Skill trees: choosing a path to follow 

We spend a lot of time planning out our future, dreaming up what we wish to become, to achieve, and what we’ll need to get there. What school we will go to, what our major will be, what industry we will work in, where we will live, what our hobbies will be?

It can be a struggle determining what we want from our lives and what will represent our heart’s desires.  It can be scarey to commit time and effort towards a goal and have it not work out.  So our ability to form plans is essential to the success of our dreams and the enjoyment of our journey along our chosen path.

Even when we do figure the visions that make our hearts sing we then face the challenge of scaling and progression.  Say you want to race yachts on the open ocean, where do you start? Say you enjoy painting with acrylics, where does that lead?  In video games when an ability interests you there are typically ways to grow that ability as the game grows more challenging and the player becomes more adept. Applying this mentality to the aforementioned interests, you could start by taking a sailing lesson or purchasing some oil paints and experimenting.

Connecting the dots between our dreams as concepts and our lives in action can be difficult. However, it is important to realize that committing to a plan doesn’t require going all in, it just requires the will to start.

Skill trees in games give the player divergent choices, one’s where they must measure the ultimate goal against the achievements in between.  They are forced to consider the journey as well as the end state and then choose.  This is an exercise in commitment and discernment, but it is also one where players get to learn about what they value in a path of growth. Skill trees present the player with a plan of progression; the steps it will take to reach their most powerful state, along with milestones which indicate progress.  With a clearly laid out plan players have something to look forward to, something to work towards, and concrete examples of success.

Though life may never be as deterministic as games we can learn to use these models to give our lives a sense of natural progression.  Just as a player who just reached level 5 doesn’t worry about what they will need at level 50 at level, so too can we learn to focus only on the present objective and enjoy the sensation of progress.

Keeping the models of skill trees in mind; the process of figuring out our dreams and the work it will take to accomplish them can now becomes a game in itself.  One where we nurture our sense of curiosity to follow our desires and explore the things that bring fulfillment to our lives.


Andrew Mantilla is a ludologist and video game journalist for Play Professor.  You can check out more of his content on Facebook, and Instagram.

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