There’s something ever-present in the world of video games that really gets to me sometimes. I’ve never really noticed it before, but I’ve always acknowledged it as a thing and it wasn’t until I decided to complete the Pokedex in Pokemon Black 2 that I realised just what it is that irks me: The Grind.
Grinding is an intrinsic part of games and it seems like I’ve been grinding on so many games for so long that I just forgot that I was grinding. For a while I was okay with that; I’ve levelled characters on World of Warcraft all the way to the level cap in as little time as possible; I’ve gone out of my way to complete as much of the Sphere Grid as possible with every character in Final Fantasy X; I went out of my way to get that ostentatious 120% success rate in the early Spyro games. But where did that all lead me?
When I was much younger, it was a challenge to do absolutely everything in as many video games as possible, but now that I’m older I realise that much of that grind was a waste of time. Whilst the meta-reward of having mastered a game is quite enjoyable at first, how long until that taste becomes sour? I have a lot of love for games, so I want to play as many as I possibly can, but how can I 100% all those games when I have to juggle gaming time with time for a social life which in turn I’m organising around my full-time job? Suddenly spending 100+ hours on a Final Fantasy title just to get some secret rewards seems a lot more sour than it did once when I was young.
Why is that such a problem though? Just about every video game has some sort of grind hidden somewhere as it does make a great incentive to keep someone playing a game, which is what t
he developers want and which is what many players might want. It presents a problem though, because when time becomes a limited resource where do you draw the line?
Whilst grinding is indeed something that is intrinsic to gaming, I still think that it presents a problem that we as a community should re-evaluate. Getting all 55 levels on Black Ops 2 is impressive, but it’s also a huge timesink for those of us that can only put in an hour or two a day. In fact it’s such a timesink that it’s off-putting because I don’t want to invest a small amount of time in a game only for it to amount to nothing. I’d rather play a game like Team Fortress 2 that rewards me for playing regardless of how long I play by throwing random items at me. I get the same experience, without all the experience points.
I realise that my approach to playing video games might be quite different to anybody else’s. Like I said at the start of this article, when I was younger I didn’t have such a problem with grinding because I had the time to devote to enjoy games in that manner. The ultimate reward that a game has to offer is to truly master it, but not everybody will view that as such.
For now I get the same amount of enjoyment just out of finishing the main story in a game as I do from getting absolutely every last little bit that it might be hiding. As such I spend more and more time playing new games rather than sinking huge amounts of time into just one. Far Cry 3 was highly enjoyable, but once I was done with the main questline I found that I didn’t have the time to return to it and clear out every last radio tower and enemy encampment.
When it all comes down to it, what I want out of my video games has changed drastically over the years. Whilst I still want to sit down and sink five days straight into the latest Final Fantasy, I understand that it’s not always viable and that I’m probably better off just playing shorter games.
- Liam Stanway