Stay safe, stay awesome, stay hydrated!
May 11, 2022

Kind Words and the Power of Positivity in Gaming

Kind Words and the Power of Positivity in Gaming

It would be an understatement to suggest that the 20s have gotten off to a rocky start, especially in a world where misery is available with just the click of a button.In my episode on content creation, I discussed my journey into the world of streaming and how gaming helped me throughout the turbulent two years that have gone by. But during this time, there was one particular game that stood out to me. Enter Kind Words, an indie game developed in 2019 by a small team of three individuals which completely challenged the way that I looked at gaming. The premise was simple yet intriguing: for players to anonymously listen and confide in one another about their daily woes. But despite it’s good intentions, I remained a tad skeptical that it could achieve it’s goal. After all, in a world where anonymity empowers people to act any way they wish towards others, could such a game have a positive impact?


To rewind for a moment, Kind Words puts the player in a position where they receive anonymous letters from other users and they in turn can forward on their own letters expressing frustrations or achievements. Once a letter is received by an admittedly endearing…well, deer called Ella, the player can then choose to reply with advice and words of empathy in a completely anonymous space. The first time I saw this game was on Twitch where a friend of mine was carefully pondering over what to say. Initially I was confused about why he was taking so long to reply, assuming that the letters were auto-generated. But when I learned that they were real people behind the letters my curiosity was piqued. As someone who grew up listening to language on the internet so colourful that it would make a rainbow blush, I could not imagine how Kind Words could do anything different. Fortunately for me, I was completely wrong.


The beauty of Kind Words is that once you send your letter to someone, the receiving user will only be able to reply once to you. While this eliminates the possibility of maintaining a dialogue, it allows players to vent their frustrations thereby allowing someone else to serve the role as a listener rather than a judge. But it also safeguards against something I admittedly thought would be the main enemy of the game: trolls. By cutting off the satisfaction of being able to react to troll posts, this too starved any entertainment value they would otherwise receive from their targets. Developer of the game Ziba Scott himself confessed that, in an interview with Eurogamer in 2021, they purposely removed any  “quantitative measures” which other social medias depend on. But something I admired him for also taking into account was the fact that trolls are also people too and could be victims of their own problems in life, lashing out at others in a destructive manner.


As I tried the game for myself I anxiously waited for Ella to bring me my letter. My avatar sat blissfully at their desk, writing letters as the sound of lo-fi music hummed soothingly in the background. I awaited with trepidation as I expected the worst and yet as I saw my reply unfurl before my eyes I was shocked, at least in a good way. The more I used the game, the more positive messages I received and I soon found myself replying to others who also needed support. Within this realm of pixels and calming music I found a sanctuary of positivity and hope, where negativity became a stranger. But as I discussed this with my co-host we came to a rather thought provoking question: can Kind Words truly be classed as a game?


That isn’t a slight against the game itself, nor is it a slight to Ziba Scott or the others who worked hard to bring this game to life. After all it has the trappings of a game, with pixels and interactive features. But at a base level, one could call it minimalist as it is only a forum to vent to the unknown masses while listening to lo-fi beats. Yet it is that distinction that makes it stand out amongst the others. As silly as it may sound, Kind Words is an experience. It is a shelter for those to hide away from a world in turmoil, even if it is only briefly. And the best part? Regardless of who uses the game, it understands that even those lashing out can also have that one bad day. By doing so, it supports those who may otherwise feel trapped and alone.


Life isn’t perfect. It is a series of crooked events that shape us into who we are. Yet thanks to Kind Words, my faith in humanity has been somewhat restored a little. Because even though the developer Pop Cannibal have provided a place that should by all rights be ripe for trolling, somehow those wishing to do something good have prevailed. But beyond that, it has shown me that gaming can be far more than a series of flashy graphics and high scores. It can be a place where people can band together under a common interest and choose to help one another. Whether you send or receive letters, there is absolutely no pressure to engage in either. 

So if you see this game, why not check it out? While you won’t be fighting off aliens or going on any wild adventures, you may be able to give someone out there the words that they need to hear. And with that I leave you with my own kind words: stay safe, stay awesome and, most importantly, stay hydrated!