Runescape Update Adds “Diversity Improvements,” Draws Outrage


Jagex have come under fire, after a recent update to Runescape implemented “diversity improvements.”

The developers of Runescape (not to be mistaken with Old School Runescape), announced their patch notes for their latest update on February 24th.

Among them was a heading titled “Diversity Improvements,” stating Jagex desire to better “foster diversity in the game.”

“We’re holding our hands up on this one – in the past, we could have done a better job of fostering diversity in game. But as they say, the best time to get started is now, and so today we’ve made the following small changes to help RuneScape be a happier and more inclusive place.”

The changes included the following:

  • “The word ‘Gypsy’ has been removed from Aris’ name and examine text as this word could be interpreted as a racial slur.
  • Various NPCs in Karamja have been given more appropriate titles.
  • Various NPCs in the Kharidian Desert have had their name changed from ‘Ali’ to better reflect the diverse variety of names we see in real life.
  • Some dialogue in the Kindred Spirits quest has been altered to remove unintended offense.”

The kingdom of Karamja is heavily jungle covered (with inspirations from African and Caribbean cultures). Based on the discussion surrounding the update, it seems the terms “savage” and “tribesman” were abandoned to describe tribal NPCs.

Kharidian is an arid desert kingdom (inspired by the Middle-East). The reason so many NPCs were called Ali is due to the game’s lore. According to the Runescape Fandom wiki, a mayor of Pollnivneach wrote in his will that his fortune was to be left to Ali.

When no heir came to claim it, a “huge” number of town legally changed their names to Ali to claim it. After this it became tradition (especially in Pollnivneach) to name children Ali.

NPCs in the area are differentiated by their full names (Ali the Mayor, Ali the Engineer, etc.) or by their designs. There are some exceptions however (such as Ali the Hag being short for Alice, and Ali Cat- a cat).

Meanwhile, the Kindred Spirits quest involves attempting to rescue victims of kidnapping, and ending up having to partake in sadistic games and make difficult choices to save their friends.

The censored content appears to be when Sliske attempts to distract a Dragonkin guard, by flirting with them (either in jest or in mockery). Stating “You know, I identify as a scaly.”

Among “furry culture” (those who like pornography of drawn anthropomorphic animals) a scaly would be someone who likes characters based on reptiles. However, some interpreted the joke a mocking transgender people, and those who identify as another gender.

When this was brought up on the Runescape SubReddit (one month prior), Moderator “darkhearted_raven” stated it was meant to be a joke based on the aforementioned furry subculture, and that they would “put a job in to tweak the wording, but this was absolutely not intended as a trans joke.”

Despite requests from others not to change it, it seems it has now gone ahead with many other changes.

Many players have objected to these changes, particularly on the aforementioned SubReddit [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7]. Criticism ranged from Jagex making the game political by attempting to be non-offensive, that it would lead to censorship of other terms that at least someone could find offensive. One user even felt the change to the “Alis” prevented the game representing Arabic culture.

“I remember one of the first things that attracted me to this game was that after walking for like 2 minutes I found an entire section of the game world was representing my culture and I felt so at home in alkharid. If my name was Ali I’d honestly throw a fit Quit trying to be politically correct, you’re not helping.”

The official forums were more of the same [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8], but with a few praising the change [1, 2].

Jagex desire to improve diversity is likely fueled by them being one of the founding partners in the UKIE Diversity Pledge on February 6th.

As part of the “Raise the Game” campaign, Jafex states they have “pledged  to champion diversity by demonstrating change or activity in one of the three pledge pillars.” These pillars are:

  1. “Creating a diverse workforce by recruiting as fairly and as widely as possible
  2. Shaping inclusive and welcoming places to work, by educating and inspiring people to take more personal responsibility for fostering and promoting diversity and inclusion
  3. Reflecting greater diversity within games at every level from game design and development through to marketing and community engagement.”

What do you think? Sound off in the comments below!

Runescape is available on Windows PC, Linux, Mac, Android, and iOS (all via the official website).

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Ryan was a former Niche Gamer contributor.

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