RPG elements are becoming more prominent in gaming than ever before. Whether you play a PVP shooter, an action-adventure game, or even a mobile game, progressing and leveling up are almost assumed features. This is a welcome change as it makes any type of game have a sense of movement and progression. But often these mechanics become problematic as progression is linked to slow or tedious missions or objectives. And beyond things that slow down advancement, some players seek unique and rare items or materials often for hours at a time, otherwise known as “farming”. Farming, as I see it, should be more infrequent than it has become in games like Destiny and Borderlands. While in Destiny farming is by design for leveling up your guns and gear, in Borderlands it’s somewhat necessary if you want some of the best loot in the game. So why am I so anti-farming?
The most ground level problem I have with farming is that you are basically interacting with the code of the game rather than the game itself. Like pulling a lever on a slot machine over and over again, you are inputing the same thing hundreds of times until finally a random number generator spits out the desired result. This is why I think some of the most consistent and highly critical players in Destiny are those who have put in the most time. They have basically gotten burned out by dealing with the cold numbers and calculations of low drop rates and random chance, making them feel like more of a disgruntled employee than a dedicated fan.
The other side of this is that most people aren’t lucky enough to reap quick rewards from farming. So, even the players who finally find the item they are looking for don’t experience any sense of accomplishment or excitement because it feels more like they finally received what they are due. This is another reason why so many Destiny players have turned on the franchise. They feel they are owed some of the best gear in the game simply because they have played for so many hours, and to a point, it’s hard to argue with their line of thinking. But again, the problem here is that even if they finally get what they are looking for it will almost certainly feel more disappointing than rewarding. To get a picture of what I mean, go buy 1,000 scratch cards, spend hours scratching them, and when one of them finally pays out, will you feel rewarded or like you wasted your time and money?
No Skill Required
Another thing that surprised me in my discussion of this when I’ve been streaming is how often people make the argument: “Why does someone deserve a good item without farming?” Basically the line of reasoning is that farming is a matter of skill or achievement that is more deserving than the person who hasn’t “put in their time”. The problem with this way of thinking is that having the patience and time to farm for something has nothing to do with skill or ability within a given game. You haven’t proven that you are more deserving of an item or displayed any greater measure of skill, you just have more time and patience than the guy who gave up. Again to a degree, I see where this type of thinking comes from, after hours and hours you do start to feel more entitled to a good drop than the guy who gets the goods on his first try. But if you defend RNG loot systems with low drop rates and farming, then you can’t in the same breath claim that farming for long hours is equated with deserving good gear. In other words, if you accept and praise the randomness and farming element of a game, you’re defending blind chance which doesn’t calculate ideas like “deserving” or “skill”.
It’s not all bad
Now, to be clear, I’m not saying that farming of any kind is bad. It can allow developers to get more mileage out of their content while also allowing gamers to retread areas rather than just quickly fly through a game. I have to admit that while farming in both Destiny and Borderlands I have, at times, noticed new areas and appreciated the environments in a greater way. I also enjoyed hunting and farming in both Dragon Age Inquisition and Far Cry 3 and 4 because it felt tied to a purpose and was infrequent enough to be enjoyable. So my suggestion to gamers is to not let farming become it’s own entity, taking up most of your time as it strips the game away while you engage with nothing but the zeroes and ones of code. But my suggestion to game makers is equally important as often gamers feel they have no choice but to farm for endless hours. Game companies need to make farming more rewarding and tie it to more readily available and tangible results, enabling gamers to feel more progress and reward rather than burnout. Ultimately farming needs to be seen as a tool, serving the primary purposes and aims of the game, rather than becoming its own standalone element.
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