What Is the Grind?

I love defining terms. It creates controversy, but it can make things easier. How do I define the grind? “Necessary repetition.” I started off with the following definition and streamlined it: “Necessary, laborious, unvaried repetition.” The grind is mitigated with variety in an MMO, and is encouraged with the required repetition of significant content (e.g. repeating a quest, repeating a dungeon, etc.). I hate grinds, and refuse outright to do them. But, give me some variety in how I can gain faction, loot, etc., and I’m happy to work for it.

17 Responses to "What Is the Grind?"

  1. Elkestra

    At initial glance, I’d be tempted to expand that definition slightly to:

    ‘Necessary repetition for the sole purpose of time-sink’

    Not sure even that is exactly right, but the direction I’m coming from is that if the repetition is part of a greater whole, and there is enough going on (from mini-dings giving extra abilities to try out, to larger story arcs visibly progressing, etc) to keep the interest, and add variation in other ways, then it is no longer such a ‘grind’ even though it may be waves of the same creatures.

  2. I’d use a much more subjective valuation: a grind is anything I have to do repetitively that I don’t particularly enjoy. The latter bit is important, since if it’s fun (for me) I can happily spend hours doing the same thing over and over again.

    I agree with your variety thing though — we have to feel there are other ways through the maze, whether they produce exactly the same results or not. Even if we don’t use those ways, knowing they’re there makes us feel less funnelled.

  3. I agree that variety is key. However, even if I absolutely love a dungeon, there will be a point in repetition where it ceases to be exciting, because we know every nook and cranny and every iteration of the “random” encounters, and it becomes a grind.

  4. John

    Grind is where you destroy every bad guy in an area, and they just re-appear. The world is dead and nothing ever changes. At least let it stay dead a few days game time or something. Not sure what would fix this, a more living evolving game world, kind of like what Darkfall has promised. Where you kill off the Orcs, and the mobs living next door move in. Where wolves will overrun an area eventually if left unchecked. Where Goblins will come out and fight for dominance over an area and become more powerful if not killed back.

    A more living world/sandbox. To me the grind is not having any effect, so whats the point?

  5. Thoms

    For me the grind is repetitive and unentertaining gameplay. That means its very subjective what any individual percieves as grinding. Also… some days i enjoy running around looking for mining nodes and other days it’s just a boring grind. The gameplay didnt change, but my mood might have changed.

  6. Draegan

    I agree with you Ryan except the necessary part. Unless you mean something like, “In order to get the Uber Sword that’s +1, you have to grind X” where you don’t need that sword to beat the game. My point of view is that it isn’t necessary since you don’t need it to win. Is your point of view on the layer of if you want the sword it’s necessary to grind OR the point of view that in order to beat the game you have to grind for the sword?

  7. As long as there is linear advancement in MMOs, there will be grinds. And as much as people say they hate grinds…they love them just as much. Because they love gaming. All that XP you need to get from level 1 to 80. That’s your grind. Starting with a blank abilities tree and earning ability points until you fill the tree the way you want it. That’s your grind. It’s always there. I agree. It’s how the grind is designed that’s the key. That’s the “game” of it.

  8. JuJutsu

    How does one ‘beat the game’ or ‘win’ in an MMO? I must be going about these things all wrong…

  9. Xorok

    I like what you said in your last sentence about variety, because I think the purpose of what your doing plays a factor in what is considered a grind. If your killing a mob for xp point number 5 out of 2 billion, then yea this is a grind. While you’re killing that mob, throw things in like faction and camping a named then you have a greater purpose to what your doing and your not feeling it as a grind so much. You have to be careful though. Look at what EQ turned into with their faction grinding and WOW with their quest grinding. Speaking in terms of game development there is many things you can turn into a grind.

  10. JuJutsu: You beat an MMO when you’ve completed all that you set out to complete. That’s how I like to think of it, anyway. I’ve beaten a crapload of MMOs, but I’ve only capped out in a few.

    My version of “beating” an MMO is: learning all the key parts of the game, and understanding what the game is all about. I also want to pull away as many good and bad lessons from the game as I can so they can be applied to things I’m working on.

    I tend to do that within the first half of the levels, then I quit. Yes, there is an entirely new game at the end of some (like WoW), but I’m not going to put forth the time or effort required to learn all there is to know about that.

  11. Draegan

    Beating the game for me specifically means, just like Ryan said, completing your goals in the game. For example, in WOW it’s defeating all the raids and getting my character all the best gear he can get.

    Everyone is different of course. For example some people want to win an arena season and get all the PVP gear. My father who’s the ultra casual, wants to get all of the honor gear he can get, screw the arenas, and log in and do dailys and get his tradeskills to max.

    That’s the best thing about MMOs, usually they are constantly changing and everyone can make their own goals and feel content in doing so.

  12. JuJutsu

    Thanks. If winning is completing your goals in a game [which I'm quite happy with] then I think including ‘neccesary’ in your definition won’t provide much leverage unless you have some useful scheme for aggregating. A number of earlier posters pointed out the subjective nature of grinding, goal attainment makes it idiosnyncratic. Draegan and his father is a perfect example of two people that aren’t even playing the same game. Unvaried repetition in leveling tradeskills doesn’t exist in the game Dreagan plays and unvaried repetition in gaining access to raid instances doesn’t exist in the game his father plays.

    If you have some valid aggregating scheme maybe you can get somewhere. Take for example the 4 ‘Bartle’ types. If you can legitimately claim that all ‘achievers’ tend to have similar goals then maybe an inclusion of necessary-for-achievers makes sense.

    I think ‘laborious’ may be too subjective to give you much leverage. Ditto for ‘entertaining’; as Thoms pointed out the same activity by the same person has different entertainment value at different times.

    I think repetition has some hope of being defined and measured objectively but even there some naysayer could argue that replacing kill 10 rats with kill a rat, a snake, a bird, a rabbit, a squirrel, a fox, a bear, a bat, a spider, and a frog is no improvement.

  13. Thermoses

    A grind is a tedious activity, required to reach a goal. Tedious implies that you’re not enjoying the activity, that it’s repetitive and lacks (or has lost) interest. Iterative tasks are all right, but they become a grind when the number of iterations exceeds the interest. By the 10th rat you’ve killed, you’re ready to move on. By the 100th, you’re ready to quit the game.

  14. jmilster

    You also need to factor those people in who LIKE the repetition. Those with OCD or whatever that make their schedule in the game and do things over and over everyday and find that extremely relaxing.

    I know some people who consider leveling to be a grind. Personally, I love leveling. Whether it is a trade skill, character, reputation, etc. I really enjoy it and find it relaxing.

  15. If I love what I do for a living, its not a grind. If I do it purely for the paycheck, it is. The same applies to MMOs.

  16. Draegan

    @Ju:
    Necessary grinding is bad. YOu have to include it here. I’ll give you an example in my world. I order to get the best enchant in slot I have to do 6 quests every single day for a month to get there. I hate that. It’s not fun, but necessary for my goal. It’s a bad grind. Fortunately I can do it in 20-40m depending on the population.

    However it’s not terrible. Because I can finish up what requirement in a day and all I can do is wait for tomorrow to come around. I have a set beginning and end per day. I don’t have to sit there 8 hours a day doing the same thing. I’m limited in the grind so the hurt of the grind wears off until tomorrow. It’s a good mask.

  17. [...] refer to as the grind. There’s no foolproof or even particularly common definition (though Nerfbat attempted one some time ago), but one thing we all seem to agree on is that a grind is, by [...]

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