A Stranger’s Kindness

The best online games (or games with online components) are those that are designed to provide moments of spontaneous cooperation. That is, they are made to be played solo, but in a way that the player’s fate inevitably intersects with that of other players.

Most modern MMOs work like this. Even 15 years ago, there were few moments more fantastic in World of Warcraft than saving a stranger (or being saved by one) from an enemy ambush. But even the simple gesture of curing or blessing a stranger met on the road made our hearts smile. In modern WoW, these situations are less common, but not extinct.

But the ultimate exponent of this philosophy is probably the Dark Souls series. Here are games that require the player to display mastery over them; games that do not forgive mistakes… Unless… You find a mark left by the spirit of another player, ready to help you with information about the upcoming dangers, or even by offering a spiritual hand to fight by your side. Even in death, these spirits are generous – they allow us to witness a replay of their final moments, giving us the chance to deduce the nature of the deadly perils ahead.

You can’t arrange to play Dark Souls with a friend, at least not without some sort of trickery. And that’s by design. The message is powerful: in your darkest moments, there is no balm like the unexpected help of a stranger.

Photo Credit: Gotham Game Chronicles Flickr via Compfight cc