It’s a common misconception that the best games are built by developers. Sure, great games need incredible talent, but the truly exceptional titles, the ones that stand the test of time, are born of their community. While Activision finishes squeezing the last vestiges of loyalty from those willing to suffer Destiny 2, a seemingly plucky British upstart continues to cultivate an unusual level of loyalty from its players. I am, of course, talking about Runescape.
It seemed fitting that last weekend, Gelinor descended on Farnborough. This nondescript British town sits in the south of the country, marked by nothing much more than its private airfield, the huge international conference center, and few local restaurants just down the road. Farnborough seems like the most unassuming and utterly perfect of venue for Runefest 2018, a celebration of the game that has quietly trounced its opposition.
Over the last 17 years, Runescape has had three iterations, topped over a billion dollars in revenue, spawned a whole new business venture for its developer Jagex, and created one of the most loyal fanbases I’ve ever seen. Wandering through the halls of the Farnborough International Conference Centre, it is not unusual to see children, adults, families, attendees from across the globe, and even teenagers actively choosing to spend their time floating around a recreation of the mythical world of Runescape. People come to Runefest to get closer to their fellow players, the mods, and to share their love for a game that is quite possibly older than some of our readers. As with so many events, some of the more talented attendees even take the time to put their fandom on show.
Cosplay is making an increasingly significant impact on a multitude of fandoms and Runescape is no different. With the rise of Nigri and the popularity of Kamui, it's no surprise that more and more people are interested in bringing their favorite characters into the real world. Cosplay has been part of Runefest since it debuted, but it’s in the last few years that things have really taken off at Runefest. From a hobbyist beginning, Runfests cosplay community has grown in leaps and bound. Mod Teezkut, a three-time Golden Gnome winner, introduced us to the cosplayers of Runefest and recounted his own cosplay beginnings back in 2010 .
Teezkut: “I had no idea what cosplay meant to communities back then. I simply took the rarest item I owned in game and brought it into the real world. Ever since that moment, things have just gotten bigger and bigger.”
Now, with three Gnomes to his name, Teezkut helped drag Runefest’s own prop makers and cloth crafters onto the main stage this year. It was an incredible event and a deliberate effort to put a spotlight on the work of the cosplay community because cosplay isn’t just about making pretty clothes. For Jagex, Cosplayer’s are fantastic brand ambassadors. They know their character as well as anybody else. They show an incredible dedication and actively engage with the wider Runescape community, online and on the floor. Where an actor can wear a suit, these fans embody their passion.
Mod Teezkut is a great example of this. From a hobbyist, Teezkut has moved on to perform as part of the Jagex team at Chinajoy, China’s biggest game show, and even landed a job with Jagex. It’s not something that was ever planned.
Teezkut: “When I first won a Golden Gnome I was really excited to get it, and by the second and third time I don’t know why they keep giving me these. It’s a huge honor. Cosplay has helped me travel abroad, and to China with Jagex. It has given me some incredible experiences. It is just overwhelming.”
In the end, however, any cosplayer will tell you that it’s all about the community, and Jagex has clearly taken steps to foster the Runescape Cosplay community. Alongside the stage show, panels gave out great advice on everything from glue gun tips to how to fashion cloaks. If you weren’t there in person then you can find the Runescape Cosplay page on Facebook. Before we ran off, we managed to get a few pictures for you all, and asked Teezkut what cosplay means to him.
Teezkut: “Cosplay means just being able to express myself. It means I can spend a day in another character. When I put on my outfit I get to inhabit another persona and be them for the day entirely.”