I hope that in some point in your life, you’ve been on the receiving end of a random act of kindness, and maybe on the giving end too. Maybe someone bought your morning coffee, you were complimented by a stranger, or you were given a huge tip. And maybe you held the door for a long line of people, went out of your way to offer help, or stayed somewhere longer than required so that you could help clean up. They’re small acts, but powerful ones. They can brighten your day whether you’re the giver or the receiver.
I’ve had a few random acts done to me, and I’ve done a couple myself. I’ve known about them for a long time. One thing I didn’t realize, though, is that they happen in the gaming world too.
It happened a couple nights ago. I made a new character on Guild Wars 2, just for the fun of it, and was running around as a level 2 human in the village of Shaemoor. All of a sudden, someone whispered me in chat and asked if I was new. I was immediately suspicious. Most times I’m asked that question, it’s someone trying to get me to join their guild, which I don’t want to do. I quickly replied that I wasn’t a new player and that this was just a new character. The person said that if I’d been new, they would’ve sent me 1 gold, and then I received a letter from them with 50 silver in it. They next asked that I passed it onto someone who I thought deserved it and logged off before I could reply.
I was startled and for a moment didn’t know what had happened. Why did a stranger just give me money? I wondered, confused. It took me a moment, but I finally realized that this person was just being nice. It was a random act of kindness–the first I’d ever seen in-game. Feeling a bit guilty that I’d been so suspicious, I sent a letter back to the person thanking them and promising to pass on the kind gift. Even though the 50 silver wasn’t worth all that much to me, since I’d been playing the game for a while, I could still imagine how I would feel to get this money as a newbie. It made me eager to pass it on.
The next day, as luck would have it, I was given my chance. I was playing on my level 2 character again, doing some events to level her up, and I came across a player who was having trouble. They told me they were new to the game and having a tough time getting the hang of it, so I offered to group up and we did some more events together for a while, including joining forces with a higher-level character to take down a champion. I gave tips whenever they were needed and we got a fair number of events done before we went our separate ways. The new player asked to be my friend, so that we could quest together sometime later, and I readily agreed. We split up and before I logged off, I sent them a letter.
Just like what had happened to me the night before, I sent a letter to my new friend with 50 silver in it. I explained the situation and gave this gift to the new player as a welcome to the game, saying that they could send me a message if they needed help or just wanted to quest together. I sent it off feeling good, happy that I had been able to help out a new player, and even happier that I had been given this opportunity in the first place.
I realized later that, even though the gift of the 50 silver was such a small action that didn’t even really help me out, it was still a very heroic gesture. Part of the definition of a hero is someone willing to make a sacrifice, usually for someone else. And another part of the definition is someone who doesn’t do it for any sort of tangible reward. The player who gave me the silver in the first place was sacrificing their own money to help me, and was doing it without expecting anything in return. They did it without asking or bragging. Even though I didn’t actually need the silver, it was still a heroic gesture, and that intrigued me.
I always thought that heroism in gaming was just helping out a player who was obviously in trouble, or stepping up to help a village fight off a giant. I never imagined that it was anything as subtle and touching as a monetary gift.
Now that I’ve looked it up, I’ve realized that there are tons of people doing tons of small acts of kindness in-game, as you can see in this forum post. They’re being heroes in a less obvious way, but in a way that is more helpful than just reviving a dead player or joining in a difficult fight. Not only does the act of kindness help brighten a player’s day, it also reminds them that there are people in this game who care, who actually want to help out the newbies.
One of my favourite quotes from the forum post is this:
One of the nicest things people can do in any MMO is to remember that we were all noobs once.
The thing is, we’ve all experienced that feeling of confusion or “noobness” at some point or another, no matter what we’re doing, and having someone there to care makes all the difference.
How would you feel if you were new and experienced a random act of kindness?
May you always remember that the small acts of heroism can be touchingly powerful.