EDITOR’S NOTE: This editorial was written by MMOBomber and new contributor Steven Hawke. If you’d like to see more of Steven’s thoughts on a regular basis, please make sure to leave your thoughts and feedback in the comments below…even if you disagree with Steven’s editorial thoughts 🙂
When MMORPGs first released, one of the only tools that developers had to keep users subscribed for long periods of time was the concept of the grind, the “grind” being the necessity to do a monotonous task over and over in order to progress in the game. Since the days of endless repetition, games like Guild Wars 2 have redefined the leveling process by introducing exploration and puzzle solving into their leveling mix.
However, if the MMORPG community is beyond grinding, why are some of the arguably “grind-iest” games, such as Warframe and Runescape, the top-played games in the genre? The reality of the matter is that grinding can be very important to the health of an MMO, even if there is the ability to add more “less repetitive” content. The reason behind this is simple: Grinding leads to boredom and boredom leads to social activity. Social activity creates a healthy MMORPG.
If you have ever spent time fishing or woodcutting in Runescape, you know the monotony is enough to drive a gamer insane. That is why the areas become pseudo chatrooms on populated worlds. Friendships sprout as one logs into the same world, day after day, to talk to the same old band of grinders working towards their goal of max level. These relationships are what keep MMORPGs alive. Eventually, everyone will run out of content, but they won’t run out of people to talk to.
Warframe follows a very similar path, but instead of finding the same spot to grind, people often get auto-grouped together to repeat the same mission over and over. These missions usually aren’t very hard and lead to a lot of free time to chat with your teammates. Not only does Warframe have in-mission social strength, but it also has a booming regional chat to join when players need a break from the monotony. These chat windows may seem like small impacts, but social activity goes a long way in MMORPGs.
If an MMO kept players constantly moving, there may never be the repeated interaction that could lead to a permanent social connection. If players are bored, they should at least be in a common place to be bored. Although one could argue that there are better ways to instill social activity in an MMO without introducing the grind, as far as tried and true methods go, sometimes, the best friendships in games are formed at the most boring lulls.