Grinding (gaming)

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In video gaming, grinding is performing repetitive tasks for gameplay advantage. [1] [2] Many video games use different tactics to implement, or reduce the amount of grinding in play. The general use of grinding is for "experience points", or to improve a character's level. However, the behavior is sometimes referred to as pushing the bar, farming or catassing.



Grinding is a controversial subject among players. Many do not enjoy it, and disparage it as a symptom of poor or uninspired game design. Others embrace it, claiming that all games feature grinding to some extent, or claim to enjoy the practice of regular grinding. [3] Some games, especially free-to-play games, allow players to bypass grinding by paying additional fees.

In an example of grinding in MMORPG, it can be advantageous to repeatedly kill AI-controlled monsters, using basically the same strategy over and over again to advance one's character level and to unlock content. Grinding may be required by some games to unlock additional features such as level progression or additional items.

Synonyms for grinding include the figurative terms treadmilling [3] (a comparison with exercise treadmills) and pushing the bar [4] (it can be a reference to a weightlifter "pushing the bar" on a bench press, over and over to get muscle gains, or a reference to Skinner boxes in which animals, having learned that pushing a button will sometimes produce a treat, will devote time to pushing the bar over and over again [ citation needed ], or also can be a graphical reference to push the character's experience bar to higher values)[ citation needed ]. Related terms include farming (in which the repetition is undertaken in order to obtain items, relating the activity to tending a farm field), and catassing, which refers to extended or obsessive play sessions. Used as a noun, a grind (or treadmill) is a designed in-game aspect which requires the player to engage in grinding.

Grinding has led to some players programming scripts, bots, macros and other automation tools to perform the repetitive tasks. This is usually considered a form of hacking or an exploit by the game's developers, and will often times result in a ban[ citation needed ]. Due to the controversial subject of grinding, this act is sometimes, but not always, frowned upon in the gaming community.


Several answers have been suggested for the question of why players grind. A major motivating factor is the players' desire to pursue what appears to be the game's ultimate goal, which for many games is to reach the highest level. [1] Sometimes players might actually enjoy repetitive tasks as a way of relaxing, especially if performing the task has a persistent, positive result. [5]

One reason that is less influenced by player choice is a lack of game content or to be able to battle stronger enemies. [2] If the player experiences all interesting content at the current level before reaching the next objective, the only alternative might be for the player to grind to the next level. [1] "Interesting content" is key here since the player might have been given "new content" that is too similar to previous content to be considered interesting by the player. [note 1] [6]

Additionally, the players may grind for the enjoyment of being better at the game. Putting in the time to grind leads the player to gain experience and level up. Increases in level often come with additional statistical boosts and new abilities, which in turn allow the player to defeat stronger enemies. Time invested in grinding is usually related to strength or ability in the game. This relationship is encouraging to players, consistently rewarding their grinding effort. [2]


While grinding's potential to cause players to stop being entertained may be seen as contradictory to good game design, it has been justified in several different ways. The first explanation is that it helps ensure a level playing field. [6] According to the Pareto principle, players with better aim, faster reactions, or more extensive tactical knowledge will quickly dominate the entire game, frustrating the now-powerless vast majority. By creating a direct correlation between in-game power and time spent grinding, every player has the potential to reach the top 20% (although the Pareto principle will still apply to the amount of time spent grinding). [7]

The problem may not be that talent and skill are rewarded, but that the rewards are based on relative talent and skill. If only the top 20% of a game's players are rewarded, 80% must be receiving little reward, even if objectively they are highly talented. If there is no hope in the future of these players being rewarded, they will likely leave the game, causing the population to shrink, and thus reducing the number of people who can be in the top 20%. Grinding has the benefit that, although only 20% of the population may be rewarded at any given time, 100% of the population will have the potential to be rewarded in the future, and will have no reason to quit. [6]

Though grinding is used to provide a "level playing field", this effect could be achieved with any time-consuming behavior that is accessible to all and provides game advancement; The behavior need not be tedious or repetitive, as the term grinding generally implies. For example, in a game where advancement is gained by killing monsters, the game could provide such a huge variety of monsters and environments that no two kills are ever the same. As long as all players remained equally capable of killing the monsters, the same leveling-off effect would be generated. Thus, the "level playing field" effect is considered by some to be a misleading attempt to hide the real reason for grinding: unwillingness or inability to budget sufficient content resources to produce a varied game.

To solve the grinding issue, E McNeill proposes that "the most effective path to victory should also be the most fun". [8] For example, challenging tasks should give better rewards than easy tasks.

Another alternative to grinding is to remove designer-defined objectives, leaving players free to do whatever they want. This creates a new problem where many players might be confused about what they are supposed to do, or they might lack the motivation to do much of anything in the virtual world. [6]

Players of subscription-based online games often criticize grinds as a heavy-handed attempt to gain profit. The most interesting and challenging gameplay is often only available to characters at the highest levels, who are those strong enough to participate in raids or player versus player combat.[ citation needed ] Grinding is seen as a reason to increase the amount of time it takes to reach these levels, forcing the player to pay more subscription fees along the way.

The IGDA Online Games Special Interest Group has noted that level treadmills are part of the addictive quality of MMORPGs that caters to those who play more than 25 hours a week. [9] Another criticism of the entire leveling concept and level playing field approach is that it often allows the player to avoid difficult strategic or reflexive challenges that one might encounter when fighting powerful opponent challenges. By spending a large amount of time battling weaker or easily defeated characters (a practice known as bottomfeeding), players can gain levels so as to have little difficulty vanquishing the more difficult enemy. [10] In contrast, enthusiasts of the genre have objected to the term grind as an oversimplification of MMO gameplay. They argue that, like traditional role-playing games, there is no goal in MMORPGs other than to enjoy the experience. However, some would argue that in traditional RPGs, players play to act out their character as well; in fact, some players deliberately create weak characters because they find them interesting to play.[ citation needed ]

It has also been observed[ by whom? ] that intense grinding can actively damage the role-playing aspect of a game by making nonsense of the simulated world. A classic example of this occurred in Star Wars Galaxies , where skills were improved by using them. It was therefore possible to see groups of three people, in which: one person was repeatedly deliberately falling over, taking a small amount of damage each time; another person was healing the first, increasing one's healing skill, and taking "stress" damage oneself; a third person was dancing for the other, relieving their "stress" damage and increasing their dancing skill. Star Wars Galaxies later revised the skill system with a sweeping overhaul called the New Game Experience (NGE). A number of players left the game afterwards, claiming that NGE made the game simplistic.

Various games' approaches to issues of grinding

See also


  1. Game designer Raph Koster gives an example of "Fireball VI" being uninteresting.


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  3. 1 2 Mäyrä, Frans (2008). An Introduction to Game Studies. SAGE. p. 132. ISBN   978-1849205399.
  4. "Grinding games: how do they keep it engaging?". Plarium . 2018-04-12. Archived from the original on 2018-05-30. Retrieved 2018-05-29.
  5. Lawley, Liz (2006-08-05). "In Praise of the Grind". Terra Nova. Archived from the original on 2009-02-06. Retrieved 2009-03-06. [...] I want to relax, to clear my mind, to do something repetitive that provides visible (to me, not to you) and lasting evidence of my efforts [...]
  6. 1 2 3 4 Koster, Raph (2007-04-23). "The game without treadmills". Archived from the original on 2008-05-12. Retrieved 2007-09-05.
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  8. Grinding and the Burden of Optimal Play Archived 2014-07-22 at the Wayback Machine - E McNeill, Gamasutra, 21 July 2014
  9. Dunin, Elonka (ed.) (March 2003). "IGDA Online Games White Paper, 2nd Edition" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2004-09-20.CS1 maint: Extra text: authors list (link)
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  11. "MapleStory - A Free Massively Multiplayer Online Role-playing Game". Archived from the original on 2010-01-12. Retrieved 2010-05-28.
  12. Christian Stöcker (2006-08-25). "An Interview with the Maker of "World of Warcraft"". Spiegel online . Archived from the original on 2011-07-16. Retrieved 2009-12-17.
  13. "More Quests and Prizes Coming to The Witching Hour | ROBLOX Blog | Informing and empowering ROBLOXians". 2013-10-25. Archived from the original on 2016-06-29. Retrieved 2016-05-29.