What is “grinding”?

All games have repeatable play. Counterstrike players play on the same dozen map with the same team sizes again and again. Most League of Legends games take place in the same one map. PUBG has 3 maps, Fortnite BR has one. Players play it again and again. After all, they are called “the same game”, what the hell did you expect?!

On the other hand players tend to constantly whine about “the grind” in MMOs. In MMOs you usually gain rewards by killing mobs and doing quests. This is the game, period, if you don’t like it, don’t play it, similarly as if you don’t like games determined by who can headshot faster (the aimbotter), don’t play Counterstrike. Not like WoW made it a secret that it’s about killing mobs, your first task was a bunch of kobolds in a mine, then wolves, then bandits and so on. If you didn’t quit after an hour, that kind of indicates that you like this gameplay.

Then why do people cry about grinding, instead of just calling it “playing the game”? Because they don’t like playing the game. They play because their real or imaginary friends play it. They want rewards to gain imaginary social status in an imaginary world front of imaginary friends. In short: because they are morons.

They say that “we are forced to do repetitions” which is wrong on two levels: devs can’t add meaningful variety without changing the game. The mobs to kill are mobs. Them having kobold skin and having 10 HP against your 1 HP swing is not meaningfully different from having abyssal demon skin and 10M HP against your 1M HP swing. Ergo, adding more content is a myth. Especially when most people just click off the flavor text of the quests. The lore of WoW is a nonsense already with multiple timelines coexisting.

So what should devs do about players who whine about “the grind”? Ignore them! They don’t like the gameplay and want less of it, while expecting the rewards. Giving them takes away gameplay from everyone else too. If you got the reward, there is no character progression from doing the content, so the content is not done. Not many top level characters kill wolves in Elwyn, not because that content is bad, but because its rewards are not needed. Same for any content. If you give out all the rewards on day 1, no one will play on day 2.

Any attempt to bypass “the grind” is an attempt to cater to players who don’t like the game. It’s objectively worse than nerfing, as that caters to players who just suck in the game, but wish to play it. The “grind-whiners” don’t. They wish to be with their imaginary internet friends, but if there is nothing to do in the game, they won’t be there at the first place.

Finally we must address what’s the point in killing 100K power appropriate, graphically various mobs? Well, what’s the point in headshotting noobs in counterstrike? What’s the point in getting into the circle in PUBG? What’s the point in running all four bases in baseball? What’s the point running the Marathon?

These are games. Forms of entertainment and competition. Running faster than the other Marathon runner is the same as killing mobs faster. A game, a test of certain skillset. They are fine forms of spending free time. Those who don’t like them are free to do so. But their opinion should be ignored and developers should focus on those who actually pay to play.

Author: Gevlon

My blog: https://greedygoblinblog.wordpress.com/

19 thoughts on “What is “grinding”?”

  1. There is one case where the complaints about grinding are valid : when it is used as a barrier before actual competitive gameplay can start, essentially forcing players to play 100 hours of my mindless low quality content before they can play things that require proper strategy or good reactions.

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  2. There is one thing you are missing here. Where do the original “friends” that other people want to play with come from? These original “friends” are people who like the game and read the flavour text. If the game sucks and the flavour text is not up to snuff, you won’t even get the core playerbase, much less have to worry about catering to M&S that come after.

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  3. @Soge: the reason of the long introductory is to teach some minimal skills to the masses before they enter anything competitive.

    @Maxim: no, “friends” are just random people happen to be in a guild for whatever reason.

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  4. @Gevlon:
    “the reason of the long introductory is to teach some minimal skills to the masses before they enter anything competitive.”

    It was never really true in WoW but in the latest expansions it’s simply false. You unlock most of your abilities near maximum level only so the levels before max level – 20 are meaningless for this reason. Also level up instances teach no usable skill for max level. If they would add a real 1-2 hours “tutorial” with teaching solo, teaching pvp, teaching grouped content (with good AIs, just like in most moba) new people would learn much-much more than leveling up from lvl1 to lvl110 (which takes at least 20-30 hours for a new player).

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  5. There’s a difference between reasonable and unreasonable grind. Killing 10 mobs and having only one quest item to drop shouldn’t be a thing to see. Consumable stacking should also be consistent and have limits.

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  6. I think it’s often related to activities some games make mandatory to do another activity, like “grinding” PVE to afford PVP.

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  7. what’s the point

    being hooked to dopamine, releases on what ever it is a player likes.

    Games today are all skewed more and more towards instant gratification. delayed should be emphasised and was from arcade until wow (more end 90s). If someone got good in arcade they could play for less money and longer. “pros” did not coin fed the machine as hard as the pleb besides them.

    but making games insufferable hard because of lack of writing and visuals and to milk it as hard as possible isn’t the mantra of today. Back in the day “beating hard games was awesome” today being socialist about it is.

    millennials and generation z are whiny twats that will nag authority so long until they get what they want.

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  8. @Gevlon
    You think that you are contradicting my point, but you are not, because you are essentially saying nothing about why people are there to play with. Now if you listed some other reasons for the original core audience of the game to play it besides loving the mechanics and being invested into lore, that’d be a proper rebuttal 😀

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  9. Grinding is doing something for rewards, as opposed to doing something because it’s fun. Then you have a sort of in between category that is doing something to get better, like shooting hoops for two hours alone, or practicing head shots in custom games in overwatch.

    A game like wow inherently is inherently grindy because everything you do is for some sort of reward (xp, ap, gear drops), but the game is at its best when it balances right on the edge between fun and grind – you do stuff you want, and maybe just a bit more than that, and get cool rewards.

    That’s why I liked AP – when you get a fungible reward like that I can do different stuff, whatever I feel is fun at the time, and don’t feel like I’m losing out.

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  10. “There is one case where the complaints about grinding are valid : when it is used as a barrier before actual competitive gameplay can start”
    “I think it’s often related to activities some games make mandatory to do another activity, like “grinding” PVE to afford PVP.”

    One has to mention that in the early days of WoW there wasn’t as much choice what to play, games like MOBAs (LoL, Dota) weren’t invented yet and the great MMORPG hype just started with WoW. And in WoW you actually had to grind tons of hours (in comparison to RTS games like Age of Empires, or ego shooters like Counterstrike) to get to the pvp content. So back then the grinding part was in the way for the ‘pvplers’, as it didn’t took 80 levels killing wolves to learn your rotation. Today one probably would just play a different game instead of playing WoW Vanilla for the pvp content.

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  11. The problem starts if the game offers some different content mini games like pet battles or raiding. Then people who are only interested in pet battles, or raiding, start to complain that they cannot play their mini game without playing the real game.

    The solution is to no include these mini games that differ from the main content in a virtual world MMORPG.

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  12. @cathfaern, anon: these things are often called “endgame” for a reason. They are an afterthought added to the game with the purpose of making those busy who completed “the game”. Now it indeed creates a strange group that likes the endgame and not “the game”, but they are not core audience and can be ignored.

    @retsep: no. You spend ALL your game time playing the game. In case of WoW: killing mobs. It might FEELS different if you kill 100×10 completing 100 quests that give 1 gold each than to kill 10×100 completing 10 quests that give 10 gold each, but it’s the same game. There is nothing else in WoW than killing more mobs.

    @Maxim: nope, I’m not contradicting, I’m saying it’s irrelevant WHY “the friends” play. Socials will play to be with them. By the way the mechanics of WoW clones is the same as WoW (by definition) and their lore cannot be more nonsense. Yet they have 5% of its playerbase, because WoW was already big, socials flocked to it and made it even bigger.

    @Ulrik: there is a problem with that, namely that in-game rewards are worthless if you don’t like the game. I can’t care less what rewards Street Fighter 5 hands out, as I hate fighting games. Ergo, you must like the game’s basic cycle, ergo the one that you do again and again.

    @Skeddar: indeed.

    @bhagouss: but the game has one kind of basic activity. WoW was about “grinding” mobs from the first quests. If you don’t like it, why keep playing it? If you like it, it’s not a grind.

    @Kring: you just made my Thursday post.

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  13. “One has to mention that in the early days of WoW there wasn’t as much choice what to play, games like MOBAs (LoL, Dota) weren’t invented yet and the great MMORPG hype just started with WoW.”

    Actually, Dota v5.84, the first version which was used for competitive and league play, was released the same month as World of Warcraft, November 2004.

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  14. You miss two essential aspects: Challenge & Novelty.
    If the activity offers neither it cannot offer anything beyond a reward gating some other content which makes it a grind.
    For example having a raid with 10 different boss battles is better than having to kill 10x the same boss and without challenge the raid is just done for gear until that gear becomes obsolete.

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  15. Gevlon, you are simplifying ad absurdum here.

    Chess is a game. It’s as much about moving chess figures as WoW is about killing mobs. So obviously you must like moving chess figures with a toddler all day or you can’t really like chess.

    In other words: If playing against equal players (think chess club) is denied to you until you win 10000 games against complete noobs, it says nothing about your love of the game, but most of us would agree that is an idiotic grind (you were right, that asking for some learing games is okay, but that’s not what’s called a grind except by slackers).

    bhagouss is right, that people call grind, what they don’t like to do. Maybe a better term would call a grind “not interesting”, although that’s still very subjective. More objectively I would call any necessary (gating) gameplay that is perceptibly less challenging than usual gameplay a grind.

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  16. bhagpuss has the right definitions, so the next step is to ask why is killing 10 wolves interesting, but killing 100 a grind.

    I think the answer is a question of mastery. If you’ve never played the game, killing single wolves will be interesting. However, after killing a dozen, the same activity will become a grind. But if the game gives you a new quest to kill wolves that come in groups of two, the activity can become interesting again.

    A game should repeat patterns until the player feels like they have mastered them, then move on to new patterns. A game that just uses the same pattern endlessly will become a grind. In a PvP game, the human opponents both repeat the same general patterns, but also test out changes, so the patterns generally repeat, but also have changes. While a PvE game needs to provide the different patterns as part of the game. In either case, if the player ever reaches a point where they are just doing the same thing over and over without having to put any real thought in to it, it has become a grind.

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  17. “What is Grind?”

    Grind is anything repetitive that a player might find fun at first, but after becoming more sophisticated as a gamer, see it as an unnecessary time-sink, or waste of time after encountering the same mechanic ad-infinitum.

    So, they either continue to play the game as a sophisticated gamer and enjoy the world as it is developed, or they claim that their time is more valuable than everyone else’s and rage about how bad the subscription model is because of the dev’s design choices. Somewhere along the line these gamers learn to embrace the F2P or alternate revenue models, and find out that they spend just as much time playing games as they did under the subscription model.

    In the end it is the developers who have become more sophisticated, as they have figured out how to extract the most revenue out of all gamers wallets without the promise of fun, immersion or fairness.

    Gamer A: “I spent X hours yesterday farming(not grinding) rep for my new mount!
    Gamer B: “I spent $20 cash on my new mount yesterday, which allowed me to spend X hours PVP farming(not grinding) my season gear.
    Gamer C: “I played X hours of F2P games today. Didn’t cost me a penny.”
    Gamer D: “Shut-up and take my money!”

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