Does grind make video games better? I have battled with my opinions on grind for the last few months. I used to consider Destiny my favorite game of all time. I was young and lost. I was searching for something to give my life meaning, Destiny filled that void for a few years. I enjoyed Destiny because I put a lot of time into it and I thought that because I kept playing the game it must be one of my favorites of all time. I think the real reason I played Destiny was because my friends also played Destiny and I liked playing games with them. Destiny was great at keeping me busy, but being able to keep a player busy is not something that I want from a video game.
Destiny was a game full of grind, but what is grind really?
Grind gives dedicated players something to work toward once they’ve unlocked every new area, beaten every boss, and more or less “done everything” in a game. There are no more cut scenes, no new areas to explore, and no more story revelations; there’s just a spreadsheet to gradually fill. Grind isn’t for everyone, but assuming a game itself is fun on a basic level, it can give people who need one a “reason” to play beyond the moment-to-moment pleasure of game play.
If you take out the grind that occurred at the end of Destiny, the game was terrible. It had pretty graphics and great gunplay, but the story was pitiful. The in game economy was tedious, it only got better by the end of the fourth expansion. And the random drops often forced you to use weapons that you did not like. It is no wonder that the game received mediocre reviews at launch.
Destiny 2 was arguably a better game than Destiny, but had a much worse end game grind.
Monster Hunter: World is all about the grind. So of course all the people I used to play Destiny with are regularly grinding for new materials, which create better weapons, which allow you to grind for new materials, etc. The grind in Monster Hunter: World is better than Destiny 2, because you can choose which loot pool you want to grind from. This gives the player more control over the loot that they receive. In Monster Hunter: World, if you want the Anjanath Great Sword, you farm Anjanath for the required materials. In Destiny 2, if you want the new Prometheus Lens, you just keep playing the game and maybe you will get lucky. Or maybe you will get a duplicate drop.
Duplicate drops are okay in Monster Hunter: World because the player is able to craft all the weapons and armor directly. Gear does not explode out of a dead monster’s carcass. Instead you harvest materials like fangs, scales, tails, hides, etc. from a defeated monster and then use those materials in order to create the weapons that you want.
But I am still thinking about grind as a reason to play a game beyond the moment-to-moment pleasure of gameplay. I like hunting monsters in Monster Hunter: World, and I like playing with my friends even more. But I do not care to farm monsters for materials. I like playing the main story and usually those missions give me enough materials to create a few pieces of gear. Then I play the next story mission where I will encounter a new monster and new weapons that make my hold stuff outdated anyway.
I am looking forward to Sea of Thieves because it places emphasis on the moment to moment gameplay. The game has grind, but the grind seems inconsequential. As pirates you only care about your looks, there isn’t a leveling system or upgrade tree. I am sure that reviewers will complain that their is no meaningful end game grind. But who needs grind when you can just go to the bar drink yourself into a stupor, throw up into a bucket, and then heave onto your friends? Monster Hunter: World has a great arm wrestling area and a tavern where you can drink with friends, but it goes ignored in favor of the grind.
Grind adds value to games because it gives players reasons to replay existing content. But does grind add meaningful gameplay elements to games or just busy work? Grind keeps you busy, but I prefer a game that rewards play time with player skill development. I do not need a player level to tell me that I am a better player. Practice will make a better player in Sea of Thieves and then I will be better. All the while I will be enjoying my time with my friends.
Something to think about,
Jake “prettyboyplaid” Fredericks