March SKOTM Signup

posted by Fred Bot on 22 February 2017 at 00:00

Signup for the new Skill of The Month has started! The skill this month is: Thieving. Please signup at, you will need a valid forum account to signup. Signups close on the first day of the month. The competitions begin as soon as signups close.

The February competition continues until March 1st.

The Effect of Social Bubbles

posted by Shane on 23 February 2017 at 05:07 | Discuss on our Forums

Social media platforms promised to be the platforms that would connect the world and make the world smaller. They have, but in reality it’s the existence of the internet that made this possible. Social media is the user interface for the background plumbing of the internet that connects the world today. Along with this, though, there is a far more sinister effect of social networking websites: the social bubble.

The social bubble is what we create (either inadvertently or intentionally) when we follow and like individuals, groups, or businesses tailored to our interests. This is what makes social media work since these things that we follow or like give the social giants data on what we enjoy. They can then use this data to sell adverts that are tailored to us and this makes them money, hopefully. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this idea on its own but it begins to fall apart when humans become involved.

Humans are creatures that naturally like comfort and gravitate towards groups and people that make us feel comfortable. This means we look for things that fit in with our world view because it’s comfortable. It also means that because these things are comfortable we’re less likely to see them as a bad thing. Naturally, something that is comfortable is less likely to hurt us, therefore, we’re going to be able to survive for longer. Social media lets us create zones of comfort that by the nature of being comfortable are reinforcing our views, not challenging us intellectually, and taking away the desire to debate.

Social media create a simple chain of effect where A leads to B leads to C. In this case, social media bubbles reinforce our views, which leads to us not being challenged intellectually inside our social bubbles, and this in turn takes away a desire to discuss and debate these ideas in our social bubble. Reinforcing our own views on social media is not surprising because we choose what we see and we’re more likely to want to see items we agree with. If we agree with everything we see there’s no reason to intellectually question anything. Finally, if we’re constantly reinforced and don’t feel the need to intellectual question our beliefs, individuals are at risk of not being able to vigorously debate their beliefs and see anything that challenges their beliefs as wrong!

This problem can in large be fixed by simply following or liking pages that we disagree with if we rely purely on social media websites for news. If we don’t rely purely on social media, being challenged becomes easier. We can watch or read other news sources and have an internal debate in our head of what’s right and wrong. The human problem is largely fixable on its own by simply opening ourselves up to dissenting view points. The social media side is where the problem truly begins.

Social media giants are the arbiters of information in today's internet connected world. We rely on them to be transparent regarding policies of content removal and user removal from their platforms. We also rely on them to ensure that civil debate and discussion can happen and a multitude of views are present on their platforms. If social media giants decide to limit debate on one side or the other of any controversial idea they are acting as censors.

Social media giants who have user bases in the billions should be completely transparent and honest about the way they handle operations. This includes and should not be limited to:

  • Should users self-ban other users by muting rather than relying on a ban hammer?
  • Is free speech a core value of the organization?
  • Is there a central tenet or will the organization operate differently in China than in the US?
  • Whose thoughts are what the organization thrives on? The view of the organization or those of the user?
  • Are trending topics curated (meaning user input based on traction with editors picking and choosing what to showcase) or are trending topics open to whatever the users want to talk about?
  • What’s more important? The global whole or the individual?

These are some questions that any social media corporation should be able to answer easily and truthfully and place the answers on display for the entirety of the user base. If they can’t or don’t want to then they aren’t being upfront with the user. If they waver on these stances they probably are hiding true motives from their user base.

If social media services would prefer to cater to their users wishes for social bubbles, censorship, and the stifling of debate then we are truly troubled. It is not the government that will lead us to the thought police state of 1984 but instead the social platforms that promised to open the world.

Game Jam 2017

posted by tanishalfelf on 20 February 2017 at 01:39 | Discuss on our Forums

What’s this Game Jam, is this a typo? Don't you mean Game Blast? No, it turns out this year Jagex is turning away from hosting and sponsoring Game Blast. Jagex has hosted the event the last two years. The event is Special Effect's premier event to raise money for their charity and Jagex had been an invaluable partner. Game Blast had been a hugely successful event with Jagex's help raising a large amount of money to help disabled gamers. Something changed this year however, and due to Jagex’s silence on the matter we're left to only speculate. What is certain is that there will be a double xp weekend starting on February 17. The winter xp bonanza that we all love and save up for all year will be continuing and Jagex will be doing an event called Game Jam instead. Now let's go through what Game Jam is, how it differs from Game Blast, and ponder why Jagex changed it up this year.

Game Jam begins on Friday, February 17 at 12 pm. GMT, as usual. Xp will be doubled throughout the entire weekend. One major difference from past years is that this year there's a cool down period. After the weekend has ended, xp will still be doubled and gradually reduced through the week. Don't get too excited, this is only in effect for the first million xp, the week after it goes back to normal. It is nice for those who can't play on the weekend by giving them something as well. Obviously all the previous restrictions still apply, such as prayer alters, brawling gloves, etc. Everything will work just how you remember it from the last double xp weekend.

Game Jam is a wholly different event than in the past. Of course there is no connection to charity which we will talk about in greater detail later. However, there are some hold overs from Game Blast events. Primarily the live streaming. Jagex will be live streaming though out the day showing J-Mods hard at work on their Thursday Afternoon Passion Projects (T.A.P.P.). In addition, they are taking some ideas from the RuneScape community and developing them right there on the spot. It will be a window into how content is developed at Jagex and should be very interesting. Some of the projects you see will be going into game on Monday from what I understand. I look for these to be small quality of life updates not massive pieces of content. All and all Game Jam should be a fun event to watch while getting all that sweet double xp however the question remains, why the change?

The past two years Jagex sponsored Special Effect's primary fund raising event, Game Blast. Jagex would do a 24 hour live stream soliciting donations, doing funny games with J-Mods, etc. The players enjoyed a double xp weekend and could donate to The Well of Goodwill or buy special items in Solomon’s Store where the proceeds all went to Special Effect. Jagex even matched the donations they raised, and they always raised a lot. It was the kind of thing you rarely see any company do, let alone a game studio. It was something I was very proud of Jagex for doing and something that always heartened me to see how generous the player base could be. Unfortunately Jagex has been tight lipped about why they didn't partner this year. In fact I have been unable to find anything they have said explaining the change. I guess that makes sense if you have been known to raise money for an awesome charity in the past and suddenly decide not to participate one year, you’re probably not going to talk about that.

Perhaps Jagex just wanted to try something different. I have my doubts about that though. It always comes down to the bottom line. My best guess is that they don't have the same freedom to do charitable things that they had in the past. Jagex is under new ownership now and they want a return on their investment. The other possibility is that Jagex just didn't have the money this time around. I don't think this is probably the case either. While I don't think Jagex is swimming in dough they're not hurting either. Player membership appears to be steady and micro transactions are at an all-time high. I also must point out there has been a noticeable decline in charitable events in the general sense the beginning of the acquisition talks. I can remember one year where Jagex did Game Blast, a WWF Save the Wildlife event, and an event where you could pick the charity you wanted to give to. 2016 only featured Game Blast and now in 2017 that has been cut as well. Does this mean it’s the end of Jagex’s commitment to charity?

Only time will tell if Jagex is done giving to worthwhile causes. Personally I hope it’s just a blip on the radar and they go back to what they were doing. I was always so proud to be part of a community that was supportive of disabled gamers. The good news is that Game Blast is still going to happen this year. They have different partners and different events and the event will take place on February 24-26. You can find out more here Special Effect is an amazing charity that helps people with disabilities be able to play video games by using assistive technology, modifying existing controllers, etc.

February is where I usually, in addition to covering Game Blast, I give some suggestions on how to make RuneScape more accessible. Honestly this year the suggestions I've made in the past are still needed and I can't think of any in addition to those. I've come to a point where I think the game is better than most when it comes to accessibility but has room for improvement. At the same time I think that improvement will only come if it happens to line up with something a larger audience wants. The truth is to any company, time is money and the amount of people that would be affected by these changes is small. That doesn't mean RuneScape won't improve its playability for disabled people but it does mean it will be a side effect not the set goal. Either way, I'm happy as long as it continues to get better. There are some small things they can do that wouldn't take much time. For example, naming colors in the examine text within dungeoneering skill, quests, etc.

Well there you have it, my take on Game Blast vs. Game Jam. One thing is for sure, we'll all have fun getting that sweet double xp this weekend. Good luck on your skill pets and until next time, Happy RuneScaping.

Part 2 of the Valentine update arrives, a few patch notes, a look at the 120 Slayer FAQ, and a word about update weeks going forward.

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