It seems that the current climate of games seems to cater to an obvious progression of player power, whether that means getting a bigger, more explosive gun in Halo, leveling up in an RPG, or unlocking new options in Command and Conquer 4.
Yet this concept is not exclusive to video or computer games -- even in Dungeons and Dragons players can strive to acquire a +2 sword to replace the +1 weapon they've been using.
Yet as a systems designer, the concept of player progression is giving me headache after headache. Should I balance around the players exact capabilities and give up on a simple linear progression? (I think ESIV:Oblivion is a good example of this) Is it better to throw the players into an "arms race" with their opponents, where if the players don't progress in an orderly manner, it is only a matter of time until gameplay is unbearably difficult? (4th Edition DnD strikes me as a good example of this) Perhaps it would make most sense to untether the core gameplay mechanics from progression at all -- give them flashier, more interesting (but not more powerful!) ways to grow?