Some video games have you jump right into the action, with no waiting around and virtual guns instantly blazing. Others take a more deliberate approach, where players slowly build themselves up before making a move. This latter approach is often used in grinding games, either as a necessary pursuit or an optional side activity. So what does grinding mean in games, and how does it work?
Grinding in gaming is the act of repeating an activity over and over to increase rewards or the possibility of rewards. These rewards can be anything from a rare drop to a constant influx of experiences and anything in between.
Grinding in video games can be a part of the core experience, or it can be an entirely optional activity left up to the player. Grinding games aren't always easily defined, as it's up to the individual to decide where the line between grinding games and regular play lies.
For example, some people would consider a small amount of leveling up in an RPG as playing grinding games. Others would only consider these grinding games if the grinding takes 30 minutes, or an hour at least.
The meaning of grinding in games can also apply to pursuits that aren't directly measured within a game. For example, speedrunning titles could be grinding games for some, as players grind many hours for the best time.
Grinding video games is so broad that it's difficult to name just one title as the “grindiest”. Grinding games often depend on what the player wants to do, but with that said, some standouts include the Disgaea series and most MMORPGs.
Grinding games exist because of the concepts of accomplishment and delayed gratification. It's nice and convenient to have what you want on demand, but this can cheapen the result. Grinding games understand that the journey can matter as much as the destination, to provide greater weight to the player's final accomplishments.
You might want to kill the ultimate world-ender dragon, but if you didn't power up your characters first and uncover legendary gear, victory would feel hollow. Similarly, grinding games in speedrunning for weeks until you attain the world record is much more rewarding than just getting lucky.
Of course, from the developer's end, grinding can also be used to pad out game length. If a game is too short, have the player repeat the same thing a few dozen times to make up time and you have a longer game. These grinding games aren't as widely loved if the activity is made necessary since it comes across as an artificial roadblock.
As Bertrand Russell once said: "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time." The best grinding games and the best way to enjoy grinding games is to simply choose a game you love that offers an activity you enjoy, and repeat it.