Embrace the Grind

 by Robin Wieruch
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Thoughts about the intersection of gaming and entrepeneurship ...

It's been more than 15 years since I last actively played PC games. Back in the days it was all about Diablo (I/II), Warcraft (I/II/III), and Starcraft for me. When my classmates socialized in the physical world after school, I would just hang out with my guild in the World of Warcraft. It was my whole life back then (and I don't regret it).

What followed were years abroad, university, startups, and entrepeneurship without touching any computer games, because I knew I couldn't hold this addicition at bay if I ever started again...

Before my first son was born, I had to pick up some of my favorite games again. I installed old favorites (WoW) out of nostalgia, but also newer ones (Diablo III) that I wanted to explore. With my two hours of playtime every other day, I was a casual and not a hardcore player anymore. My younger self would laugh at me.

However, even though I had only two hours, I noticed a difference comparing the experience to playing games in the past. My characters were progressing too fast in these games without even being required to read the quests (read: tasks). Everything felt like it was on autopilot without any downtimes. There was something missing what every gamer knows as "the grind".

The grind in these games was known for:

  • "There are no quests for my level anymore, so I've to kill mobs (read: monsters) instead."
  • "I finished all quests in this area, let's find out where I can find new ones."
  • "I don't find these 20 mobs that I need to kill for this quest, so let's read the quest again."
  • "I need to farm 100 of these herbs to create flasks to kill this boss in an instance of 40 people where everyone has to farm 100 items of something to accomplish the goal.".

Games these days shifted from (challenge) => reward to a function of () => reward. While everything is engineered towards fast feedback loops with high rewards, no one has to put any effort into it anymore. Players enjoy a high grade of convenience for the sake of keeping the levels of dopamine high, but they miss the experience of putting work into it.

There are lots of lessons learned that my younger self took from playing computer games back in the days. One of these lessons for my later life as entrepeneur was taking on challenges that matched my level of skill (flow), putting time and effort into these challenges (deep work), and earning the rewards based on these parameters.

If these input parameters get lost for the new generations of players, they are not going to embrace the grind. They will miss out on this life lesson that was unconsciously weaved into the brains of none casual gamers of my generation. While it's obvious why the gaming industry applies these changes, they decrease the potential pool of lessons learned as a side-effect.

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