What Pokemon Taught Me (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Grind)

On Valentine’s Day this year, Nekochan gave me Pokemon Y.* I’ve been pretty engrossed in it ever since, and yesterday I noticed something startling- I’ve spend 45 hours on the game so far.

Forty-five hours- almost two full days of time- and I was only on Route 10. I had spent all that time grinding around seventy pokemon to level twenty, and my “main party” of favourites to level 30.

Not bad for a guy who has repeated said he hates grinding. It stills boggles my mind.

So, I found grinding to be fun, and even fulfilling. How did this ever occur? I have a few thoughts, and I’d like to share them with you now.

Rule #1: Grinding Must Be Easy
With Pokeymans, especially in the newer versions, you’re generally earning a level every 2-3 battles against an enemy of equal level. This is nice and fast-paced, and you never feel like you’re wasting your time.

With the help of an item called the “Exp. Share” every players automatically gets around level seven, your whole party of pokeymans get half XP even when they don’t participate in the battle. Not only does this help a great deal with leveling that Magikarp, it also means that if you want to level a pokemon you don’t have to do anything more complicated than having them in your party.

Rule #2: Grinding Must Give You Something New
On top of getting the normal stat-ups associated with a level, every 4-5 levels a pokemon will learn a new move. Granted, you’re not going to be taking every every new move that comes along, but the important thing is that every twenty battles or so, you have to make a decision that could give you something new to play with. But even this can get out of control…

Rule #3: Grinding Must Be Simple
The one time I tried World of Warcraft, shit got out of hand pretty quickly. Not just because of grinding- I had friends to play with, and was prepared to deal with grinding if it meant I could roll with my peeps- but because once you level to a point where you finally saw a skill tree, it was just too complicated. On top of spells that must be bought from trainers, this new skill tree that starts at level ten, and recipes and skill levels for crafting, the grinding became too complicated.
When leveling up means having to tab out to consult a FAQ or figuring out how best to spend skill points so that your character doesn’t end up piss useless, that’s too much shit.

Rule #4: Grinding Must Have a Point (More Than Getting Stronger)
This is going to be the hard one for most games. In pokemon, you have the pokedex. By catching or evolving your pokeymans, you fill entries on the ‘dex. If you want to have caught them all, it’s your pokedex that will track your progress and let you know.  So on top of getting something new every twenty levels or so when a pokeyman evolves, it all contributes to a greater purpose- filling out the pokedex.
And Pokemon is hardly the only game that uses this. Lost Odyssey made grinding fun because it was all about your immortals learning skills. Your immortals not only got stronger through level-ups, but from learning skills from mortal characters, who (in the process of grinding) would then level-up and learn more skills to teach to the immortals. Collecting those skills took a lot of the bite out of grinding, because it really felt like you were getting somewhere. And heck, if it matters, there are achievements to be had as well.
Final Fantasy X-2 did something similar with it’s job. system (and I can heard you snickering- yes, the game’s story is a complete shit sandwich but goddamn did Square ever hit one out of the park with the job system). However, because grinding in that game wasn’t easy, it is overall less attractive.

Now, obviously the individual tastes of people differ, and if millions of Warcraft players are any indication I think I’m in the minority of gamers who think grinding sucks. But these are just my findings that I thought I’d share with you.

*I got her the Play Arts P4 Arena Elizabeth and Grim Grimoire, in case you were wondering.

12 Replies to “What Pokemon Taught Me (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Grind)”

  1. First off all props for making me read and actually agree with a post based on pokemon lore, seriously I’m still shocked.

    Just wanted to point out that WoW used talent specs and crafting and such to kill the monotony of THE GRIND. I mean if you break it down to it’s basic formula you kill shit > you get paid for killing shit and you eventually lvl up so you can kill tougher shit.

    The angle you have on main stream RPG’s is both porn and even more so the fact that you actually managed to pull off a great Rance-like-character who’s personality is a distraction for itself.

    But as far as I’m concerned: I played thru the latest version of HC for the first time and actually found it to be a blast. I guess you’re on the right track.

    1. Thanks for trying the game! I’m not going to add grinding to HC- if you’re new to the blog, I occasionally go on game design rants from time to time, and I figured now would be a good time to retract some earlier statements I made along the times of “all grind is bad”.

      With regard to WoW, all the talent specs and crafting only seemed to make me stop looking forward to level ups. There was too much to keep track of for a noob, and putting the points onto a character in the wrong way would mean complete ineffectiveness at later levels. Just thought I’d clarify my position- if WoW is your game, go for it.

    2. With regards to WoW, Blizzard has completely revamped the talent system so now when you hit a level where you get a talent, it is a choice from only three options. all other abilities are automatically learned, with no need to pay for them anymore. Crafting is still much the same.

      And with Pet Battles, you can essentially play pokemon, while playing WoW.

    3. Yeah because the game was super complex before, for instance you actually had to level up your character by playing rather then by BUYING it directly from Blizz for a pittance of 60$,

      Good times.

      @ Noah Moshing: Thanks for making it!

  2. Never been a big fan of grinding myself. Once leveling took too long and there weren’t little things to keep me busy along the way, I usually end up quitting the game. Most RPG’s tend to only let you wear new gear and the like once you hit a certain level, so I’d still end up having to grind for levels to get said gear. So basically, long grinding sessions with spikes of rewards at specific levels. Unfortunately, getting past those grinding sessions often wasn’t worth it.
    The few games that I feel have done fairly well, usually involve some form of collecting – either gear or random non-combat items like paintings that you could place on the wall of your house – or leveling is more based on quest progression rather than pure grinding. Good characters and an interesting story also helps tremendously.
    HC seems to do all three fairly well. You collect girls, each of whom can add another layer to the story or offer an interesting personality. Leveling is mostly tied to quest progression while leaving the option to do small repeatable quests to grind for cash and exp. The lack of grinding is probably what makes this game fun, but even if you did add it, so long as it isn’t too much of it, I doubt it would harm the game.

    1. I’m not looking to add grinding at all- far from it. Like I told the anonymous just before you, I occasionally go on game design rants. but after enjoying (and frankly, not even noticing) the time I spent grinding in pokemon, I felt it was worthwhile to modify my earlier position on grinding.

  3. In my case I like to be more overpowered than the current dungeon i’m in, so I grind a lot specially in the early game, but there where 2 games that made me grind all the way to lvl max in all ways: Kingdom hearts 2 and Final Fantasy 5. In KH there wasn’t an objective I wanted to do more than beating sephiroth so I took it seriously, But in FF5 I reached lvl 99 before my jobs were at their max so i kept gaining abilities, and the jobless job which was the most useless became the most badass, that is why I never felt grinding as bad, but if you don’t win something more than stats it gets annoying

  4. I love grinding always have. It’s fun to me to watch my character slowly get stronger and i found grinding early makes the later stages less of a pain.

  5. I ABSOLUTLY HATE WOW Grinding I dont mind making my character stronger but if it feels like I am trying to grind a diamond into dust its too much. (Fav grinding games Pokeymans, Fire emblem Awakening*the second in the series to actually have grinding*, Disgaea 4)

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