Life is Like a Video Game: Civilization Medical Skill Tree Edition

A number of you have been to my workshop “Life is Like a Video Game: Dont Forget to Level Up.” If you haven’t, do not fret. The concept is simple, and we will delve a bit into it in this article. For those that HAVE been through my workshop please take notes, or print this page out for your records.

Sid Meiers Civilization is a dynamic turn based video game where you run the world, and attempt to fashion the future by controlling the past. You are able to control so many aspects of the game: The tech that is learned, the religion that is practiced, the intrigue that occurs between states, the medicine that is practiced, the food that is eaten, and myriad other specifics.  One thing often leads to

From The Site

The skill tree for Sid Meier’s Civilization Beyond Earth

another as you level up, just like the real world. In video games this is often represented by a “Skill Tree,” a ladder of  abilities to be unlocked in order. You have to make a spear before you can make an arrow. You need an arrow before you make a crossbow. Crossbow before firearm, and up, and up.

So as you apply points to a field of study, you unlock different abilities. As I unlock stone masonry, I evolve from being able to build a fence, to a house, to roadways, and eventually all the way to creating fine works of art that require fine, stone sculpture, detail. Never would David have been carved if we had not refined the tools of stone masonry to a fine point. Donatello never would have existed as an artist without man first creating the stone ax.

So now that we understand that different skills are unlocked as we gain more experience in an area of study, we can talk about the skill tree I want to talk about, today: Medicine. There are many different branches to the Skill tree that is ‘Medicine’. Some nations of people have decided to put their skill points into very different studies. Let’s say you are a nation that started their journey to medicine through the Herbal Skill Tree learning the plants of the forest, and their properties, you slowly but surely put points into Herbal knowledge. You began learning that the “spirit” of the plants you were using to heal people could be isolated through heat, or combining them with other plants, and that eventually brought rise to making true Medicine. Now that that you have unlocked the skill tree for Medicine through Herbalism, your options in medicine look unique to how you got there.

I’ll explain further.  Now you are a part of a Nation that uses prayer to navigate your reality. You pray for everything, and through your prayer, and spiritual study, you begin finding correlations between people sicknesses and their experiences. You just stepped Chinese Medicineonto Medicine’s skill tree, again, only this time you got there through prayer. Now the options that are available for you down the Medicine path are much different than the ones that were down the path that arrived there through Herbalism. Where Herbalism’s path had unlockables like “Tincture,” “Salve,” and “Inoculation,” Prayers path has unlockables like “Diet,” “Massage,” “Acupuncture,” and “Therapy.”

In Western Culture we have unlocked many, many upgrades in our Medical skill tree. Western Medicine is good for many, many, things. We have learned to reset a bone. We have learned how to identify, remove, and rehabilitate cancer. We have learned about blood borne illnesses. We have regrown body parts on the backs of mice. We have taken someone’s face off, and put a new one on them. We have learned how to lengthen someones appendages. We have learned how to replace almost every part of a persons body,  and are nearing a tech level the likes that they believe they could successfully transplant a head from one body to another.

Yes, we also have medicines, and therapy, and dieting knowledge. We have very much worked at rounding out or medical knowledge, world-wide, by adopting and learning from what everyone else has learned. But there is one school of Medicine that Western Culture chose to walk, that the others did not, in their pursuit of conquering death.


I know. Mind Blown, but it’s true. We are currently sitting very close to the top of the Necromancy Medical Skill Tree. The Western Medical system started 500 years ago through “scientists” digging up dead bodies and doing experiments on them. Even Leonardo DaVinci  helped further the skill tree. His drawings of hands, feet, eyes, bones, and all manner of human parts were drawn off of cadavers that he himself dissected. Grave robbers were paid by clandestine scientific communities, “fallen monks,” and self Leonardo A_Dead_or_Moribund_Man_in_Bust_Lengthproclaimed geniuses to bring them the freshly dead from recent burials — some as fresh as having been buried that day. People were cut apart, labeled, placed in jars of chemicals, sewn together, pulled back apart, cataloged, and then disposed of so as to not get caught. We created Grey’s Anatomy. Only a culture that had an infallible knowledge of a cut up body could have created such a work. Only a medical community borne of these beginnings could know that there are cells in a discarded fetus that could lead to a literal panacea for disease and defects. It’s why Western Medicines main concern is “Staving off Death” and not “Curing Disease”. They were never trying to cure disease, they have forever been trying to conquer death.

Does this make Western Medicine evil? No more so than the Prayer Tree. People died, and die every day because of faith healing. Herbalism leads to the Poison Skill Tree, which is a whole different kind of nasty. No, todays lesson is about helping you learn how the world runs parallel to the way games have been set up. Or are games so well made that they mimic the way life evolves?  The answer is Yes. The world is a giant video game. Life is a giant video game. You might as well be a Player Character riding an avatar on a single quarter. Some people know this and are playing the hell out of their edition of Real Life. Some of us think there is no rhyme or reason, and we’re just spinning around in circles, wasting our bullets.

I wanted to show you that life isn’t like one video game. It’s like all of them. This version shows you how it compares to the classic Civilization games, or Diablo, or Borderlands, or any number of games that have a progressive skill tree system. But there are plenty of times that life is a Platformer, or a Role Playing Game, Racing Game, Point and Click Adventure, Dating SIM, and every other type under the sun. We made them that way because it’s how we see life.


When I see these things, as a child of the 80’s, 90’s, and Millennium, I can’t help but notice how much our culture mirrors the games that I grew up with. It occurs to me that the people beginning to run the world are the very people who are the first generation to grow up on video games. Like me. It might seem like something out a superhero origin story, or a Max Headroom-esque future where the lines between media and reality are blurred. but it is this very reason that we need to learn how to juxtaposition the two within us, so that this new reality can become useful, instead of a hindrance. The more we relate concepts within our mind, the more neural pathways we create in our brain, and the more readily we can break down the universe around us.

I want to help with this transition.

I want to bring light to the new age of man that we are moving into: Homo Luminous.

And so I have given you one more piece to help fill out that neural net; that the Medical Skill Tree in Western Culture is Necromantic.

Life is a Video Game. Dont forget to level up.

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