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.

RuneScape 7

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.

2013 in Free-to-Play Games: By the Numbers 4

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.

15 Readers Commented

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  1. ElusiveXTreasure on January 28, 2017

    I agree to a point that it can contribute to social interaction. However, I do not believe it is the sole reason, or even the most effective or common reason. Rather I think group-required activities that actually involved the need to work as a team promote communication and long-term friendships. And I mean something beyond auto-grouping. That tends to do the opposite for a number of reasons: first off, the content tends to be easier so it can be achieved in this way, therefore less teamwork is required. And secondly, since no one had to communicate to form the group in the first place, no one tends to try to communicate during the activity. Now I’ll admit that I have moods where I want less social interaction, but the possibility for better social interaction should always be there.

    • ElusiveXTreasure on January 28, 2017

      Sorry, had an issue there… all in all I found this a really fun read. Grats Steven! And a hearty welcome! Hope to see more!

    • lel on January 31, 2017

      Try playing literally any objective/team based game available now and try to say what you said again with a straight face. Games that force teamwork have the most toxic communities you can possibly find, and rarely does anyone focus on the goal which generates even more hate for/from your fellow humans.

      • Ghostcart on March 9, 2017

        I’ve actually found team based PvE games to have the best communities, with team based PvP games having the worst.

  2. Furry fury on January 26, 2017

    I know a lot of grinding games but that does not mean it’s good everytime, grind too much and someone will realize it’s becoming boring and unfair for some people especially when gameplay is so lacking and repeatable and sometimes TOO easy to beat, and we all know the point of “grinding” Is getting better items obviously to make things a little bit easier or rather TOO easy but of course pro people does not always want to be too op because reasonable people will always think it’s unfair no matter who is using it some does not even care aslong as they dominate other players for example the horrible grinding 3rd person sci fi shooter game DEFIANCE,as we all know grinding can be a good thing and a bad thing mainly because it’s for the GAMEPLAY so we dont have to be a good thing sometimes all good things must come to an end.

  3. louis on January 25, 2017

    Interesting, but most MMO are boring after a few dozens hours,so that doesn’t explain much.

  4. Ultra_Ninja on January 23, 2017

    The most interesting article of mmobomb i’ve ever read !

  5. Tsandsoup on January 22, 2017

    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.
    Quote of the year

  6. Tobias on January 22, 2017

    I can only say, that I would like to see some more of his work on this site.

  7. Hellsworth on January 19, 2017

    Hat’s off! Always nice to see a new adition and different points of view for things! Grind is Grind, nowadays I’m more concerned over free rewarding systems that keep players hooked on a daily basis than the actual “Play to get” part, what does not seem at first to be a grind, in fact, in the long run IS… as an example I leave you from Warframe one of these cases, Primed Fury and Primed Vigor are rewards that are given to the player at specific day logins, these rewards while not being absolutly essential create this objective that turn your daily login in a “grind” specifically I’m coming up on the day 300 reward (Primed Vigor) and looking back this makes me think how much of “grind” can we put into things and for how long is this even acceptable before it is considered an addiction specially knowing these rewards cannot be achieved in any other form.

  8. Joey on January 19, 2017

    Preach good sir! I come from FFXI and SWG as my first MMOs and I enjoyed those games because of the people and relationships I formed while playing. Having to spend time gathering people for a party allowed everyone time to chat and form statics. Most of the time in games now even if you are partied up with something like and instanced dungeon with a party finder nobody even wants to communicate. It’s just min/max STFU and lemme get to max level bullshit.

  9. Todoran on January 19, 2017

    more! Steven Hawke please MM…. hire him ASP!

  10. Ian on January 18, 2017

    I see your point about using the monotony to encourage social interaction, however, is that really the best way to accomplish that goal? One of my favorite MMOs was Warhammer Online, which many didn’t care for. What set WAR apart from the crowd for me was the incredibly complex and interconnected RvR system (Realm versus Realm, territory control large scale blended open world and instanced pvp). RvR took place at the high levels across nine different zones, and occasionally spilled over into each side’s capital city. It was an incredibly complex operation to run for players. Guild leaders became a sort of defacto captain or general in the field directing players from one location to the next, assigning them to scout, defend, harass, taunt, and siege their opponents. I hadn’t really communicated with other players much before getting into RvR, but following orders and communicating with your side was essential to success, so I got more chatty. I ended up in a guild for several months, which still hasn’t happened again since. WAR solved the player communication problem by giving players a positive reason to communicate; it made you more powerful. Boredom is a negative reason for communication. It may also lead to forging bonds, much as I did with my classmates in PE as a kid, but it could just as easily result in the player leaving the game entirely. Despite what the AAA release schedule might imply, the variety of games available today is greater than ever before. I think anyone who attempts to use repetition as a mechanic in this way is being very reckless. However, as you point out, it’s obviously very successful for some games. I wouldn’t risk it on my own though.