Just … be kind

So here we are, huh?

The zombie-less apocalypse has come and soon (hopefully) will be gone. As we all emerge from the year that has been and start picking up the pieces, we no doubt find ourselves in different circumstances. Perhaps your business or income was decimated; maybe you’re still trying to get back on your feet; maybe you were barely affected at all; or maybe you feel you’re somewhere in between.

As for so many, 2020 was a rollercoaster for Empire State. We had some crushing lows and we are in many ways still putting the pieces back together – and strategising moving ahead and adapting to changing times. The blog posts that I ended 2019 so passionate about fell by the wayside as the realities of lockdown became more real: our projects were put onhold (or cancelled); and our outlook started to become less and less certain.

Today marks exactly one year since an event that made a real impact on me, and I felt was the perfect way to kick things back off with our blog posts.
I apologise in advance: I can’t tell this story without getting a little geeky (although anyone who knows me would hardly be surprised by that), so for those of you who aren’t interested in the world of gaming and specifically, the Doom franchise, I recommend you skip a few paragraphs ahead.

As the realities of lockdown set in, I rekindled my love for gaming to maintain my sanity and ward off my anxieties about the uncertainty of things. I picked up Doom (2016) again, having never completed it, and found it the perfect high-octane, mindless, escapist thrill-ride. After clocking it (shoutout to anyone who gave away their age by knowing or using that term), I immediately turned my attention to Doom Eternal, which was a month away from release at that point, and was swept up in the hype of it all.

While I was rediscovering Doom (2016) again, I was chatting to a close friend of mine. He decided to pick it up at the same time and we progressed through the single player campaign together. Being the probably-too-old-to-be-playing-this guys that we are, we took it hour by hour as we found time in between work and family commitments. When the single player campaign had come and gone, my friend immediately pre-ordered Doom Eternal and asked if I’d done the same. 

I hadn’t. 

Anyone who knows games knows that AAA titles only get more expensive over time (I am not complaining, just stating fact, lest I get accused of being an old man yelling at clouds). Given the struggles at Empire State, and not knowing what the future held, there was no money for something as frivolous as a game.

He never made me say it in as many words.

The week of 6 April 2020 was particularly difficult; one of my toughest in recent memory. The realities of cash flow – and the sad fact that many of the things we had been trying to rectify our situation just weren’t panning out – meant that there were a number of hard conversations and decisions to be had around debt and the future of Empire State.

I am both grateful and fortunate to have a life partner and a business partner who believe in me and back me, and they always offer me tremendous support. 

It felt like we were strapped into a bus with seatbelts you couldn’t undo.

Which was on fire.

And also careening down the side of a mountain.

We (like all of us) were approaching the unknown, at high speed, with little choice.

To escape this feeling, I often turned to YouTube to watch previews of Doom Eternal, dev diaries, behind-the-scenes interviews and other pieces of related content. The perfect fodder to take my mind off reality: seeing what the new game would offer and how it would improve upon Doom (2016).

And while I wouldn’t be playing it at launch, I would play it someday. And it would be awesome.

Imagine my surprise when I awoke on 10 April 2020 to a digital voucher redeemable for Doom Eternal. My friend had never asked; he’d never made mention of wanting to buy me the game. We didn’t even have to exchange the words. A friend with a family, children and his own bills to pay had sent me a voucher for this brand new AAA title – a significant purchase which no doubt required sacrifice on his behalf. 

When I texted him a mixture of “WHY???” and “THANK YOU!!!” he simply replied: “I felt you were going through a rough time dude.”

Nothing more needed to be said.

After having the conversation with him, I was overwhelmed by the gesture. Given the darkness that I felt was hanging over me the previous week, the excitement of downloading and then playing Doom Eternal – and the fact that someone had made this sacrifice for me – immediately lifted all the gloom and transformed how I saw the world.

That gesture didn’t just provide me with some escapism and entertainment.

It was a catalyst to changing my outlook entirely. Yes, there’s a ton we don’t know; sure, I don’t have answers right now; no, I don’t know what the next three to six months hold … but maybe it won’t be that bad; maybe we’ll find a way through somehow.

And that is really the point of this blog post. The power of kindness, particularly when things seem their darkest, can be truly transformative. When we are talking about friends, family or loved-ones, we have a close enough connection to know when kindness like this may be especially appreciated.

But what about strangers? What about the barista at a coffee shop who gives you an especially genuine “all the best” as you leave? Or the potential client who doesn’t have the full amount for your quote right now? You just never know how close you are to being the person who can offer someone that kind of transformative kindness, or how much they need it.

I think about this gesture many times a week, and I reflect on how much I appreciated it then – and still do appreciate it now. I use this to try and push me through difficult interactions and conversations. When I feel I am justified to act one way, but I could be kind and act another way, I reflect on an act that was born entirely out of wanting to do good for another. 

Whenever I am angry or upset, I try to remind myself to “just … be kind”.

I urge you to do the same, in whatever way you can. I don’t think this has anything to do with the size or value of the gesture. We’re all in a period of rebuilding after the last 12 months, and we’re all in different phases of it. You might not know where the person you’re talking to is in their rebuilding, and you might not know how dark things look for them at this very moment in time.

Your act of kindness could change their lives. It could be so much bigger than you could ever imagine.

So if you can, remember Doom Eternal – and just … be kind.

Photo by Timothy Eberly on Unsplash

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