A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Grinding Gaming


Yesterday I spent a fair amount of time doing the same three missions over and over again in Star Trek Online. These three missions were designated “Special Task Force” missions, or Player versus Environment group missions. The three in question are called “The Cure”, “Infection”, and “Khitomer Accord” (not that I expect the names to mean much but just in case I mention them by name, you’ll know what I’m talking about).

I intentionally did these missions over and over again. Each time I did them, I netted a particular item (known as an EDC) and when I had enough I was able to procure some special stuff for my ship. That said, this article isn’t about Star Trek Online so much.

I’m talking about repetitive gameplay and the threshold for that repetition. At what point does doing the same thing in a game over and over again no longer feel rewarding? I often refer to these Korean “grind-a-thon” games (my exemplar for this category is Ragnarok Online and it was made in Korea) and I’m not always so glowing in my reviews of them. After a fashion, all these games feel the same: you start at the beginning, you get quests you’re feeling good… and then… nothing but monster killing for HOURS before you realize that this is all there is and all there will ever be unless you find SOMETHING to give you purpose.

When I was playing Ragnarok Online, I was playing with friends. I had a build in mind and I was going for it. I spent time looking for particular equipment and loot. In retrospect, it was mind-numbing and today I have little tolerance for such things. So, why was I okay with grinding STFs in STO yesterday?

STFs have a 1 hour cooldown, so you can’t immediately do them again. There were three of them and I was doing them one after the other (sometimes having to wait a bit for cooldowns to finish). I was doing them to get some particular equipment that, comparatively speaking to the Omega and MACO/Honor Guard equipment, was relatively easy to get. I was doing this for me because it was to ensure I would have fun later on. I wasn’t doing this because I felt an obligation to do it. I wasn’t doing it because it was for the betterment of the group or any equivalent nonsense. I just sat down and had a pretty damn good time messing around.

I do have to mention that I was laughing a bit during my STF run yesterday. This was brought on by the revelation that I was shooting “Fruity Pebbles” since I’m using turrets of nearly every energy type for fun. That’s right, I’m doing less damage to have a more visually entertaining experience. I’m also flying a ship where I don’t have to do all that much: the Kar’fi Battle Carrier. I have four frigates that I maintain and they do most of the work.

ANYway, I’m not a fan of grinding for little reason. I need a story to pull me along, to compel me. Lacking a story, goals need to be obviously attainable. By this I really mean that I need to see progress with every little thing I do. I don’t want to feel like I’m scaling a mountain (like with some of the Starbase projects when you’re the only one contributing). When I get to my goal, I want to see drastic things. I just completed the Borg Set and so my ship looks very different and has some cool abilities now as a result.

Grinding for cause, awesome. Grinding because that’s the only way to get anywhere at all? Blech. Or maybe that’s the same thing just with different points of view. I love Star Trek Online and I love my ships. I was never into Ragnarok Online much and I only played it because of my friends. Tenuous reasoning at best.

I think I’m going to go play some more Star Trek Online.

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “A monotonous and unvarying order was established in my whole economy. Everything unable to move stood in its appointed place, and everything that moved went its calculated course: my clock, my servant, and I, myself, who with measured pace walked up and down the floor. Although I had convinced myself that there is no repetition, it nevertheless is always certain and that by being inflexible and also by dulling one’s powers of observation a person can achieve a sameness that has a far more anesthetic power than the most whimsical amusements and that, like a magical formulary, in the course of time also become more and more powerful.” – Søren Kierkegaard, “Repetition, A Venture in Experimental Psychology”

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