When I was at University my flatmate tried to introduce me to his obsession, Ultima Online. I was skeptical and really didn’t want to play with him because I’ve never liked MMORPGs. But he decided to go through a lot of effort to get me to play. Not only did he dust off one of his old PCs and set it up a LAN in his room, he even paid for a second account for me. I realised it would have been rude for me to tell him that I didn’t want to play considering the amount of work he put into getting it all set up. So, reluctantly, I sat down and played with him. There I was, standing next to him in Ultima and I ask “so, what are we doing?”.
He turned to me, with a dead serious look on his face and said in a hushed monotone voice
“we need to pick cotton”.
“But why?” I asked.
“Because if we don’t pick cotton, then we can’t make bandages and we’ll die really quickly when we go out to kill monsters and stuff. Obviously!” he replied.
So we walked around on this giant cotton field, clicking on all of the white blobs that represented cotton. We did this for a whole 2 hours, at which point I got up and said “fuck it, I don’t think I have the patience for this, I’m gonna smoke a spliff and play GTA3”.
“Your loss mate” he said as he carried on picking his cotton.
That was my first introduction to grinding and from then on I have never been able to tolerate a game that has even the slightest hint of grind in it.
Peter “it’s not on rails” Molyneux and his team have released the much hyped (by him) “Curiosity”, a mobile game where the whole world is invited to manually chip away at a giant cube consisting of billions of little cubes. But, inside this massive cube is what Molyneux describes as “life-changing”. The catch is that only one person in the world will see it, that person being the one who chips away at the final block of the cube. Over the years I’ve grown wary of Molyneux ability to talk utter bullshit, but seeing as this app was free, I thought I might as well smell it first hand.
The most constructive thing I did in Curiosity.
Upon loading the app we are presented with a bit of spiel at the beginning telling you how amazing it’s all going to be, and then the cube comes into view. The thing is indeed massive and the marks of everybody else can be seen from afar, but it’s only when you zoom in that you see the scale of the thing. So I zoomed in on a location and started chipping away. Quite quickly it becomes apparent that this is not a game at all. Whilst it does contain some game like elements (like getting more coins for clearing a screen or keeping an unbroken chain), this is just digital bubble wrap. Nothing more.
This isn’t to say that it’s shit, I actually really enjoy popping bubble wrap. But do I actually care what’s inside this cube? Nope. Do I feel that Molyneux has created one of the most profound and interesting mass scale social experiments that will further our understanding of the collective mentality of the human race? Nope.
What Molyneux and his team have done is taken grinding to it’s logical extreme. This is just a pure grind and there is virtually no chance it will pay off for you (as only one person gets to see the life changing prize). It is the most pointless use of your time that will benefit no one, especially not you. Clicking those cubes is a meaningless exercise in scratching a pavlovian itch. But, as I learned from my flatmate back at university, some people like that. Fair play to them.
What do you think of Peter “we’ve got an amazing innovation called dogs” Molyneux's social experiment thing? Please let me know in the comments. Cheers.