Monday, 30 April 2012

Level up: Age and Wisdom

This woman must be super powerful.
My brother, kungfucolin, left a message on my Facebook wall that would eventually spurn me to write up this piece. As today is my birthday, he passed on a birthday greeting as is the standard convention. Not satisfied with the generic platitudes, he left the message "LEVEL UP".

It's a harmless reference to video game culture; When your character reaches a certain level of "XP" (short for eXperience Points), you are rewarded by being able to increase your character's "Level", which will also generally result in a boost to one of the key statistics that makes the character what they are. A great deal of games have slight modification of these attributes, but normally in games you'd expect to see a few statistics like the following:
  • Strength
  • Stamina
  • Dexterity
  • Intelligence
  • Charisma
  • Wisdom
  • Luck
When you reach a new level, you are able to assign another point to one of these key areas. The thing is with XP in video games... In order to get it, you need to earn it. You need to perform certain tasks to increase your XP... whether it be shanking a Goblin King on the cliffs of Morthaal or returning a dusty old tome to an aging scholar 50 kilometres away by foot.

The comparisons are drawn in that in real life, you age may represent your level. It got me thinking though.

In real life, along with age comes a perceived level of wisdom or experience. When we learn somebody's age, we assume a certain level of "life experience" as they've been living for X amount of time and therefore will usually be either "wiser" or "more experienced" than somebody that is their junior.

I don't necessarily agree with this construct; I feel that "wisdom" is not an encompassing attribute (as seen in the list above), but rather a certain level of proficiency and insight that somebody may have for a specific field of expertise.

For comparison, I'll state that a hypothetical 50 year old man worked his entire life in a paper mill. He goes to the same Church every Sunday, and has never left his small town. He lives in a nice little home and has been tending to a vegetable garden for 30 years. He has a small circle of friends, and his wife shared the same relationships. This entire time, he has been financially stable and has always had enough to pay the bills and buy the groceries. For fun, he watches television and paints small model trains. This is basically the extent of his existence. 

Now enter a hypothetical 30 year old man. As an army veteran who had served two tours in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively, he found it difficult to reintegrate with society when he first returned. Instead of immediately falling into a job, he took a sabbatical year and travelled the world; He saw some amazing sights, and met some amazing people. After returning from his time abroad, he struggled to find work and to pay the bills. He tried 3 or 4 different jobs after landing one that he could hack, where he works to this day.

To demonstrate the point I'm making, which one is more "wise" overall? It isn't really a question that can be answered without knowing a lot more about these two gentlemen. As I say, I don't think the term "wise" can be applied to somebody in general; It's more localised than that. I would wager that the 50 year old would be wiser in matters of paper milling and gardening, as he has a great deal of experience in these fields, however the younger man would certainly be wiser in matters of warfare or travel.

So, I guess to sum up my wild thought tangent, I don't believe in "wisdom" as a personal attribute over and above knowledge and insight. I believe in "wisdom of experience". The wisdom that you have gained directly from your personal experiences.

In video games, you don't get points simply for turning up. 


  1. Happy Birthday Cloaker Josh!

  2. Ding!
    STR +1
    STA -1
    DEX +1
    CHA +2
    WIS +1
    INT +1

    Cloaker Josh is evolving...
    ...Evolves into Mudkip!

    *Okay* :(