Recently, I’ve traded my pen for a sword and have spent whatever free time I can get replaying The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt. It’s a role-playing video game where you play as Geralt, a monster hunter tasked with searching for his lost pupil. Traversing the mythical and dangerous land of Temeria presents the player with a series of choices, like how to approach a quest, engage in combat, or navigate a conversation with an NPC. While some choices center on gameplay, like allowing players to spend skill points towards magical or melee abilities, the game presents choices that can significantly alter Geralt’s relationship to the world and the course of his narrative. And this is what makes The Witcher 3 one of my favorite video games—its heavy-handed approach to the saying, “actions have consequences.”
The appeal of a role-playing video game like The Witcher is found in its branching dialogue options and diverse number of narrative choices. These qualities force players to consider the consequences that face them should they not tread lightly when speaking with an NPC or when approaching a pivotal scene. Due to this, care and compassion are crucial to maintaining peaceful resolutions and meaningful connections with others in the game-world.
Going beyond the realm of digital landscapes, when interacting with a person or confronted by a situation, we face several choices that can ripple and affect the course of our life. We can either respond to these scenarios with compassion and kindness or indifference and contempt. The decision is entirely your own, but know that opting for compassion is a conscious decision that brings positivity and love into another person’s life.
The Compassion Loop
In many respects, life feels like a video game. Our lives consist of a series of quests, where we work to achieve a reward, whether it be personal fulfillment or a material possession. We revel and bask in our reward, but once this honeymoon period is over, we move on to the next quest, repeating the process.
In game design terms, this repetitive process we undergo for the sake of personal growth or material comfort is not dissimilar to a “Gameplay Loop.” What makes a successful loop is the joy and satisfaction a player derives from the actions they make within a game. In Super Mario Odyssey, the loop derives from the player’s choice to find the over 800 moons hidden throughout the game’s 18 kingdoms. Animal Crossing: New Horizon’s loop is far broader, relying on no set ending and a countless number of furniture items to collect and anthropomorphic animals to befriend. Despite both games releasing over a year ago, with the former being released in 2017, players flock back to these games because of the satisfaction each loop offers.
In a larger context, when we do things that feel good or bring pleasure to our lives, we’re likely to stick to that loop. Applying daily compassion for others and the situations we experience is one of these many loops we can incorporate into our lives to bring about longevity and peace.
Don’t believe me? This article by psychologist Emma Seppälä, for the Association for Psychological Science, details numerous psychological studies linking displays of compassion to increased physical and mental health benefits. “The reason a compassionate lifestyle leads to greater psychological well-being may be explained by the fact that the act of giving appears to be as pleasurable, if not more so, as the act of receiving,” Seppälä writes. Seppälä describes compassion as an act of mutual exchange. For example, in acts of compassion like gift-giving or offering a compliment, the positive feelings that manifest from those actions are felt even more if we are the ones demonstrating those acts. In this sense, it is better to give rather than receive when it comes to compassion.
The compassion loop allows us to experience a continuous stream of positive feedback that strengthens our well-being. And who knows, maybe your good deeds will affect others, beginning a new cycle of compassion within their lives.
The Bigger Picture
Viewing compassion from a gamer’s perspective has offered me a better and more nuanced understanding of its importance in our growingly divided world.
I’ve always thought of myself as a compassionate person, always ready to give someone else the benefit of the doubt or see the best in them, but seeing constant hate tends to sour a person’s perspective. When the Capitol Building was stormed, and the numbers of Asian-American hate crimes soared in the first half of this year, it was difficult for me to offer compassion to the participants of these heinous acts. And today, I still can’t. But what is the cost of jeopardizing compassion for the sake of upholding our own beliefs?
Choosing compassion isn’t easy, but the alternative results in a harsher, more disconnected world. Being compassionate means shelving our egos to help create a better, kinder, and more loving environment. It’s a selfless choice that prioritizes the well-being of others above all else while still nurturing a positive relationship with our mind and body.
If you enjoyed this topic, check out the first episode from our newest podcast series The Conversation! Hosts, JR and Ayla, take you through what compassion means to them, others, and to the planet.
About the Author:
Aaron Talledo is currently pursuing his BA in English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He finds inspiration from literature, music, and film and expresses creativity through writing. In his free time, Aaron enjoys fitness, meditation, and video games.