With the world as...uh, complicated as it is right now, I've been turning more and more to games for some kind of comfort. Though I picked it up a couple of years back, I've recently returned to this little game with a big purpose.
The 2019 indie hit Kind Words allows you to not run from your complex emotions, but experience them and find support along the way.
What is Kind Words?
Kind Words, from Popcannibal, is a relaxed game in which, from a small bedroom, you write and receive letters from strangers. You can put in a request letter, which may ask for advice or general support, and respond to others' requests in kind. You also have the option to write paper airplanes, which are simple, responseless positive comments that float through the air for you to click on and read.
The game has no progression mechanics, no larger goals, and no leaderboards. In fact, everything is completely anonymous; you are identified only by a one-letter signature at the bottom of your letters. The whole point of the game is to get lost in the different-every-day loop of lofi-style music and writing.
The one semi-progressing mechanic in the game is collecting stickers; you have a set of sticker sheets that can only be filled by making and answering requests. Players can attach stickers to their letters when they send them. Each sticker allows you to add a new element to your environment, and honestly, they're just really cute to look at.
You're guided through the game by a lovely little mail delivery deer named Ella, who delivers your mail and finds new music for you to listen to each day. She's always positive, encouraging you to respond kindly to others and yourself.
The Chill of Doing Nothing
What I love about Kind Words, among other things, is the ability to sit there and do absolutely nothing, and yet still enjoy it. The game's relaxing music and glowing, rounded art style make it excellent for putting on in the background while you read or sew or do something else. Even if you don't want to click on the airplanes that float by, it's nice to watch them fly across the screen and know that someone's kind thought is lodged inside.
As someone with intense anxiety and phobia issues, Kind Words provides a fantastic escape. I've found that, if I turn the game on while I'm in the middle of an attack, I can more easily calm and ground myself, leading to significantly less stress and pain. Even when I feel relatively fine, simply listening to the game's music in the background can put me in a good mood.
Beyond this, it feels incredibly nice to spread positivity. The community inside the game, though anonymous, is supportive, trusting, and almost always in good faith. Knowing that I can freely express my concerns without fear of judgment or rejection is so uplifting, and being able to offer unbiased, optimistic advice to others in difficult situations makes me feel as if I'm contributing to the world in a positive way.
What Writers Are Saying
To really get a feel for the community, I asked them to chip in. I put out a request saying that I was a writer looking to create a piece about the game and asking for comments about what it meant to the players. I received a lot of thoughtful responses, with many well-wishes for the piece (thank you, friends!).
Most people commented that it felt nice to be able to vent out negative emotions in a place where they could not be judged for their past actions or their identity. They noted that such a place is rare and, when presented with it, many were amazed that other people could be this kind at all.
Here are some quotes from responders:
"I find it difficult to share my honest feelings with others in real life. I'm happy that this safe place of strangers exists."
"It makes me feel a lot less alone in this world."
And my personal favorite:
"This is a place of love and pure kindness."
I couldn't agree more.
Kind Words is a Den of Joy
Sometimes, the world is dark, painful, and overwhelming. While oftentimes we look to games to escape from it all, and we can definitely find comfort in doing so short-term, finding a space where we are allowed to feel things deeply and authentically, where we can look for kindness and support without caveats, seems to me to be utterly essential. That place, for me, is Kind Words and the faceless community that still feels like a kind of camaraderie.
Kind Words is available on Steam for $4.99.
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