Altruism has a new brand name and it’s called Akoha.
You might’ve heard of it. Akoha is a new type of online game where players are given cards that challenge them with specific unselfish missions. The only reward for successful players are karma points that advance them further into the game; eventually, they reach a level in which they can design future mission cards.
So, instead of doing acts of kindness for the sake of being kind, people will soon be giving for the sake of gaming. While it may be sad to some people that generosity has degenerated into a veritable card game, I actually think it’s a brilliant idea. Akoha works best if the recipients play the game forward and continue the cycle of giving. Ideally, a domino effect of kindness will cascade through a community multiplying the joy until it eventually fizzles out somewhere down the line.
If you asked my wife about Akoha, she might refer to her feelings about ‘Extreme Home Makeover”. Her rant on that show goes on about how all these extremely expensive homes are a waste of resources. They could probably make thirty Habitat for Humanity homes if you added up the luxuries in every episode of XHM. I don’t disagree with her point necessarily, but I do think she is basing her negative opinion on a false premise – that ABC should use their resources for a show where ordinary impoverished people get new homes. The point of XHM is that one remarkable family who has overcome tragedy will receive a community built dream home filled with appliances from Sears. And isn’t that such a better concept than programs about annoying families who swap wives or whatever? Think of all the garbage that is shoveled at us on network programming. Can’t we appreciate the one program that sells product placement in the name of helping a needy family?
That’s how I feel about Akoha. Yes, this company will need to find a way to pay for this manufactured altruism. Yes, true anonymous unattached altruism is preferable to altruism as a hobby. Yes, the idea is kind of corny. Nothing is perfect, but at least the concept is something that will bring unexpected joy to people’s lives. Can I ask for anything better from a random online game?
The reason that I bring this up is because I think that atheists, such as myself, can benefit from a game such as Akoha. Unlike christians, we are rarely asked to give back to our communities in an organized way. That isn’t to say that we don’t volunteer, or that we need to be coerced into being good to our fellow man, but I think that we all need a nudge toward benevolence. To be honest, Christians get that nudge on Sundays while I’m laying in my pajamas watching Meet The Press. If my nudge comes from a mostly secular interactive online game, then I don’t mind.
What about your opinion? Does this sound like a fun way to be nice? Or does it seem artificial and useless? Do you agree that atheists need a nudge every once in a while? Let me know in the comments…