Vs. Mode: Level Grinding in SRPGs as a Research Process

Library Voice's Chad added his thoughts about SRPGs and grinding. He's having a good and long experience (50 hours) with Disgaea, but his narrative progress has recently come to a halt. This has changed the game for him, but also opened up new gameplay elements for him, including the following:

However, once I got to Episode 11, I found that my Brawlers, Warriors, and Scouts (all traditional weapon wielders with swords, guns, and axes) would not cut it. As result, I’ve spent the last 5 hours in the game leveling up my new Mages and Clerics.

Now going back to the drawing board here might really frustrate some gamers, particularly after the amount of time invested in the game. Going back to a beginning level may seem pointlessly redundant, and I could easily become frustrated that I did not create the right characters in the first place. Some may find that leveling up can be a ridiculously boring process, since you simply play previous levels in order to strengthen the weaker characters. I initially thought I would feel the same, but I’m actually enjoying the process of level grinding. And believe me, it is a process...

...As such, I’m seeing and learning things about the game, and about myself as a player, a bit differently. In other words, I had gotten quite comfortable with how I was playing the game. The game shocked me out of my comfort zone at Episode 11, which caused me to stop, re-evlaulate, and play the game in a different way.

Chad's gaming experience translates well to a variety of learning situations, including research. His experience parallels that of an upper-division student I worked with earlier this week. She was very comfortable with the ins and out of EBSCO based databases, but moving her into more subject specialized databases opened up a new realm to explore and search skills to built. Obviously, some of the same skills and strategies still applied but new combinations of subject terms and other search strategies created a new and different experience for her.

In both cases, players and students relying on the familiar and understood skill set created a situation where they needed to expand their existing skills and knowledge base in order to progress. They were able to do a lot with a common set of tools (character classes & databases), but for true mastery and quality of gameplay they needed to add to that skills set- learn new techniques, practice them in a safer area to build them, and eventually apply them to the overall project.

Research can be a grind. But just as Chad has found satisfaction in the act of grinding and slowly advancing his characters, our students can derive the same sense of satisfaction. Granted, not all students are interested in a slow progression and quick results are sometimes needed. But framing a research project in the minds of gamers as a way of leveling up their work is a mindset worth discussing. Grinding research can be a rewarding experience, and one that doesn't need to take the 50+ hours players invest in video games.

Versions of Disgaea are available on the PS2, PS3 PSP, & DS.
Screenshots of the DS version are via RPG Fan