Jagex Games Studio, developers of the MMORPG RuneScape, have taken another leap toward more inclusive gameplay. Earlier this year, Jagex introduced a platform dubbed RuneLabs to gather player-suggested content, and through a voting system, would include the winning ideas into the game. Recently, a new player-suggested quest, The Light Within, has finally made its way into the game after months of development. This was suspected to be just another quest on top of the many already introduced into the game. The content garnered a lot of hype and positive feedback, but surprised the RuneScape community in a rather unexpected way.
The first in-universe trans woman was introduced during the quest. Many players are calling Angof, a trans woman elf, the first transgender character in the game. A lot of players were quite excited, including myself, which inspired me to dig a little deeper into transgender representation in RuneScape. What I found was as equally shocking as the latest quest’s content. There had already been transgender characters in the game for quite some time! But before we can explore who those characters are, here is a little history as to how this development came to be.
The winning player idea for The Light Within was by Gaga Lady, a well-known player in the LGBTQIA+ community of RuneScape who, in addition to the idea for The Light Within, also runs an LGBTQIA+ friends chat channel in the game. Gaga Lady was approached by Jagex developers during the development of The Light Within and asked for a personal touch to be placed within the quest by the player. The conversation that has been revealed to us involves Gaga Lady’s request for a LGBTQIA+ character.
Lucky for Gaga Lady and the queer community within RuneScape, the odds were in our favor with the recent response regarding Jagex’s policy on queer characters in the High Level Forums (accessible only to players who have achieved 99 in all skills) by yours truly. The thread I prompted the community (and Jagex) was to include more LGBTQIA+ characters within the game, and I linked the player base to my previous article on FemHype about the lack in diversity in RuneScape.
The thread gathered a large amount of negative attention by some of the most elite players, but after hundreds of responses, Mod Raven, responsible for development of the Dungeoneering Saga featuring a gay couple, finally stepped in. He offered his official stance and plan for LGBTQIA+ characters going forward in addition to Mod Matthe’s response. Mod Raven’s comment was lengthy and extremely detailed. After an intense verbal beatdown by the players, I was finally graced with the confirmation I was looking for: clear intent to include queer characters in the future and to introduce them in a way that wouldn’t make them walking stereotypes.
So, who is this character making history? Well, her name is Angof. But who is she? Here are the RuneScape wikia details:
“Angof is an Cywir elf located in Tarddiad, in the north-east region of the realm, and can be interacted with during and after The Light Within quest. You may talk to her to learn more about the realm of Tarddiad, as well as other information. According to her, some of the elves stayed behind when Seren persuaded most of them to move to Gielinor. Those that stayed behind had a feeling of loneliness without her presence, and the crystals of Tarddiad had some of her presence in them. The elves then took them in to become less lonely, however their desire for more crystals increased over time, turning them into Crystal Shapeshifters. Angof has resisted the urges of the crystals longer than her fellow brethren and hopes that if she can resist their urges, so can her people.”
Angof is a complex character who certainly adds another layer of depth to an already rich story, but the reveal of her transgender identity lies in an optional bit of the storyline that resides in her diary, also explained through unlocked dialogue after showing her an ancient elven ring. The dialogue with Angof explicitly states that she is transgender, but most players did not happen upon this piece of content—rather, most players were introduced to Angof’s identity through her diary in a more subtle way. The entry in question states: “In many ways I am more myself than I have ever been. I am no longer that little boy that felt trapped in a skin that never really was his own. The form changing ability of the crystal certainly has it’s advantages.”
This entry not only suggests that she is transgender, but also suggests that the crystals that are so essential to all the elves in RuneScape harness properties akin to hormone therapy. Not only that, but this also dives into the pros and cons of these crystals, just like hormone therapy for many transgender people in the real world.
So we’ve pretty much established that Angof is just a bundle of pure awesome, but who else has been revealed to be transgender in RuneScape? Well, let’s talk about Wizard Jalarast (pictured left). Wizard Jalarast was described as a man in 2004, simply named ‘Wizard,’ but eventually modified their body. This was later confirmed during a developer Q&A when Mod John A said that, “Jalarast no longer wanted to be a man, and as such, visited the Make-over Mage.” Not much else is known about the backstory of Wizard Jalarast.
Now, I am sure those unfamiliar with RuneScape are wondering who the Make-over Mage is. But for most of the RuneScape player base, we all know who the Make-over Mage is, as we’ve visited them at one time or another. In short, the Make-over Mage allows players to change their gender, skin tone, etc. I found it interesting that Jagex chose to introduce an NPC to handle character creation in RuneScape, as most games just involve a character creation screen.
Something pointed out to me in my last article on FemHype by one of the commenters was that when I was speaking about queer characters in RuneScape, I had forgotten that the Make-over Mage, who has been confirmed in issue 5 of Postbag from the Hedge (dated March 28, 2006), to be genderfluid. A player wrote to the Make-over Mage asking what their name was. They replied with: “My name is Pete, or Peta, depending on my mood.”
At this point in my research, I was nearing the end of my quest for hidden transgender characters in RuneScape, and I believe I have hit the end of the road here. But I cannot end this article without mentioning the modifications to the Oracle (pictured right). Originally, the Oracle was a woman (in RuneScape classic), but in the summer of 2007, they were given a graphical makeover to appear as a man. Oracle was then redesigned as a woman again in a later update, where they remain so to this day. It is unknown whether the Oracle is genderfluid and the RuneScape community has yet to receive an in-universe or developer confirmation, but we’ll keep on it until then.
So with that, we can celebrate RuneScape’s inclusive history! With mostly positive responses to the quest, there have been a few vocal naysayers who have been responded to by the Jagex developer, here and here. They use admittedly imperfect terminology, but handle this largely gracefully with the hint at further development of Angof as a character. At one time, I, as well as many others, thought trans people were non-existent in this game, but really they have been there all along—and that’s just awesome.