While there have to some degree or another always been games that had a unique outlook on what gameplay could be, none have ever done precisely what Kind Words does. Not to say that projects that promote similar themes are unheard of, just that this game really succeeds in showing what independent games have the capacity to be and what those that sit behind the screen have the capacity to do. Smallgrown studio Popcannibal is no stranger to making unique games (Elegy for a Dead World puts you in the shoes of an explorer discovering forgotten civilizations), but what in particular sets Kind Words apart?
Your Home is Your Desk
As the title eludes to, Kind Words is a game about sharing kind words with those that need them and not being above asking for them when you do.
All players start in the same small room, outlooking a gently lit window and graced by the reverberant notes of warm-toned music. A small desk is the only place your character will be because, for Kind Words, your desk and keyboard are all the tools you’ll need to play. You write anonymous letters to anonymous receivers with whom you will never have prolonged interaction. Purposefully your moments and conversations are fleeting and short. The essence of these small talks allows the writers to be as earnestly human and understanding as feasible in the allotted words.
As a writer, you look over requests, issues from others that you can provide helpful insight or reaction to. Sometimes the best answer is one not of explanation or understanding but rather to hear and express a genuine moment of solidarity. If I had to describe Kind Words in simplicity, I would say it’s a game about giving people a pace to be heard. Hearing someone and affirming their anxieties is so often much more than what you could ever accomplish trying to fix or give advice. Some of the letters ask specifically for advice or a second opinion on doubts, relationship intimacy, and even more minor things like questions on how to improve their bread recipe.
Writing Kind Words Every Day
I played Kind Words twice a day for a week. The initial goal wasn’t just to play the game to review it but rather to boost my own mood and introduce moments of positivity into my day. Reviewing Kind Words would be terribly challenging anyway as it doesn’t fit into any conventional reviewing system I know of, but if hard-pressed, I couldn’t give it anything but the highest score based on my own interaction.
It would be disingenuous to talk about any of the interactions or experiences I had in overly specific detail as the game is meant to be relatively private. Writers and readers go by their first initial, not any username or long-form identification. A level of privacy and assurance supports the atmosphere and protective open space that is Kind Words. Instead, I’ll talk a bit broadly about the game and my week with it.
Sharing Human Stories
I spent most of my time responding to letters rather than writing any as I found that to be easiest for myself. The game provides wonderful advice as well as several links to mental health resource websites for additional research. Even if writing isn’t exactly your favorite method of communication, Kind Words makes it easy to approach.
The letters are small enough to share a thought or two but not much more. Often times, as your mail-deer friend suggests, even the smallest sentence of appreciation or communication can go very far for others. Many of the letters I wrote and received weren’t wordy or overly explanative but due to the confines of a character limit. There’s an endearing emotion in the simple response of a stranger that may not entirely understand your plight but still cares enough to make you feel heard. No one here expects grandiose writing or perfect grammar. That’s not the point of Kind Words.
Looking back at my week sending and receiving letters from strangers I was surprised to note that every one of my interactions was positive. The process made me listen to others I may not have listened to and be heard by them. I would suggest everyone play Kind Words at least once. If you’re feeling down and want a lift up, it’s a fantastic vehicle to express yourself in a community safely. If you just want to send some positive words into the world, I can’t think of a better way to do it, especially if you’re desk-bound.