How Artificial Grinding Is Changing Games

Progression ain’t what it used to be.

If you study the most successful games closely, you’ll notice they tend to have one thing in common. Despite their obvious differences, MinecraftHalo 5: Guardians, Pokémon X and Y and Final Fantasy XV all feature a progression system of some kind, and it’s totally addictive (damn homo sapiens and our weakness for virtual rewards) We grind for experience points, better stats, and succumb to the lure of unlockable items—especially in a multiplayer game. In recent years, some developers have offered quicker ways of levelling up, namely through the oft-dreaded microtransaction system. Naturally, as Falcon explains, there’s more to grinding than meets the eye.

1. Well designed progression loops are key 

There are good grinds and bad grinds. The better ones gives players time to acclimatise to various weapons and powers.

2. Artificial grinding makes a game tedious

Experienced players can quickly grasp a game’s structure, so it’s useful to include optional tutorials instead of making everything mandatory.

3. Locking classes isn’t always the answer

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare prevents you from being able to access all rigs right away. Ideally, a perfectly balanced match would have all (or most) classes available, and this becomes a more pronounced issue when you have a big discrepancy between skill levels of competing teams.

4. Unbalanced matches tempt players into purchasing items

This is understandable, because even if you have a competitive streak, video games are supposed to be entertaining and feel relatively achievable.

5. Time sinks are like a lifetime investment

Progression is attainable via long-term effort. In other words, games that use complex progression systems (OverwatchLeague of LegendsWorld of Tanks) require a massive time investment in return for levelling up—so committing yourself to other games is typically out of the question.

What’s the worst example of artificial grinding you’ve encountered in the wild? Let us know in the comments.

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