The idea of levelling up in video games takes many forms based on different genres. As a whole, the concept generally involves gaining some form of points (exp points) that contribute to a total count. There will be levels set at certain landmarks e.g. level 2 unlocks at 200 exp. When the player reaches this they will be rewarded with some increase in character performance or access to new features or abilities. The concept works very well for RPG games, but it has become quite common for online shooters to contain some form of character progression system that will unlock new weapons or features of the game. Almost every game will have encountered a levelling system at some point, but where did the concept originate?
Dungeons and Dragons were the first game that brought the concept of character levelling to the mainstream market. This was done in the form of a role-playing board game and has shaped how we play most modern role-playing games. You create a character by selecting a race and a class, with each race and class having different strengths and weaknesses. You then proceed to complete goals and kill enemies to gain exp where you are awarded experience points which contribute to levelling your character up. For gamers today this will sound like the exact system used in the Elder Scrolls games or World of Warcraft. The concept has remained unchanged for 40 years.
Call of Duty 4 is the game that brought the system of levelling a character to the online FPS genre. Games like this have existed in the past e.g. Return to Castle Wolfenstein, but it was Call of Duty’s huge popularity that has made levelling a standard feature for online shooters. The levelling system differs slightly to the system introduced in Dungeons and Dragons as players do not have the ability to select a class or a race. It can be safely said that the levelling system was the sole reason that Call of Duty’s multiplayer has become such a huge success.
Whether you like Dungeons and Dragons or not, if you are a fan of levelling up in games you must pay some respect to the board game that is responsible for the way we play a lot of games today!