Geek Proud, GeekOut.

Behind the Grind

The article that you are about to read contains a strong opinion. The opinion that follows is mine and does not represent the entire GeekOut collective.

I’m going to talk about unnecessary grinding; No, not the over-enthusiastic form of dancing or indeed the thing that people of certain extreme sports like to do. Nope, the gaming kind.

First of all, take a deep breath. Have you done that? Good. I had to before I wrote this, but I’m not sure if it helped or not. Anyway… onwards!

If you have read any gaming media within the last few months, then you will probably be aware of the controversy surrounding the release of Star Wars Battlefront 2. It seems like fairly typical form these days; to release games that require you to put in a serious amount of grinding, with very little to gain. Luckily game developers and the publishers have thought of this and totally have you in mind, when they offer you to spend more money in order to get in-game credits. After all, you have a busy life and why would you want to follow the natural form of progression when you can just pay to get to the front of the queue?

The worst offenders of this sort of behaviour are games that require you to do this, just so that you can get the special characters and/or weaponry that really should have come with the game in the first place. The term pay to win has been banded around with many of the more recent games and it’s gone way past ridiculous if you ask me. I for one am not impressed, so I’m voting with my wallet with a big fat X against the option of not buying into it.

The straw that broke the camels back so to speak was a story that rose up from Reddit, where a user by the name of lowberg put up a picture of a robot they had built to help them with the grind. It looked like an Arduino made out of some bits of wood and lollipop sticks. As far as I understood, it would join a game and move around just to get the joining credits. Fellow Reddit user F0ngen went a little bit further with innovation and employed the use of two elastic bands strapped to the controller so that they did not get kicked for being AFK.

Now the behaviour of these particular gamers could be classed as a very inventive form of trolling, which is probably quite unfair to players that want to play the game properly, but I feel that EA and DICE need to take some of the blame. Reading this story gave me a mix of emotions; I was impressed by the ingenuity of humans to circumvent the ridiculous system that EA and DICE have built for Battlefront 2. Then came anger. I was angry at the creators for turning a past time that I love into a job. Or even worse one of those idle clicker games in a similar style to a cookie clicker game, and yet the game costs around £50?

I was angry at them for almost forcing their players to resort to such methods, just so they could get the full experience. Then came the reality of sadness; sad that it has come to this. I began to wonder if we have just run out of ideas. Are we just elongating games by making them grind heavy, so that companies can justify the time and effort that was spent developing it? Do companies like using micro transaction traps to help them fund the server’s for their “games as a service”? Have gamers become complacent to companies forcing us to grind in today’s games?

Not all gaming companies have produced games where you need to needlessly grind. GTA San Andreas had quite a nice system, where your main character, Carl, would improve the more you time you spent doing certain things. If you follow that, then look at what Rockstar has done with GTA Online. It is well known for being a massive grind fest and very unfair to people who can’t afford to spend real money, just to get in-game cash. It could be argued that this is a free add-on to what was already a £50 game, and anyone taking on a game like GTA Online is fully prepared to grind their way up, in some way shape or form.

From what I have seen, Tekken 7 is a good example of a game that requires grinding for its online part, but again does not limit the player. You are only limited by your skill, and nothing else. The veil between grinding being worthwhile and the grind getting in the way of actually making the game enjoyable seems quite thin. If gaming companies reworked their credit system to be more skill based, or they make the points buy things that are purely cosmetic, then people may not try to circumnavigate the system. I think as humans innovation is within our DNA, so we will always find a way to make a dull task easier and automated.

But the question I’m asking is: Should it be possible for games to be dull and repetitive?

Games should be exciting, involving and encourage you to naturally grow in skill. It should never result in the players devising a way to get around the grind.

Putting a serious amount of hours into a game is the sort of thing I would expect in an MMORPG. My history with Eve Online will tell you how much I am prepared to grind in a game like this. I recently played No Mans Sky, and it did not take me long to figure out the level of grind in that game was just too much for me. It began to feel unfun and unnecessary very quickly. It’s still a very strange thing, for me to see this sort of gameplay being added to games that do not fit the MMORPG genre. If the game was free, then I would understand the reason behind it a bit more, but my mind just tells me that companies like EA and DICE have forgotten what it’s like to create a well-balanced game out of the box.

I’m going to refer you all to my article on Housemarque; go play one of their games and tell me that it’s not worth every penny you pay for it. Can you say the same about Battlefront 2? I’ll tell you what I’d like to see – I want to see a significant change over the next few years, away from this pay-to-win, uninventive gameplay and back to a more traditional form. If you want to see the same, then my advice is to vote with your wallet. Let us know what your thoughts are on games that lock away the content for no apparant reason! Give us your feedback via the comment section or over on Facebook, Twitter or Reddit

Love and rockets
– Chris

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