Leveling Up Baby

Anyone who played Dungeons and Dragons for more than a couple sessions remembers the great feeling when her character suddenly went up a level (http://www.giantitp.com/comics/oots0012.html). More powerful spells, more survivable characters, more annoying familiars … these appeared all at once, essentially overnight (much like how a baby goes from making little poops to suddenly making massive, diaper-exploding ones).

While making such leaps in development seems unrealistic, it primarily comes out of the miniatures game tradition that spawned D&D. I always thought it very much fits the game’s motif. Medieval and Renaissance life focused on initiation and definite moments of progress, far more than does modern life. Fighters went from page to squire to knight. Clerics went from altar boy to priest to bishop to archbishop to pope to the highest level, antipope. The Freemasons had 23+ levels of initiation, each with its own powers. Other occult orders were much the same.

The argument can be made that modern life is poorer for not having such levels of Initiation. As an aside, thank goodness SIEGE has them. Many of our members progress from attendee to volunteer to speaker to organizer. I’m not about to tell you the initiation rites involved, however.

That aside aside, we still celebrate some life milestones in this way. Turn 16, and society believes you now have what it takes to risk everyone’s life on the highways. Turn 18, and you are suddenly as dumb as every other voter.

The younger we are, the more of these milestones we seem to have. Our daughter Sage leveled up in “Turn Over” on her first day of life, going from “Lie There Like a Lump” to “How’d She Get on Her Side?” in her first hours. It’s hard to think of rolling over as a skill-based, but it is a significant milestone. Heck, Sage advanced to a third-level “What the @#$% are You Doing on Your Tummy!” by week three.

In Dungeons & Dragons or World of Warcraft, characters move up these levels by getting experience points. Most of these are obtained by killing monsters, and Sage has obviously been doing plenty of that. Okay, characters also gain experience by fulfilling certain goals, and that is a more likely route for Sage than is slaughtering goblins.

I was surprised that breastfeeding is more of a leveling system than it is skill based. Sage went from Fumbler to Sucker to Nipple Torturer in the span of a few days. Damage dealt definitely increased with each level. FYI, for mothers, breastfeeding is definitely a skill-based system strongly influenced by how many points they put in “Milk Production” and “Extreme Pain Tolerance.” It may be even more aptly defined as a level and characteristic drain attack from the Abyss.

Doctors have already established one level progression system for newborns, and that is the Apgar score. While this is actually more of a characteristic rating used to assess color, breathing, heart rate, muscle tone and activity, if it starts low, the baby wants to raise it very quickly. Sage began life with a 1, got it to a 5 within minutes, and reached the level cap of 10 within an hour. She did this via experience – experiencing both life and vigorous rubbing by the nursing staff.

I am hoping that Scream Volume is a level system and that Sage has reached the level cap. I fear that there may be no maximum level.

So, which childhood skills and abilities do you think are best categorized as level-based ones?

2 Comments to "Leveling Up Baby"

  1. July 13, 2015 - 8:30 am | Permalink

    Checkout Piaget’s theory of childhood development. My favorite is the “Tall Stack” is always better than the “Short-Wide” and the One Quarter vs. 3 Nickels. I’m amazed that there is a whole list of things that you can’t “teach”….but that suddenly kick-in for children.

    Anyway, nice post (as always).

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