Long before becoming a parent, I’d written exhaustively about my contempt for games that waste time. There’s nothing impressive about a game requiring dozens of hours to complete if you spend most of it doing things that aren’t worthwhile. I understand why people view time as value, but not me. I used to spend summer vacations grinding Final Fantasy characters to level 99, but these days, the idea puts me to sleep.
I’ve put nearly 50 hours into Monster Hunter: World the last few weeks. More than half has been spent wandering old areas, hunting beasts I’ve taken down a dozen times. I know how to dodge every attack, and there’s no fear of dying. I’m here for the loot drops, buddy! The only way to build a more powerful fire hammer is by getting this Anjanath to drop a few more fangs. Nothing? Time to head back in and do it over again.
That’s called grinding, Patrick.
And yet… I can’t get enough!
When I wake up, the moment chores are done, I’m booting up Monster Hunter. When I’ve stayed up too late for the third night in the row, it’s Monster Hunter. The hooks are deep. I’ve long since climbed over the initial hump of understanding what makes Monster Hunter tick, and transitioned to playing the game for the sheer fun of it. It’s not an intellectual exercise, it’s spending more time with a game I love.
The grind feels meaningful. For one, it’s a series I’m unfamiliar with, which means I’m constantly learning new things, or gaining a fuller understanding of how one system interacts with another. On a recent run, when fighting a Tobi Kadachi (a ground-bound wyvern with a penchant for electricity) for the fourth time in a row, I decided to figure out what the heck the second charge of my hammer did.
In Monster Hunter, hammers have two basic attacks, and you can hold a button down to charge and unlock more powerful swings that, when chained, resulted in devastating combos. But for dozens of hours, I’d exclusively relied on the third charge, largely because it was convenient to simply wait for the charge to fill all the way. If you let it charge twice, however, your character does a quick dash forward and swings directly upward—very useful for swatting monsters in the face. (The heads of many creatures in Monster Hunter hover ever-so-slightly above ground.)
Suddenly, the way I approach combat had changed, more than 30 hours into the game.
Beyond the core combat loop remaining satisfying, the amount of time I need to get something out of the game is very manageable. Though I wish there was a Switch version to take around the house, it's fine. If all I’ve got is 30 minutes, that’s plenty of time to tackle a big, meaty fight, notch a few items towards a big upgrade, and call it a day. It’s a grind, yes, but one that advances the game’s meta in a way that’ll pay off when I have more time to spend and advance the story. The time wasn’t wasted.
Even when I have multiple hours, I’ve still found myself sometimes drawn to mindless runs. (“Time to get a sleep hammer!”) I subscribe to far more podcasts than I’m ever capable of listening to, and there are times when I wish I could just sit down and, uh, grind through a bunch of them, rather than watching the queue get ever longer. Monster Hunter has become my podcast game. While my phone buzzes with the latest political analysis, I’m rooting for the last Anajanah Fang+ I’ve been waiting for.
In fact, I’m still waiting, Monster Hunter.
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