Cambridge-based Jagex is the creator of Runescape a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) that boasts 250 million players across the globe. And Runescape 3 gold is also hot in the game world now. The developer counts the mental health charity Cambridgeshire, Peterborough and South Lincolnshire (CPSL) Mind as one of its official charities. Staff at the company have lent their technical skills and harnessed the reach of Runescape’s huge community to promote mental health awareness.
Kelvin Plomer, director of customer service and head of Jagex charitable giving, explained that a focus on mental health began from its own focus on staff’s wellbeing.
“We look after our staff here,” he said. “We’ve always invested in our staff well-being. We’ve really beefed up the mental well-being aspect of what we do.
“It seems logical to put that out externally and use the power of our community and focus on mental health charities.
“We really wanted to make sure we’re helping the area where we’re based.”
Jagex employees have raised funds for CPSL Mind through pub quizzes, scavenger hunts and bake offs. For every one pound raised the company matches it.
Its Runescape game is a fantasy realm through which players develop a character’s skills and combat a range of monsters. Last year, Jagex created symbolic in-game items for players to purchase, such as armour, shields and a defender of the mind cape.
The company is planning similar promotional activities for this year's World Mental Health Day on October 10. In the first half of this year it has already raised £125,000.
The games room at the Jagex office in Cambridge (Image: COEL)
“We know these health awareness issues are universal,” explained Kelvin.
“We’ve got over a million followers on Facebook, us posting information gives a much greater reach to Mind.
“That’s a reach that charities don’t always have.”
Jagex has also joined CPSL Mind’s STOP suicide campaign which aims to prevent suicides by raising awareness of warning signs and empowering the public to have open conversations about suicide. In 2015 there were 6,639 suicides in the UK and Republic of Ireland. Male suicide rates are three times higher than women in the UK and the majority of Runescape players are men aged 16 to 24.
“It’s exactly the demographic the STOP suicide campaign is trying to reach,” said Kelvin.
“It’s something that has long need to have a better focus.
“We went into it thinking this would strike a chord with our community.”
Staff in the canteen at the Jagex office in Cambridge. Managers at the company have received mental health awareness training (Image: COEL)
Isabel Cross, head of campaigns and community projects at CPSL Mind, added: “I think that bold leadership is needed. If there’s anywhere that’s leading bold change its Cambridge.
“One of the exciting things about working with this demographic is you’re embedding something for the future. This is fed through generations.
“That’s an exciting legacy. If you can get that age group to be the champions for mental well-being the generation following will be more comfortable.”
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Kelvin said players had spoken positively about the company’s charitable efforts at its recent Runefest fan gathering.
“We got a really positive reception and that emboldens us,” said Kelvin. “Our demographic works with these key messages. It’s relevant. They know and understand what we’re talking about.
“One guy from the Netherlands, it made him realise he was suffering from some things and has then gone and sought help.
“Another guy he bought the in-game item and then decided to seek help.”
Jagex is now weaving mental health awareness into its corporate culture. Its managers have received special training and mental health first aid courses have been provided for staff.
“It’s about providing skills and the funds to help push these messages on,” said Kelvin.
Zoe Doherty, fundraiser for CPSL Mind, said: “Corporates are becoming more aware that they need to understand mental health better and how to deal with it.
“Mental health training is incredibly important. It’s improving. We would like to see more corporates signing the stop suicide pledge.”
Jagex's other charity partners are The Prince's Trust and YMCA.