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.
Hey, 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.