Grinding (video games)

In video games, grinding is performing repetitive tasks, usually for a gameplay advantage or loot but in some cases for purely aesthetic or cosmetic benefits. Popularized by Secret of Mana and Phantasy Star IV in 1993, many video games use different tactics to implement, or reduce, the amount of grinding in the gameplay. The general use of grinding is for "experience points", or to improve a character's level. In addition, 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 either that all games feature grinding to some extent or that they enjoy grinding. Some games, especially free-to-play games, allow players to bypass grinding by paying additional fees.
Grinding in MMORPG can be advantageous, using the same strategy to repeatedly kill AI-controlled monsters to advance one's character level and unlock the content. Some games may require grinding to unlock additional features or items.
Synonyms for grinding include the figurative terms treadmilling and pushing the bar. Related terms include farming, and catassing, which refers to extended or obsessive play sessions. Used as a noun, a grind is a designed in-game aspect which requires the player to engage in grinding.
Some players may program scripts, bots, macros, and other automation tools to perform repetitive tasks. This is usually considered a form of hacking or an exploit by game developers and may result in a ban. Due to the controversial subject of grinding, this act is sometimes, but not always, frowned upon in the games community.


Players' desire to reach the highest possible level often motivates grinding. Alternatively, players might enjoy performing repetitive tasks as a way of relaxing, especially if the task has a persistent positive result.
A need to grind may result from lack of game content or the inability to battle stronger enemies. If the player experiences all of a level's interesting content before reaching the next objective, but is not powerful enough to proceed, grinding may be the only available gameplay option. "Interesting" content is distinct from merely new content which is too similar to previous content to be considered interesting by the player.
Players may also grind simply to become better at the game, gaining experience and leveling up. Level increases often come with additional statistical boosts and new abilities which allow the player to defeat stronger enemies, which in turn rewards and encourages grinding.


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. 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%.
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 a 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.
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". 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.
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. 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. 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, players can gain levels to have little difficulty vanquishing the more difficult enemy.
It has also been observed 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. Several players left the game afterward, claiming that NGE made the game simplistic.

Various games' approaches to issues of grinding