Role Playing Grind
Greetings retro ladies and old-school gents, have you ever played an RPG? Of course you have, probably Final Fantasy or Dragon’s Quest or possibly a Phantasy Star. Anyway, if you’ve played any old RPG you’re familiar with the concept of “grinding” or repeatedly battling and killing lower-level enemies in previously explored areas simply to gain extra experience/skills, money or weapons. You typically do this if you need some cash for new/extra equipment or if you need some random item drops to craft something or if you just need an extra skill level or two to make your current destination a little easier. This, this “game mechanic” is complete and utter bullhockey. Why? BECAUSE SO MANY FRELLING RPGS REQUIRE YOU REPEATEDLY DO THIS TO BEAT THE SODDING GAME!!!
Allow me to explain. Say you start out on your epic quest to rid Fantasy Land of the Great Evil that is darkening the skies and frightening the children. You gather your supplies at Local Town and head off into Wilderness Forest where this Evil is said to be lurking. 321 random enemy encounters and 650 health & magic potions later, you emerge victorious. The townspeople are deeply thankful, but it seems that the Evil in the Forest was but one of many Evils possessing the Land. The townspeople tell you of monsters that have been sighted in the next town over. So you gather your gear again and venture out across Generic Plains to Next Town, fighting hundreds of random monster encounters along the way. Upon arriving and sizing up the dire situation from the townsfolk, you venture into the nearby Mysterious Cave Maze to once again vanquish evil. You are immediately slaughtered by a level 50 black orc paladin and a level 56 unholy Cthulu ground worm. Or say you manage to get past all the orc paladins and Cthulu worms but as soon as you confront the area boss, he insta-kills you on the first turn. You stare at the screen, confused, perplexed. You’ve been playing this game for several hours now and know the combat system fairly well. You even upgraded some of your weapons before entering this new area.
Well, it turns out that even though the game was telling you at every talkative NPC to “Go to Next Area and vanquish more Evil” it really wanted you to stay in the first area and grind. Grind and grind away on lethargic slimes and sniveling goblins until you’d at least doubled your “skill level” and looted enough cash to buy even better weapons and an ungodly amount of potions. This, children is what we call ARTIFICIALLY EXTENDING GAME LENGTH!!
Seriously, take any old school RPG game or game with heavy RPG elements and strip away the “required” level grinding. The game would be much shorter. Now take away random encounters. I’d be willing to bet without such heavy reliance on both those “game mechanics” RPGs would be at least half as long as they are. It brings the pace and flow of the game’s narrative (and RPGs are often known for their long, complicated narratives) to a complete standstill. And what benefit is all this grinding to the player? Is it really all that fun to keep fighting the same five enemies in the exact same area hours upon hours until a little number next to your character goes up a few ticks? I suppose if you’re one of those robots who gets an adrenaline rush every time a little numbers float up from characters and monsters, you might find grinding appealing or even relaxing. But honestly I think you could get the same rush playing with a calculator or an adding machine.
So, in conclusion: level grinding is like Viagra for video games.