Save real-life rhinos while levelling up in RuneScape (Wired UK)

Wild Rhinos
Wild Rhinos

is offering a conservation showcase in its latest RuneScape

© 2014 Jagex Ltd

Fancy helping out a good cause while you level up your mining or
magic skills? The developers of online RPG RuneScape have you
covered, having teamed with the Royal Foundation and
animal charity United
for Wildlife
to raise awareness of the declining population of
wild rhinos.

The partnership is live now, and for the next week virtual pet
rhinos and assorted other in-game bonuses can be unlocked by
correctly answering questions relating to the endangered species.
The questions are posed by real-world young conservation workers
Trang Nguyen from Vietnam and Mauricio Guerra from Colombia, who
have been turned into non-player characters within the game

The free-to-play title is hugely popular with younger players,
and it’s that audience the campaign is targeted at, hoping to get
them informed and engaged at an early age. “What the Royal
Foundation want, and the reason they’re working with us, is to get
the word out about the very real plight the black and white rhino
species are in,” Tim Fletcher, Senior Game Designer at
Runescape developer Jagex, tells “They really
are running out of time, and the goal of United for Wildlife is to
get as many people to understand that as possible.”


The in-game rhinos now sadly outnumber their
real-world counterparts by a considerable margin.

© 2014
Jagex Ltd

“The in-game promotion takes the form of a series of trivia
questions about rhinos — although really they’re not that trivial
— which we hope will get our players researching, thinking and
talking about the issues raised,” continues Fletcher.

Players who answer three questions correctly earn a white rhino,
granting a +5 percent XP buff, while seven unlocks the rarer black
species and a +10 percent bonus. Already, over 115,000 white and
39,000 black rhinos have been awarded, numbers which tragically
dwarf the real world populations. There are less than 5,000 black
rhinos left in the wild, and only around 20,000 white rhinos. Most
are victim of reduced habitats and hunting, with the animals’ horns
and orther body parts prized as ingredients in folk medicine. The
situation is getting worse too — in 2013, over 1,000 rhinos were killed, compared to ‘only’ 83 in

Jagex regularly runs in-game charity events, largely through its
“Well of Goodwill”. “It’s a mechanic where players can donate
in-game money [that] we then convert into a real-world amount and
donate it to charity,” explains Fletcher. “As far as I know, no
other MMO has anything like that. We donated money this way to the
Philippines Typhoon Appeal, Willow, and the Internet Watch Foundation,
amongst others.” The Well is run with support of Playmob, and it’s that organisation
that brought the rhino drive to RuneScape.

“Playmob is a lovely company that spends its time coordinating
charity organisations and game developers for exactly this kind of
thing,” Fletcher says. “They put us in touch with the Royal
Foundation and United for Wildlife. The development time was
comparatively short and the potential benefit to rhinos is very
large, so of course we said yes!”

Player engagement with the campaign has been high, and Fletcher
thinks the message is sinking in. “Reading our forums and talking
to players in-game, there does seem to be a lot of discussion about
the issues involved. We’re already getting requests to run other
events for similarly endangered species.”

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