Procrastination Amplification: Punditry on MMOs and games in general.

The Allure of Repetition

I haven’t had an MMO to grind in for a while, nor any other game that requires mindless repetition. Instead, the games I’ve played have either been captivating or taxing on my mental capacities leaving my mind in the state of complete focus on the game. Conventional wisdom would say that this is a good thing and I would be the first to point out that a good game aims at getting the player into exactly that state. Yet I find myself missing something.

[This post was written in advance because I am on holiday. Please excuse the lack of actuality, I won’t be able to respond to current events that happen while I’m away.]

When you are really deep into a game, everything is great. Dragon Age: Origins was an example of such a game were I didn’t even think about thinking about something different while playing the game. Other games, however, are captivating enough to require my attention but not interesting enough to provide full entertainment on their own. Playing Starcraft II is fun, for example, and I played through the single player campaign quickly and with interest. Now that I am trying to replay it on the hardest difficulty mode I find myself slightly bored, wishing that I could do something on the side like watching a movie or listening to an audio-book.

With MMOs, this is usually quite possible because their day-to-day business doesn’t really require a lot of attention. I only ever managed to get more than one World of Warcraft character to 80 because I watched various TV shows on the side or listened to gaming podcasts. Starcraft II and many of the other games I like these days don’t allow for that though. They require too much attention to actually follow something else on the side but oftentimes don’t create enough excitement to be sufficient entertainment on their own.

Grinding in an MMO gives me the feeling of doing something “productive” (yeah, yeah, I know) while consuming some other form of interesting entertainment. (Which also isn’t enough to keep me interested on its own.) I’m quite aware that this might just be me being an odd input junkie, but I’m quite interesting if other people out there feel the same way. Do you play your MMO just to keep your hands busy while doing something else? Can bad game design sometimes actually be beneficial? Is it maybe even possible that game designers add grinding to their games (partly) to satisfy odd people like me?

  • I completely agree with you.. and I love combining two boring things into one awesome thing.. listening to talk radio + leveling wow characters can be surprisingly entertaining.. I guess I’m an odd input junkie as well

  • Spinks called this “knitting” over at a post on my blog a while ago. There’s definitely a place for mindless repetition.

    What bothers me is when such is *necessary* to progress past arbitrary gating mechanics. I don’t mind zoning out with some mindless grinding (or Sudoku, weeding, sanding, whatever), I just want to do it on my terms, when I want to.
    Tesh´s last blog post ..Why I Don’t Play Warhammer

  • Absolutely Tesh. Until recently I would have laughed at the idea of mindless grinding being any good at all. I’m just saying that I somewhat miss it now in other games. It being optional is an absolute key to a good game though.
    scrusi´s last blog post ..Quickie- A Little Something About the Wii