We call them heroes, these characters of ours. Not every one of us and surely not every character but the term 'Hero' was at one time nearly synonymous with Play Character.
I've mentioned many times that I entered the hobby of role playing games from a love of comic books and fantastic films and TV. I wanted to be a hero and fight evil villains and rescue the innocent and all that jazz. Obtaining magic items and gold were an aside, necessary for my character to have some sort of income but the real benefit was that they let him pursue his goal, ridding the world of darkness.
In my earliest years with Basic and Advanced D&D we would go two or three adventures without ever finding more than a few gold pieces. It didn't occur to my friends and I to include a lot of treasure. It didn't make sense. Captain American doesn't loot the bodies.
As I got older and was exposed to more players and play styles I got the idea but I also found other games, most notably Villains and Vigilantes and Star Trek. Superheroes and Star Trek style Sci-Fi doesn't really reinforce that drive to kill all your enemies and then steal from their homes the way most old school games and especially D&D did (and does).
Fast forward to the modern day and I'm still running games where being a hero is more then calling yourself one. At least in my Superhero, Star Trek, and my D&D-for-those-who-don't-like-D&D campaigns you'll get just as many if not more experience points for an act of selfless heroism than you will for stabbing an Orc in the back.
Now I'm not saying the hack-and-slash, kill the monsters-take their stuff approach is 'badwrong' but I don't feel it's heroic IMHO. When was the last time you or one of your players tried to stop a hurricane from destroying a peaceful fishing village or rescued the injured after it did? Have they saved an explorer who fell off a cliff? Removed people from a burning or crumbing building? Did any of these without the specific abilities or defenses that would protect the PC from harm?
To me that's just a lot more heroic then gutting your opponent with a +2 sword and then making off with their belongings. Heck a goblin can do that. When was the last time the PCs in your campaign fought the monsters for some loftier goal then trying to get a few gems and a potion of healing? Even that would be awesome.
So, in conclusion, I hope I made a least one person think and possibly inspired them to bring back the Hero.
We could all use some new ones.