It is not often that a game designed to uplift players through community converges with a time where its release is also most impactful. Kind Words, developed by Popcannibal in 2019, is a PC game about letter writing to people—real people. Kind Words focuses heavily on players writing brief and meaningful letters asking for advice, seeking to disclose events in one’s life, as well as to write to the anonymous community within the game about the issues one is thinking on. While these letters are written anonymously, each one can be responded to by individuals playing the game with the hope of providing the kind words needed/sought in the title’s namesake to others, all while listening to lo-fi tunes to create a calming atmosphere. But what does this anonymous space do?
While online, people who are interacting anonymously may become disinhibited and stray outside of their typical social boundaries both in terms of their interactions and disclosures (Suler, 2004). Within the past year of going through and reading letters from folks in game, as well as writing to several people myself, I have come to listen to stories of the loss of close ones, the anxieties and worries of being in isolation due to COVID-19, and the stressors of everyday life that feel so amplified in these people’s lives. Mirroring this sharing is also a portion of folks who will enact positive disclosures, seek to provide social support they may not normally give, and work to alleviate or help another process the grief they are feeling. In this moment—this aesthetic moment where mind, heart, and hands come together at the keyboard—there is social support given and community present which is not felt in many other online spaces, but exemplified in Kind Words.
In playing and experiencing this shared spaced with a plethora of other folks going about their lives, I am reminded how transformational it feels to be present in the moment when a letter from someone out there hits my mailbox speaking to a worry or loss I am struggling through or when I can partake in mutual care towards others feeling the same thing. Ultimately, the point of inspiration that moves us beyond the game mechanics is coming to believe that through Kind Words come also kind hearts.
Popcannibal. (2019) Kind Words [Steam]. Popcannibal. https://www.popcannibal.com/kindwords/
Suler, J. (2004). The online disinhibition effect. Cyberpsychology and Behavior, 7(3), 321–326. https://doi.org/10.1089/1094931041291295