring us closer, right?

Unfortunately, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Instead of having my imaginary clan come to fruition, my friends thought I had lost my mind and kept telling me to “chill” or to “stop playing that weird Medieval Times-looking game.” I wish I listened to them sooner.

As fun as it was to slay a dragon, or duel against well-rounded players in the arena, the game lost its spark. Silly jokes about how stupid noobs were or how girls wanted to go on fishing dates started to get old. The jokes distracted me from the truth: I was getting lonely. Unfortunately, that didn’t kick in until after the school year.

Sometime during the middle of the summer, I found myself using bots (a computer-controlled player used to make money or level up). This meant that I technically wasn’t playing the game, but I was still active online while I monitored the bot.

It was clearly time to give up. I started to play basketball again and I stayed away from my computer for as long as possible.

I don’t exactly remember when I officially stopped playing. I guess I realized the game was becoming an essential part of my life, and I didn’t want that. Nine years later, I’m thankful that my 13-year-old brain flipped a switch. I didn’t have to worry about burning a whole chicken ever again.

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