I'd like to argue that from its onset, RuneScape was never meant to be a grind-towards-the-top game. It started off as a light game of exploring a new world and having the freedom to do what you like. In fact, players are the ones who took on the mindset of "let's maximize the efficiency of our time here" and players are the ones who started this trend.
That is the point I bring up in the article: It's fine to do your own stuff (maybe you're working with 200+ APM, switching prayers and drinking potions and using familiars, oh my!), but it's good to realize that secluding yourself from the social aspect of the game can lead to the deterioration of the playing experience of others. By "social" aspect, it doesn't necessarily mean clans and clans only. The term 'social' encompasses those new players who haven't got a clue, who need someone to reach out to them.
Thinking back to Croce's article (about Trolls) certainly highlights one of the negative aspects of anonymity. Anonymity can cause people to do stuff they wouldn't do in real life, they insult others, they say hurtful things, they act immaturely, etc. On the other hand, anonymity can be a beautiful thing. I can meet someone on a Slayer task and talk to that person and I won't have the faintest idea who that person is, his/her background, etc. I think this positive aspect of anonymity should be highlighted in the community.
I just don't think RuneScape's interactions should be limited to Friends Chats, existing friends, and clan members. It has the potential for so much more.
Beautifully written. I think you and I essentially agree on social potential. My earlier comment expanded on that. I think that the deterioration in the social experience witnessed recently, specifically in RuneScape, can be partly ascribed to updates which incentivize the limiting of social interactions to the bare minimum required for the task. And this is perhaps true of all popular MMOs which rely on producing high-level content to remain profitable (this is where the phenomenon seems to be concentrated, due to the nature of such content). Par for the course, anonymity plays a role in this social disconnect as well, as it mitigates responsibility for actions which would normally be held accountable.
I think that as a phenomenon, a degree of social seclusion seems to be an inevitable stage in an MMO's player's development, as he obtains access to higher level content et al. We should take care not to idealize social interaction to the point where we see disconnect as being inherently harmful, and take care to avoid prioritizing idealistic solutions to problems (as a general guideline. I'm not accusing you of that). The player attitude toward efficiency is a product of the material conditions found within the game. Someone just had to take advantage of it.
It's a trivial point -- all major trends are started in some way by the players. This is largely seen in dicing and other forms of emergent gaming. It was to be expected, especially as the game progressed in terms of content offered, thereby encouraging efficient game-play. I don't think that players should be held responsible for its perceived failures, as it appears to be a systemic quality, not an individual one. Just because RuneScape wasn't intended to focus on grinding in its inception does not mean it couldn't have progressed to this point.
If anything, I think the general attitude toward efficiency (among other hot topics) demonstrates that players can approach the game in both a positive and negative manner. I think it's a balancing act between seclusion and socializing, as you brought up with your example. We have
potential to interact positively with others. It's up to us, on an individual level, to judge how our actions affect others and follow up on them accordingly -- positive or negative.