Progression systems are like speeches at a graduation ceremony – they tend to drag on too long. Also, just when it seems like the torture is coming to a close; it somehow finds a new foothold. Monotony sets in and the audience is no longer in the moment. It becomes apparent that the process is overly contrived and robotic. The entire affair boils down to two cold estimations.
How much? How long?
This is an archaic objective for playing a videogame. Numbers dominate the experience, like an arcade title from decades past. Unfortunately, it seems the industry hasn’t yet completely evolved past this facet of game design. Progression systems destroy any sense of immersion a game has, no matter how subtle their implementation. The player is constantly reminded of how they are maturing relative to time invested in the game’s world, which is like watching a film with a countdown clock. Who wants that magical escapism interrupted with jarring doses of reality?
Additionally, it can reinforce playing the game in an inorganic way, such as grinding for rare items or experience points. Take Earth Defense Force: Insect Armageddon for example, the game literally forces you to replay the campaign a minimum of three times (once on each difficulty) to unlock everything for a single character class. There are four classes, meaning roughly a dozen playthroughs are necessary to gain access to MOST (107 random weapon drops can also be farmed) equipment. The developer also only rewards players with the “true ending” if they beat the game on max difficulty, which is virtually impossible to do without spending hours leveling your character.
Prepare to shoot many bugs and robots…
And this leads to the worst aspect of progression systems, the tedium can drive players away. It is all centered on putting effort into resources that sound appealing in design, but aren’t very satisfying in action. Investing days, or even weeks, vying for an elusive weapon or ability most often isn’t worth it. On the contrary, it can be so tiresome as to kill any enthusiasm for continuing or replaying a game. The developer is actually sabotaging themselves when they construct these artificial marathons. A majority of players will pick that controller back up, but a good chunk will also put it down for good.
The term grinding, especially applied to gaming, carries a rightfully negative connotation. This is because the practice is outdated, off-putting and unnatural. Videogames as a medium have matured past the need for intrusive experience bars and silly number tallies.
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