We had a really good discussion going on Ventrilo tonight about what grinding means. So many times people think grinding is a negative, and it’s used by many I know as a reason for quitting a game. In my opinion, unless everything you are doing is 100% dynamic all the time, you are grinding. I do not think grinding is bad, though. I make a distinction between grinding and repetitive.
I have a friend who really hates grinding, but I think he means he hates repetitive gameplay because he’s now playing Darkfall. Darkfall is a huge grind, but rarely repetitive. I completely agree that ‘repetitive’ sucks. I think about grinding in EQ. We would find a spot and kill monsters. In a sense, this was repetitive; however, the social element made the experience dynamic because I was always meeting new people and learning about them. In many ways, no two groups were the same, despite killing the same mobs in the same location.
I’ve just added another element to complicate things: perception. Perception, or in this case immersion, trumps all — even repetition.
Options are also a huge factor. If something is repetitive, like killing the same monsters, then options are mandatory. In DAOC I could kill mobs in one of 6+ zones or I could go to BGs or I could go to RvR. EQ was the same way. Games are far too linear and the grind, whether quest or kill, is inescapable. The same can be said for end-game activities. If all you have is one or two raids and you do the same bosses every week for gear to be able to go to the next two to get gear, the grind is too obvious.
To reiterate, grinding isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many games function on the grind. If the grind is too repetitive or poorly masked by immersion then players will become aware it exists. That’s when the problems start.