Today, almost every game has some sort of grind. By itself, grind isn’t inherently a bad thing. It’s primary purpose is to delay progress in a game. Slow players down and prevent then from just burning through content. It makes sense and while it can sometimes be annoying I’m not advocating for this complete removal. However, recently, I’ve come to believe grind is being added to games as a replacement for content. I’m won’t name games, but let’s just say some of the largest multiplayer, loot shooters out there are forgoing content and meaningful activities and instead requiring players to do a mindlessly repetitive activity.
There’s a few ways to incorporate grind ins games design. It’s could straight up just be farming one individual thing over and over like materials needed for crafting or whatever currency the game uses. It could be increasing health on a boss so that players have to spend 20 minutes shooting a bullet sponge which, with enough bosses like this, artificially inflates the time needed to complete a story and thereby fives the illusion of more content. There’s also chores you have to do. Daily activities that are intentionally limited within a time frame to force players to log in each day to complete simple yet repetitive activities in hopes of turning them in for rewards.
A lot of games today will use these all in some sort of way, the worst offenders rely on these tactics in hopes players will see how long it will take to complete and think that’s how long the game is. I know a lot of you will automatically assume I’m talking exclusively about loot shooters but if you think about it, these design decisions are being used in several games. Sports games, racing, there are elements that creepy into every genre, some more obvious than others.
An unfortunate effect of this lazy design is how it translate to the games meta. Far too often grind translates into spreadsheet calculations to find the best, most efficient way to accomplish these tasks. If you don’t have the gear best suited for a task you’re then left with the realization that you may get left behind. Not having the meta whatever is a death sentence. If the developer is extra shitty, this may even been the plan. Think about that, you can’t even participate in the grind until you have the loadout necessary. And acquiring that loadout my it’s self be it’s own grind.
I won’t pretend to know what it takes to make content for a game. I’m sure it’s a far more nuanced process than most of us are aware of. But there’s a point where taking the easy route and just tuning the numbers to be something unconscionable where players are forced to suffer the most mundane and never ending chores stops being an acceptable way to keep players logging in each day. Especially when content drops are almost always $20 and the cool shit is that plus whatever the going rate is for enough premium currency to buy from the mtx store.
As gamers we need to do better by not subscribing to these practices. We need to stop supporting games that skimp on content for a grind. Because most often it’s grind that hides the fact that little money is spent on improving the gaming experience and instead is designed to keep you coming back and investing in your time and money into a game that will never take the time or money to invest in you.
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