To Grind It Or Not Find It

Ever since I read Naithin’s post, Is There Such a Thing As a ‘Fun’ Grind?, I’ve been wondering how I personally would define grind and at which point it becomes unenjoyable for me. I think bhagpuss hits pretty close to the mark in the comments where he mentions “a repetitive activity you wouldn’t engage in were it not for the rewards.” As with many aspects of taste in general, the exact nature will vary from one individual to the next.

The most critical part of his definition is the repetitive part. I’ve been trying to decide if it’s possible to be grindy and not repetitive, and so far I don’t feel that it is. Having said that, many aspects of gaming are repetitive by nature. My wife has expressed wonderment at people enjoying games before because “they’re just doing the same thing over and over again.” We even use the phrase “core gameplay loop” to describe this notion.

I feel that while the threshold may very from person to person, length of time is an important element to grind. Let’s take the quite popular Stardew Valley. There, each day runs somewhere around 15 minutes. If you played for only an hour, you’d get about four days worth of work in. While not exactly a lot, out of 108 possible four-day periods, only two of them don’t contain some manner of birthday or event. Most of these are unintrusive and ignorable, but the point is that there’s something to consistently break the monotony a little bit.

Let’s compare this to something like Warframe. A given mission can take anywhere between 5 minutes to over an hour, depending on what you’re doing. I feel that 10-20 minutes is a good number for most non-infinite missions. These missions are on different maps, though they all look the same and contain the same enemies. If you’re grinding for something specific, though, there’s a good chance you will not receive the reward you want. In cases like specific gun parts or specific void relics, it’s all pure RNG at that point. You could, conceivably, go several hours or several sessions and see little to no progress toward a specific goal.

I actually think session is a good unit of measure here. Everyone’s session is going to be different, and possibly different between days. I believe grind begins to apply when an activity and/or goal is long enough to define or dominate an entire session. Especially if we feel like we’re no closer at the end. We’ll use WoW’s Noblegarden event. Specifically, obtaining the mount. In the grand scheme of MMO activities, the grind wasn’t that bad. Collect 500 eggs. Honestly, I was watching Phineas and Ferb, cooking dinner, waiting on the day/night cycle in Terraria, and other such things through part of it. I would say it took somewhere around three hours.

That’s easily an entire session worth of game time. Probably multiple sessions for some players. Time spent doing nothing but running in some sort of loop trying to grab eggs before the dozen other people doing it. Even at just a few hours, I’m not sure that’s a practical use of time. Still, it helps to have the slow upward tick of chocolate eggs counting up in your inventory, so at least progress can be measured.

Measuring progress is another fairly essential aspect of this. If you can see a tangible sign of progress, that doesn’t really negate the grind, but makes it more palatable. How long-term the goal is can influence this as well. A short-term goal is likely to feel less grindy than a long-term goal, at least by this definition.

So, for now I’ll end with “a repetitive activity that defines or dominates one or more play sessions” as a good starting point. Such a deep and varied concept, though, that I’m not sure any one definition can adequately capture it. We all know, essentially, what it means, even if we don’t necessarily agree.

Y’all take care, and “grind it ’till you find it” probably doesn’t work in gaming either.

blapril-2020-200Hey, it’s Blapril time! The goal is to simply promote and stimulate the blogging community by encouraging people of all skill levels and backgrounds to post. The official post can be found here and it’s never too late to start.

4 thoughts on “To Grind It Or Not Find It

  1. I had a bit of a think about grinding without repetition, to see if I could think of any examples. Couldn’t. Resorted to Googling ‘Is a grind by definition repetitive?’ and ended up discovering there is a Wikipedia entry for grinding in video games. Hah.

    It’s flagged with numerous issues, but was an interesting read nonetheless.

    The element of repetition is very strongly flagged as a core element of Grind here; although they do make a case for some people enjoying it regardless as was discussed in some of the comments on the last post indicated.

    Their application of the Paretto Principle as well as a justification for grind was rather interesting too.

    Still; I think that more informally we all agree more or less on what a ‘grind’ is, like you said. Everyone’s tolerances around it though is so varied!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. About the only way I could imagine “grind” could be defined to exclude repetition would be a series of unavoidable events. I can even think of an example.

    I detest GW2’s Path of Fire expansion primarily because all of the maps there are stuffed to bursting with aggressive mobs that use a huge amount of crowd control mechanics. Even worse, there are multiple environmental effects that snare or kill your character. I woudl absolutely say that trying to get from anywhere to anywhere else in that expansion is a numbingly tedious, frustrating grind. It’s repetitive but not through any action of the player.

    I think we’d probably use other terms to describe that experience, though, rather than “grind”. The idea of grind relating to play sessions is interesting. My most disliked form of grinding is when developers expect you to run instances or dungeons over and over again to gear up. That’s one of the several reasons Warframe didn’t work for me.

    The problem there, as you suggest, is time. If each instance took fifteen minutes and i could knock of four or five in a two hour session and still have time to do other stuff, that would be a lot more palatable. When it takes 60-90 minutes to complete one instance, though, as it does in EQII, it becomes something I’d rather avoid. It’s notable that, as my character becomes more powerful and the time to complete instances gets shorter, I do become more willing to repeat them.

    What I prefer, though, is a much longer instance that allows me to progress through it at a faster pace for the same length of time. EQII’s open dungeons used to work that way (they don’t make new ones any more, sadly) – and they used to respawn too – meaning you could spend as little or as much time in them as you wanted. In a way that was more repetitive, since there was no endpoint, but it oddly felt less grindy to me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. From my observations, “grind” has historically been used as a negative connotation as it pertains to the design elements of games that require a considerable time investment to complete certain goals, or to earn a specific reward.

    I’ve always held that if a game is immersive enough, then any feelings of a “grind” can be lessened, if not eliminated. Sure, each individual is different, but I have never been the type of gamer who pre-conditions my upcoming playtime with worries of time constraints. I play games for relaxation in my free time when I’m not working or spending time with family. Treating a game like a job, or with worries of “time is money” looming in my brain is just so foreign to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree that grind is generally used with negative connotations.

      I split the different a bit with time concerns. I have a decent idea of where my personal limit is with a given activity at any given time. If I am aware, beforehand, that some activity is going to require enough time that it will detract from the enjoyment of doing it, I simply do something else. It’s a much more automatic process that this makes it sound.

      Time *is* a resource, and knowingly or otherwise everyone is constantly adjusting and rationing it. The phrase “free time” for example, implies some degree of “not free time.”

      In context, the most loose definition of “grind” is “this is taking longer than I want it to.”


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