Yeah, plenty of spoilers here. Select the text below to reveal.
Checkpoints become different levels of the dream.They’re all happening at once. The final goal is in Limbo. Those final checkpoint checks represents the kick. The Dreamer is the one who creates the setting and tone for each checkpoint/level – Arthur’ player for the Hotel, etc.
The stack getting higher is the subconsciousnesses (!) becoming wary. Collapses are attacks like the flaming torch mob.
Spotlight scenes become personal demons like Mal appearing, or perhaps reveals about their nature.
Talents are specific roles – Extractor, Chemist, Forger, Pointman, Architect. Perhaps Tourist or Overseer (Saito) as described in this infographic. Your connection is the mark himself.
Well, this totally works.