Grind for Love

Earlier this week Mark was griping about the grind he endured to reach level 70– something he felt, in retrospect, was a bit of a waste of time.  There was no novelty or refreshing with alt characters halfway through his 70 dings, there was much doubt about his character’s abilities and specs (reconfiguring; reconfiguring again), and, at the end of the road, there layed a vast wasteland of nothingness… also known as more grinding through endgame missions for little more than kitschy accessories.

No wonder he’s dejected!

This last weekend, I got knee deep into my other favorite grind-fest: Final Fantasy XII.  I’ve been playing the series since it first came out– the original on the NES was the first video game I ever bought for myself.  And, as a video game RPG of any sort, every FF comes with its fair share of grinding for levels.  As my best friend Chris and I got back into the game months after abandoning it due to escalated personal schedules, we were thrilled by story-advancing cutscenes, and then hugely sore that the next dungeon we had to progress through was nearly impossible to get through.  And this was after I had diligently spent a couple hours leveling up before we stopped playing back in, what, March.  I had advanced the characters in our already formidable group about 2 – 3 levels each!  And now: death.  What had been the point of my previous work?  The game had decided for us that we had not invested enough grinding to proceed.

Chris’ first answer was the GameShark.  “You want me to get my GameShark updated?  I can.  Because this leveling up crap is bullshit.  I just want to see the story.”

And he thought he’d see the story since, when he was taking his turn of playing (yes, we take turns playing a single player game– we need commiseration, alright?!), he was intentionally not talking to any NPCs who had something to say and ignoring any possible side quests.  Our strategy guide (used only for reference!) said there were lots of side quests to take in at this point of the game, if we were interested.  But those were “side quests.”  We wanted “main quest.”

After several failed runs at the dungeon over the course of an hour, we turned the game off, dejected and unsure when we’d meet up again to continue the drudgery.  I thought more about the experience after reading Mark’s last blog.  Getting reacquainted with FFXII had still been incredibly fun, regardless the final moments.  I couldn’t wait to play it some more.  I was even willing to level up– I didn’t mind doing that, because it meant my characters would ultimately become really kick ass, have a lot more gold and potentially get a lot more cool spells and equipment.  The thought of that objective– hours of purely preparational grinding in anticipation of story progression– actually seemed fun, because I enjoyed the game and how I felt spending my hours doing it.  Plus, I wasn’t going to just grind purely for levels: I was going to go on those sidequests and get neat little rewards for my outside-of-main-quest leveling.  Hooray for sidequests!

And that, perhaps, is why Mark went through those 15 days of life reaching level 70.  He had fun in the interim and an ultimate objective: level 70 ding.  And he’s never end-gamed any MMO! My ultimate objective is to see how FFXII‘s twisted story ultimately plays out, surely into a 10 – 20 minute ending.  I trully cannot wait for that.  And perhaps the thought of that finality– once the game’s over, it’s over– makes my quest more compelling than Mark’s ended up being.  But, again, what’s driving us through these days of game time is that the journey they provide is genuinely fun, and so I hope Mark feels better about his own time: it was time well-spent.

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