Any of us who’ve played an RPG have encountered the irritating necessity to battle low level monsters repeatedly in order to gather their meagre experience points so that one day we’ll achieve the level desired in order to overcome that upcoming boss battle who wiped the floor with us the first time. Even reading that sentence must stir up those begrudging hours that we’ve lost grinding towards the next level. Level grinding nowadays has become stigmatised, the reception of an RPG being greatly depreciated when too much grinding is needed. And yet as painful as it is to admit perhaps we are better with level grinding than without.
Level grinding teaches us a lesson that perhaps modern gamers don’t acknowledge. The focus of many games today ultimately rests on the player completing the game, providing an amazing interactive experience along the way without giving us a reason to give up on it midway. Sure with games being more mass produced than ever it’s understandable that players aren’t challenged too hard in order for us to keep buying certain products in a highly competitive market. This encourages us to choose our own difficulty level and I often find myself choosing the standard difficulty hoping to complete the game without too many issues. Yet this makes gaming a somewhat flying experience, we’re never forced to stop in the moment long enough to really appreciate what the game is making us perform. This can be highly detrimental to the RPG genre because they often rely on or are greatly enriched by what we can discover aside from the main storyline. Rather than try new methods or explore different avenues of progress, we glide through the one way of play until the game is over. There’s no work involved and this is where an important lesson is lost.
Life can be difficult at times; we can try repeatedly to succeed only to be stomped flat at every turn. Often with perseverance we can eventually succeed in what we want to do but this isn’t always the case. We can often compromise ourselves without truly achieving what we set out to do in the first place. Whether this is your love life, career or even the simple act of baking a pie often we give up the race and accept “that’ll do” of ourselves. Level grinding teaches us to defy that. There is a method to making progress, only we have to carve that out for ourselves. While sometimes progress can be achieved with a change of perspective, other times we simply have to grin and bear the long road while keeping the bigger picture in view. This becomes a means to an end rather than simply an end. If we have to beat up stray dogs for a few hours we will do because then we’ll finally be able to defeat those pesky tigers in the next area. And won’t that feel glorious when we can destroy those tigers with ease…
Well not necessarily. Once those tigers have been defeated, a dragon is more than likely waiting around the corner and the grinding will have to begin all over again. Once the dragon is defeated, maybe a demon or an alien? Perhaps Maester Seymour has another new transformation to destroy us with and we just want to cry out how unfair it is because we’ve worked so hard and still the game won’t let up and now we’ve thrown the control at the TV and now regret and depression take hold. Indeed life can be cruel and with every rise a fall is just lurking around the corner. But perhaps this is where level grinding is most important to us, because it teaches us to keep on trying because we all know the game has to end one day and after all that training the sweet euphoria of the end credits cannot be compared to anything. Cartman, Stan, Kyle and Kenny may have become horribly deformed but thanks to their efforts World of Warcraft was saved and playable once more. That couldn’t have been achieved without the slaying of low-level boars. Our plight of painful level-grinding may not be quite as elaborate but it still teaches us that we can challenge ourselves, struggle on through life and one day the quest will be over and the journey all the more fondly remembered.
That’s not to say committing to level grinding is easy; often nowadays the difficulty can be tweaked or the internet can provide a quick solution to our woes. These temptations are only a few button taps away and even the most stalwart of hearts crumble when for the 5th time the game has beaten us down into submission. It’s hard to keep going when a task can be so demoralising. Sometimes we must remember that we can choose whether a particular game is important for us to complete or we’re just wasting time over something that isn’t worth it in the end. As satisfying as it can be to complete the game, sometimes it’s a distraction from the more important one looming in the back of our minds, the one that’s even harder but so much more important to finish.
The simple task of level grinding can remind us how important it can be to persevere at what is important to us. We cannot always look towards a quick completion; sometimes we must play the long game because it can remind us what is truly significant in our lives. Thus the next time we play an RPG and the ugly task of level grinding looms its head, perhaps we should commit ourselves towards what is to come, for we will appreciate the effort we made by the end.