Grinding in Games: Past, Present or Future?

I read recently that kids playing games today “have no tolerance for grinding“, and I found this hard to believe.

Grinding, for those unaware of the term, is the act of repeating a task so that a player can progress in a game. Perhaps the most common ‘grind’ of early games is found in RPGs. Players will reach a point in the game whereby their character is too weak to defeat an enemy who is blocking the way, and preventing them from continuing on their quest. In order to gain enough XP, money etc. to level up and improve their stats or equipment, they must go backwards and fight enemies that they have already mastered.

The key difference between a grind and a standard task is that a grind asks you to do something that doesn’t provide any challenge. It is repetitive and time consuming and the player is not rewarded until they reach their desired target. “Success comes not to the fast or the skillful, but to the patient.”

The argument for the case that grinding is a bygone feature is that games have become a lot more lenient. There are automatic saves every few minutes and if you can reach an enemy, generally you are able to defeat it with the correct tactics, even if you aren’t strong enough to tackle it head on.

But I would go as far as to not only say that grinding is still prevalent in games, but it is thriving, and has never been more prominent. Let me explain with cold hard numbers…

The most played game in the history of the medium is not Call of Duty: Black Ops, it’s not Wii Sports, it’s not even Angry Birds. It’s CityVille. The most played game, with over one hundred million players in a single month is nothing but one huge grind.

Think about it, what do you, as the player, do in CityVille? You spend coins to build houses to earn coins to build farms to grow crops to supply businesses to earn coins to buy expansions so that you have more room to spend coins to build houses to earn coins to build farms…

There is no end game, there is no challenge and the person who has the patience to grind the longest will have the biggest, most spectacular city. They don’t have the quickest reflexes, they don’t have the best skills, they just have a lot of time and the patience of a saint.

A new gaming phenomenon has exploded, social gaming could be the future, and it is nothing but one big grind.

About Adam

Games designer, Newcastle fan and prolific tea drinker
This entry was posted in Design Discussion. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Grinding in Games: Past, Present or Future?

  1. Rory says:

    Likewise for Minecraft, you spend the game making tools to go and mine resources to make better tools.

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