Automaton Grinding

December 1, 2008

With Persona 4 right around the corner, I found myself visiting the world of Persona 3 FES. This will mean that I am currently immersed in two a RPGs: the CRPG Fallout 3 and the JRPG Persona 3. Gah! This will probably mean that I will have to unplug both my console and my computer if I intend to get any work done these final weeks. But one aspect in particular with these RPGs is the addictiveness of the grind. This, of course, occurs in all games of length and it is my largest detractor of the medium.

It is the moment when the immersion and charm of the game wears off and the player is left merely going through the motions of playing not enjoying or even experiencing the game. They are left mindlessly playing. I have reached that point in both Fallout 3 and Persona 3 where I often find myself becoming extremely disinterested in the story and focused on leveling up my character for the sake of it. It’s what I suspect most MMO players do when they aren’t performing raids. It is the shutting off of the brain where the interactive becomes more attune to the passive.

The question eventually arises: Am I enjoying this? How can you tell? It is similar to when a fan watches a television series after it has jumped the shark. They are more attached to the routine of watching the show than actually enjoying its content. It is a problem with many long playthrough games and with length becoming an unwarranted desire of consumers I only see this problem extending onward. The grind of an RPG is just as bad as artificial length in other games such as the fetch quest. More often games with extended length detract from a greater shorter experience that could have been.

But maybe I am being too hard on the grind. One can say that the sense of routine and boredom can be related to the sense of dailiness one finds when they play an RPG. This is especially apt with games like Fallout 3 or Persona 3 when the course of a day and the passage of time is almost imperative and necessary for the game’s narrative and experience. There is almost a bit a genius in how the grind in integrated in these games where you would do the same tasks repeatedly in a game the same way it would occur in actual daily life.

Still, the automaton grinding can be infuriating to no end both as a player and a critical theorist. It is the dumbing down of what one would think the main attraction of the interactive media to be. You become less of a participate and more of a witness. Looking at the monotony of RPGs and MMOs one wonders why this has not been a major criticism as it has in other game genres. Perhaps it is the sense of rewards such as experience or loot. Or perhaps it is something we except from the genre. Regardless, I know I will be killing (#) ____ once again when I enter the game world and “loving” every second of it.



  1. That grind factor sits right on my enjoyment threshold. I always feel it to be pointless if I grind at any length. I have tried a bunch of MMOs and can’t justify a subscription fee yet (I’m banking on Star Wars: The Old Republic). Even after many attempts with different character classes I still cannot enjoy Oblivion. I remain skeptical that I can enjoy Fallout 3 but I am tempted to try especially if I get a sweet lunchbox out of the equation. I don’t want to admit that I’m purely anti-grind, but that facts are hitting pretty hard these days.

  2. If you didn’t enjoy Oblivion don’t hold your breath for Fallout 3. It’s essentially the same game mechanics but with a new skin.

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