"Leveling systems in games are always going to be, at best, a supplement for the progression you'd see in real life. The only games that are ever going to mirror true real life progression are competitive skill based games, like Arcade Shooters or Fighting titles, but that can be very linear and inconvenient for certain games. "
The point wasn't that it had to mirror real life, in fact I even stated it in your very quote that focusing on literal skill progression would make games very linear and would basically just make every game a game about skill ceilings. I was merely saying that it because games are not real life the developers are always going to be put to task to try to make a progression system that feels natural, interesting, or a combination of the two.
Fallout's problem is that the choices have become pretty meaningless ... it is a pretty good example of the problem with modern progression systems, although the difference in that case was it was an RPG series that adapted around the dumbed down progression systems in other games. But yes, something like Fallout New Vegas has a great unlock system. Too bad because of the way 99% of games work those kind of systems don't make sense and are usually pretty tacked on.