Grinding... Nightmare of gamers worldwide, fun-killer, boredom generator; I am sure most of you already heard of it, and even more, encountered it at least once in their gamer-life. Though many have tried, few are the ones who actually managed to make a game that truly passed the grinding trap. Farming, hunting, camping, it doesn't really matter how you call it; the fact is that grinding is there, being a threat to the joy people feel when playing MMOs. Further in this article, we will try to dissect it, in an attempt to discover the cause, the effects, and most important, possible solutions.
For the ones of you who lived in a cave until this day, let's try and explain what grinding means. And where to get a better definition of it than from the all-knowing Wikipedia: "Grinding is a term used in video gaming to describe the process of engaging in repetitive and/or non-entertaining gameplay in order to gain access to other features within the game". Although it pretty much says it all, there are a lot of questions raising.
The first and most important is... WHY? Why would a game company create game content they know will not appeal to most gamers. "Money" is usually the answer. It is much cheaper to simply make a bunch of "Kill number x of creature y" and just change the color and name of a monster and say it's a new one (does Diablo ring a bell to you ?) than to hire a team to design elaborate stories and interesting mobs and quests. On the other hand, it is possible that, even if a creative team is hired, they are just lame and can't come up with something worth playing. Believe it or not, there are MMOs out there in which you can cross the whole world in a matter of minutes, an hour at most. Considering that the level cap is obscenely high, usually well over 100, it's a miracle that such games even exist and surprisingly, make good money.
Grinding as a “feature”
This brings us to the next issue. Some companies intentionally make sure grinding is a "feature" of their games. Why (yes, again why!)? Because there’s a lot of people out there willing to pay good money only to get rid of the chore of killing zillions of "red fire poisonous flying... stuff" just to level up once again. Here comes in... the item mall. For a small fee, they are ready to give you stones, tomes, scrolls, etc. that can magically double, triple, even quadruple the experience you gain. Take into account that most of these items usually work only for a limited amount of time, and before you know it, you just paid even more playing a F2P game than you would pay for a P2P game, just to reach the level cap.
But there is more to it! If you imagined there is only one type of grinding, well, you were wrong. Besides a high level, in order to get a strong character you also need rare items. Much better than normal ones, these items are usually hard to find (that's why they are rare) or, wherever possible, very hard to produce. So the only way to get them is whether to kill a lot of mobs and hope to loot one, or just enough gold to buy some, or, to gather a lot of ingredients in order to create what you need. Either way the result is the same: grinding! In some games, this has the purpose of ensuring high level content, or again for item malls to make some more money by selling stones that can help you improve your items or selling them directly to you, ready for use. This way, the gold farmers also appeared (I am sure most of you already heard of it especially from World of Warcraft). These guys are willing to grind for you, in exchange for a fair amount of money. Although this practice is forbidden in most games, it continues to flourish. It's much more comfortable to have somebody do your dirty-work while you do something more enjoyable.
Do you love grinding?
Now that we analyzed the reasons behind the implementation of grinding, we must ask another WHY?.Why would somebody like a game where 90% of the time all they have to do is kill, kill, and kill some more? I am sure most of you would describe farming as boring, but the fact is there are people out there who find it enjoyable. Even if you find it hard to believe, some persons release their stress and frustration on the hordes of monsters they kill daily. It's like a stress-ball. Instead of squeezing it repeatedly, you just kill mobs again and again. Another reason for farming might be reaching the level cap and becoming the best. Some people are ready to spend hours again and again just to achieve this goal. You may call it curiosity, ambition or just madness, but whatever way you look at it, any game, no matter how boring, it has high level players. One interesting fact that sometimes works in favor of grinding is that in order to be part of the elite, you really don't need any skill at all. It's not like a "Mortal Kombat" tournament among friends, where, in order to win you need to have quick fingers and an even quicker mind. In this sort of MMOs, all you really need is patience, so basically anyone, no matter how dumb, may become the best. Whether you like it or not, the fact is some really like grinding.
Grinding: Love it or hate it?