“The grind” in the MMO world refers to the laborious and often repetitive acts ingame, acts, or steps which are required by the players to advance in the games. Traditionally “the grind” refers to the often slow ingame leveling process, but it is also used to refer to the acquisition of gold, faction reputation points, gear, tokens, crafting materials, et cetera. It is the butt of many MMO jokes; the cause of many heartaches and sleepless nights among the nerds; and, it is something that most MMO gamers have been complaining about since day one.
I am not one of those gamers however. You see I have never been one to complain about the grind in these MMOs – in fact, I have always enjoyed the feeling of growth as you (slowly but surely) move up in levels and ranks. It is a feeling that I have always associated with the grind, along with the sense of pride that comes with every NPC and faction saved; the sense of accomplishment with every piece of gear or coin earned; and of warm feeling of camaraderie with every fellow gamer encountered… For me, the grind is a big part of the journey, a crucial part of the overall gaming experience.
But alas, times have changed, and the levelling game has become less and less with each new game released. Nowadays the gaming market has become dangerously crowded, with more and more games out there competing for the gamers’ attentions. Gamers have also become increasingly more fickle, as such the games themselves have also gone through dramatic changes in order to keep up. The focus of the developers are no longer on the journey, but instead on customer retention. Instead of the traditional slow steady grind, gamers are now faced with constant mad bursts of contents. Contents, in which constant upgrades and maintenance are often required by the players to keep up with the rest of the community. For example, contents like the daily quests, weekly raids and token grinds, which ultimately promotes and rewards constant daily attendance, and punishes and alienates those who are unable to play 24/7.
For better or for worse, the games, and the very nature of “the grind” itself have changed. No longer does the grind give the warm promise of accomplishment – instead, players now live in a cold constant state of fear for the loss of future rewards. Thanks to the modern grind, it feels like many of us have become prisoners to our own games. To me, it feels we are paying these companies billions of dollars a day, just to keep ourselves locked in these vicious cycles of fear and imprisonment.
Checking my Twitter feed today I noticed that someone had made a comment a few days back, that “the grind is so much less than it was traditionally”. That comment got me thinking about the current state of the MMO grind, and also made me reflect on my own feelings on the topic as well. While I am not oblivious to the fact the world has changed with the times, and along with it our games and our gaming habits, I was however oblivious to just how much sadness and anger I now hold towards the MMORPG genre in general. It shocked me to see just how jaded I have become. How could something that once brought me so much joy and pleasure, now brings about so much hatred and contempt? Heh, I guess now I know how it feels to be married. (And yes, that WAS a joke.)