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Power leveling has developed primarily with the rise of MMO style games.  In such games, players much increase their characters' levels by gaining experience, often from slaying monsters.  
 

How It Works

 MMO games typically offer players varying ways to earn experience, but the quickest two generally involve killing the strongest enemy possible, or killing enemies very quickly.  In order to either kill stronger monsters, or kill with less downtime, lower level players can enlist the help of a higher level player to "Power level" them, providing assistance to allow the weaker player to gain more experience.  
 
Since games usually use an exponentially increasing standard for leveling, it usually requires much less experience to gain levels at lower levels, and then this increases as you get further along.  To keep the game moving, higher level monsters yield more experience or bigger rewards to keep up.  When a low level player, however, can get the rewards from a high level monster, she may find herself gaining levels very frequently. 
 
Additionally, many games allow weak players to kill strong monsters, but only with dedicated time and effort.  The power leveler can reduce this time and effort, and speed the process considerably.  Many games also have a risk/reward scheme inherently built into their system.  As you take on more dangerous monsters, the rewards are higher, but the danger of defeat is greater as well.  A power leveler can minimize the risk, and therefore defeat this scheme.
  

Methods of Power Leveling

This can take many forms.  In some games, the high and low level players simply form an alliance or party, and share the experience points received from kills.  As MMOs continued to develop, however, players needed to rely on more advanced methods to power level. 
 

Tanking 

Tanking, which can also be called meat-shielding or "aggro-ing," is a form of power leveling where the stronger player grabs the monster's attention, allowing the weaker player to attack unencumbered.  This method is especially popular in games where experience is earned by amount of damage caused, or by number of hits landed.  This can also decrease the amount of time the weaker player has to heal or rest in between fights. 
 

Healing 

Healing is a type of power leveling where the stronger player does not engage the enemy, but instead offers free heals to the weaker player.  In this way, the stronger player does not draw away from the weaker player's earned experience from engaging in battle, but allows the weaker player to defeat much stronger monsters, and decreases the amount of down time in between fights. 
 

Final Blow  

Final blow, or killing blow power leveling occurs when the stronger player attacks the monster until it is very weak, disengages, and allows the weaker player to engage and score the final blow.  This is necessary in games that prevent alliances between players with vastly different levels, or that share experience.  
 

Buffing 

Buffing is a type of power leveling where the stronger player "buffs" the weaker player with enhancing spells while the weaker player fights monsters.  This is a less effective form of power leveling, as it still relies on the base stats and skill of the weaker player. 
 

Escorting 

Escorting is a type of power leveling where the stronger player escorts the weaker player through difficult areas or missions.  In this way, the weaker player can earn experience or other quest rewards that he might not be able to earn at his low level. 
 

Gifting 

Gifting is not true power leveling, but the implications and mechanics make it closely related.  Gifting is when a stronger, or more experienced, player purchases weapons or items for the newer, weaker player.  The stronger player generally has access to greater funds, and therefore she is able to easily afford the cost of new equipment for a player just starting out. 
  

Response to Power Leveling

 There is varied response to power leveling.  Some gamers and games take a hard approach, implementing measures to make it difficult to power level.  Some examples of this include setting the rewards at the lower players level or dividing experience between all players who engage the monster.  This means that power leveling does help ensure that the weaker player will not lose, but also will gain only minimal rewards. 
 
Other games take a neutral approach, implementing minor systems to prevent power leveling, but otherwise allowing players to implement work arounds.  These games may prevent players with a large level difference from forming a group, but may allow the stronger player to heal and tank for the weaker player with no penalty. 
 
Finally, some games encourage power leveling.  This is usually done when a game such as an MMO is struggling to maintain its player base.  In order to encourage new players to join, the game will set up systems to allow them to be power leveled by friends, and become competitive quicker. 
 

Benefits of Power Leveling 

The weaker player experiences many benefits from power leveling: 
  • Faster level gains
  • New armor/weapons/abilities
  • More money and better drops
  • Chance to see new game areas earlier
  • Ability to complete quests/ story missions earlier
  • Chance to learn game mechanics without fear of defeat
  • Ways to interact with friends/groups
 
The stronger player may experience some benefits from power leveling as well 
  • Chance to practice lesser used skills
  • A share of the loot/drops
  • Chance to play with friends
  • Ability to learn/practice game mechanics without fear of defeat
  

Examples of Power Leveling

Runescape: Runescape generally offered players little chance to power level, however a stronger player could provide healing items to the weaker player to allow the weaker player less downtime 
 
Final Fantasy XI: FFIX offered several ways to power level, including tanking, healing, escorting, and gifting.  The biggest benefit a weaker player would received would be decreased resting between fights.  Additionally, the stronger player could strengthen their support magic skills which often went underused during regular gameplay. 
 

Trivia/Notes 

It should be noted that over leveling or grinding characters on weak enemies in order to level past difficult ones, commonly practiced in offline RPGs, is not the same as power leveling, although the terms are sometimes used interchangeably. 
 
In FFXI, crafting could be "power leveled" with a significant financial interest.  While most players harvested their own raw materials and then waited for finished products to sell in order to save money, wealthier players would power level their crafting skills by buying large quantities of raw materials and then selling finished products to NPCs.  This was a much faster way of increasing this skill, but also vastly more expensive.

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