But what is your level in Real Life? You don't have one! Because in a pure "world", without "game" elements, you are not defined by numbers like your level or your strength score. You do have knowledge and skill, you do have possessions which can bring a certain status, but a life in a world isn't possible to put into a few simple numbers.
~~Tobold, "There is no such thing as a sandbox game"
Flash forward to the the era of MMORPGs. Most still have levels and zones where players can go, but seldom is the level achieved tied to player skill. It is simply a measure of how much the player has done in the game. Some few MMOs claim to not have levels, though YMMV as to the truth of such claims. But this post is not actually about levels, or whether they are appropriate in MMORPGS.
I think Tobold is sorely mistaken, or maybe things are just different in the United States than in Belgium. Life is full of levels. Granted, they are not always numbered and don't always correspond to the relatively simplistic levels of PacMan or World of Warcraft, but they are there nonetheless. But then, game worlds will always be compressed versions of the real world.
- Children are acutely aware of the various levels they are in: Age, grade in school, sports groups, etc.
- The UK school system ends with O-levels or A-levels
- Colleges have degrees: Bachelor, Master, Doctorate, etc.; and woe be unto you professionally if you do not have the appropriate education level.
- The business world has levels: entry-level, professional, supervisor, manager, executive.
- Trades like plumber, carpenter, and mechanic all have levels, like apprentice, journeyman, and master.
- Sports like alpine skiing and white-water rafting have skill levels with courses rated for difficulty, and again woe be unto you if you attempt a course that is beyond your skill level. One thing the Real World definitely has is perma-death.
- As far as "strength score," not many weight lifting conversations don't include the question, "How much can you bench?" or some similar gauge of strength.
- The military has levels called ranks. In the U.S. at least, the ranks even have numbers associated with them and may or may not correspond with skill or achievement; though they generally involve pay scale increases and additional responsibilities.