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Esoterics II: Skill Trees of the Qabbalah

As the player traverses, what are they actually attaining.

Jimmy Baird, Blogger

May 9, 2010

3 Min Read

Games are simple in definition or pieces at least. A player, a boundary, some rules and a goal. Which can be even further simplified as limited limits limited (but that hardly makes any sense at all). The goal is the key here. It gives the player a heading, a direction perhaps even motivation? Does the player want to succeed, if so head to the goal. If we want to get straight into Qabbalistic comparison, then this goal would be Keter/Kether the Crown.

Video games are often incredibly narcissistic experiences for the player. Always collecting and attaining more. This is more of a Qliphothic concept of where the player fills themselves with a desire for more. But they still travel paths and this is important. Skill trees don't need to be a physical tree, they don't need to be represented by a diagram. They are simply the path from one skill set to the next.

It's important for the player to travel these paths. No matter how they are weaved. This encourages the learning portion necessary to any game, ever. A game is more than just travelling from one set piece to the next. 

Qabbalah can be roughly summarised as an idea of oneness and understanding with the creator. In a video game that creator is you Mr. Game Designer! (Please do not get on my case about my accuracy in regards to Qabbalah. We are simply using is as a vessel to get from one place to the next). In essence you are providing pathways for the player to come to an understanding about the universe you created and their place in it. The player is in Malkuth, their goal is Kether. You fill out the rest of the journey.

A skill tree is about more than just putting numbers in boxes to climb to the next tier, a skill tree is more than just collecting upgrades in a linear order. A skill tree is how often you require the player to learn more skills and which skills are dependant or co-dependant on other skills. The kicker is can you justify the player learning said skills in order to reach Kether? Oneness with your world, your game and for them to have learnt a complete understanding of how all things function.

You see, much like the Qabbalah a skill tree seeks to define the nature and purpose of existence. Why is the player existing in the game world. Sometimes these answers are quite simple. "To shoot the Space Invaders, otherwise who else will shoot them"? But as games get more complex with non game facets the purpose of existence in a game world gets buried. A skill tree helps reveal purpose of existence, purpose of being and the nature of the game universe and the player.

Games in which the player performs actions requiring no skill or no new skill but are still rewarded are Qliphothic in nature and the opposite of the Qabbalah. This includes miscellaneous collect-a-thons and the gain of items of an aesthetic nature. These actions simply accommodate desire and attachment of which we are trying to avoid. Gaining without proving of skill is without worth and actually falls down. 

There is nothing wrong with games of this nature. It's just important to know where you are sending the player. 

All skill trees are Qabbalistic in nature. They ask the player to start with next to nothing and become something closer to the game design. Remember you're putting the player on a journey. This journey has nothing to do with story or location.

This series Esoterics has nine major parts in it. They are asynchronous. 

Appendix A: The Qabbalah


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