Grinding refers to the playing time spent doing repetitive tasks within a game to unlock a particular game item or to build the experience needed to progress smoothly through the game. Grinding most commonly involves killing the same set of opponents over and over in order to gain experience points or gold. Although other game genres require some grinding, role-playing games (RPG) – specifically massively multiplayer online role-playing games – are the most notorious for requiring this type of time investment from players.
Requiring that players grind out experience points by fighting the same opponents over and over seems to run contrary to good game design. However, there are two elements to grinding that have made its inclusion inevitable in almost every RPG. These are:
The Achievement Factor: Players often feel a sense of achievement when they have ground their way up to a level where progression through the game becomes relatively easy. Knowing this, game designers include achievements outside of pure level progression. For example, defeating 100 opponents results in a new title (slayer, destroyer, master assassin or something similar) and possibly other rewards. Similar milestones may occur at 200, 300, 500, 1,000, and so on.
An Even Playing Field: Grinding allows players who are less skillful to catch up to and progress/compete with players who are better. In this way, no player is prevented from progressing through the game. The boredom of grinding is nothing compared to the boredom of being stuck with no ability to progress.
Grinding can be tedious, but it gives players a reason to keep playing rather than giving up and walking away.
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