Over on the Escapist, Extra Punctuation has an awesome article about a game mechanic of leveling down rather than up. I’ve occasionally kicked around a similar idea, though starting more from “how do we do choice narratives where the choice feels significant?” — and one way to make the player actually care about choices is to tie the results into gameplay.
I’m attracted by the idea of a plot reminiscent of (the movie version of) “Last of the Mohicans,” where our protagonists start out as wealthy, happy, proper young ladies of English extraction and end up as bedraggled, hardened, and — in one case — dead. It’s a story of stripping away all peripherals until each character’s deepest feelings and commitments are revealed. That kind of story could make a compelling tragic game, or a story of triumph at excruciating cost, not far off from the structure of Victor Gijsbers’ Fate.
Leveling down, or gradually giving up your collection of Batman gadgets, or losing one after another of your crew of sidekicks until you stand alone, or burning away one after another of your huge inventory of doodads — that’d be a way to do the gradual-loss plot. Like I said, awesome.