“A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees.” ― Amelia Earhart
Several weeks ago, I was sitting in line in the Starbucks drive-thru, waiting for my iced grande nonfat chai tea latte with one pump of caramel. I was feeling pretty down about the tension and division in our country (and briefly pondered whether my 11-word-long drink order was part of the problem). I drove up to the window, credit card in hand, ready to pay. The barista beamed at me and reported dutifully, “The person in front of you paid for your order. She said she hopes you have a great day!” I had heard about this happening in drive-thrus, of course, but it was the first time I experienced it personally. It was a simple thing, but it gave me a rush of goodwill and hope for society (which was magnified when the same thing happened three more times that week!). I gave a polite honk and waved at my benefactor as she drove away. I took a moment to savor the warmth of a stranger’s kind impulse and wondered if it was just my imagination that the chai tasted a little extra delicious that day.
Because kindness is a powerful tool, that woman’s act of kindness benefited her as much, if not more, than it benefited me. Kindness is one of the 24 strengths of character that, according to the founders of positive psychology, is nearly universally valued and considered key to a good life. Research by scientists including happiness scholar Sonja Lyubomirsky suggests that doing kind things for others is a reliable way to boost our own health and well-being. Receiving kindness has the power to heal, and often sets off a chain of paying it forward to others. (But beware: greedy acts are contagious, too—putting kindness into the world is a better choice for everyone).
Over the next few days, still touched by that small, thoughtful act, I was on the lookout for sneaky kindness opportunities. I got a little bit of a rush just contemplating making someone else’s day. Buying someone’s coffee was an obvious choice. I did it a few times and loved it. But soon I needed to change it up. Research on happiness-enhancing activities—like showing kindness or expressing gratitude—shows that people get a bigger boost when they vary the activities they do. Choosing a novel act of kindness to try every now and then is one way to ensure that the effort delivers maximum happiness payoff.
It turned out that new opportunities to show kindness were everywhere I looked. I donated some of my paid time off to a fellow employee who needed more hours to spend with her father in hospice care. I took the time to get out of my car and stop a shopping cart from rolling into the side of a stranger’s truck. Almost every time I did one of these small kindnesses, I noticed yet another that was paid back to me. The man in front of me at the airport noticed I was rushed and insisted I take his place in line at the baggage drop. A stranger took the time to pay me a sincere compliment as we crossed paths.
Stories like these abound, and in honor of Random Acts of Kindness Week (February 12-18, 2017), let’s give a shout-out to a few ways that opportunities for kindness show up in and around the world of games:
- Mission: Kill with Kindness: In Cruel 2 B Kind, Jane McGonigal and Ian Bogost’s experimental pervasive game, teams compete to be the first to “assassinate” other players in public spaces through kindness. The trick? You don’t know who’s playing, and who’s just an “innocent bystander.” Compliment a non-player, and you’ve made their day. But compliment a fellow Cruel2BKind-er and you may have carried out a successful kindness assassination. What other games do you know of that get throngs of people shouting super nice things to each other in the streets for the win? Watch Cruel 2 B Kind gameplay below (or here).
- Gifting In Games: In Farmville, an online social game where you deck out your own little farm, there are certain objects you can only get through friends’ generosity. Gifting things like ducks, bird baths, and topiaries raises the likelihood that others will gift back to you, resulting in fancier virtual farms for all involved! And in case you’re wondering, it’s okay to be kind because you think your kindness will be appreciated or reciprocated. Getting a benefit for your kindness doesn’t make it less meaningful (and in fact, being appreciated for your sacrifice might make future kindness feel more worthwhile).
- Gifting THE Game: Show your love for a favorite game (and the developers who created it) by gifting it to others! A Redditor known as “gildedkitten” bought license keys to Stardew Valley for strangers in order to combat piracy and support the game’s developer, and this act set off an inspiring chain of giving. Platforms like Steam also let you gift games to friends. Show kindness by gifting play!
- Gamifying Acts of Kindness: While it’s not a game, using the compliment generator at www.happify.com may impart a sense of achievement and a warm glow by letting you visualize the chain of kindness that grows when you share sincere praise for those you love and inspire them to do the same for others. Also take advantage of ways to track your random acts of kindness (and discover new ones you hadn’t thought of) at https://randomactsof.us/ and https://www.kindness.org/.
Happy Random Acts of Kindness Week from iThrive!
Where else have you seen kindness in the world of games? What are some ways you can be kind in MMO’s and other social, multiplayer games? Share your experiences in the comments!