I want to make something clear: I’m talking about skill, but not about being “hardcore” which I think is a garbage and elitist term. My issue isn’t that grind eliminates skill, but that it pretends and tricks the player into thinking they have improved when they have not.
If you want a different kind of example, take Touhou. It featured a completely different type of grinding known as learning where all the enemies are going to come from and predict their moves; learn the patterns to the bosses spell cards and know where to go in order to avoid being hit. It’s still grinding, you’re still playing the same levels over and over to get better, it’s just that there’s nothing keeping track of your improvement except the overall score you end up with.
The way you describe Touhou doesn’t sound like grinding, like you describe. It’s learning. It requires you to learn the game and that’s how you acquire skill. The key difference is that (I’m assuming from your description) that in a game like Touhou the PLAYER acquires this skill and knowledge instead of the character. That’s an example of the player learning through repetition, which is different than wasting time grinding levels so the game can slowly lower its difficulty. In one example you are growing and learning as a player, in the other you have spent a lot of time doing the same thing. You’re character changes but you haven’t.
All the other points aside (udknovice seems to have handled them just fine), I’d like to point out that Touhou definitely does not have any mindless, time-wasting grinding. Of course, everyone who plays it spends a lot of time into it just to be able to get through to the next level, but that is just a part of the design of the games, they are meant to be that hard. But the character does not change over time, the player does. The player gets familiar with the bullet patterns, the player learns how to do “streaming” (waves of bullets that are directed to you can be avoided by moving small amounts of screen space per second, just enough so you graze them instead of being hit. Takes some practice), the player learns how to handle the “slow” button (which, while pressed, slows down the players character, allowing for more precise movement). That, hiroshimishima, is not grinding, and it actually is what proves the point of udknovice, which is that the only barrier between the player and the final goal is the player’s skill (or lack thereof), and that that barrier can be made easier not by mindless grinding, but by practice and by setting the difficulty rating to something of your liking (no shame in playing at the easy difficulty, even at easy it is already way harder than pretty much anything else you’ll play in your life anyway).
Or, “Why you don’t see me playing RPGs much anymore.”
Personally, I don’t care for grinding, either—I actually agree with the sentiments you have here. However, grinding does have its appeal as a means of relaxation: sitting back and letting repetition take over. It’s like the appeal of drone music.