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The Game Awards nominee Kind Words is a shocking exercise in anonymous kindness

Kind Words is the warm hug you needed from a friend after a long day, it’s the “I’m proud of you” that you needed to hear, but for whatever reason, never did. It’s a surprising bit of warmth, and it comes from a surprising place. Complete and total strangers.

As someone who spends inordinate amounts of time in front of a desk with the lights dimmed and lo-fi on in the background, this game instantly spoke to me. I was interested in the soundtrack alone, but once I began writing and receiving letters from players, everything clicked.

In Kind Words, you sit in a desk in a charming room as an isometric camera watches over you. At times, paper airplanes will whizz by overhead, carrying messages of positivity. These bright shouts into the void of chill hip hop beats are viewed by players across the globe, and you are free to send your own at any time.

You are also encouraged to write letters for other players to answer. You’re invited to write about your worries, or just ask for advice. Anyone who receives the letter can reply and, in turn, you can respond to their reply with a thanks and a collectible sticker. You can’t, however, send another letter in reply – which is smart. It provides a natural end point to the conversation.

You’re invited to write about your worries, or just ask for advice.

Your friendly mail-deer will interrupt you now and again with a new music track, expanding your collection of soothing sounds. Those stickers you’ve received from fellow writers? You can use them to unlock new decorations for your room, making the space your own. As you answer more letters, you’ll fill out your sticker book and, in turn, collect more quirky in-game decorations.

Earning stickers to fill your book would be enough to keep most people playing, but it wasn’t what kept me at my desk.

Instead, I found myself jumping back in to sift through letters in search of someone I could help. I began gravitating to stories that I could relate to on a personal level. And by offering the most helpful and level-headed advice or support I could, I felt like I was undoing pain-points from my own past.

Kind Words gives players the chance to be the guiding hand or strong shoulder we may not have had in our own moments of need. Finding someone expressing familiar pain, and then helping ease it, is intensely satisfying. Few games give you the opportunity to directly help another player in a way that reaches beyond the game and into real life.

The mask of anonymity, which so often causes problems, is incredibly helpful. I found myself sharing issues I wouldn’t ever bring to even my closest loved ones. I logged in and received a tidal wave of understanding and empathy. Whether I needed help dealing with the loss of a loved one, or just the general stressors of the day to day, players offered words of support and solidarity.

In the quiet moments between sending your letters and replying to other players, the small paper airplanes whizzing about your room are a fun and addicting way to pass the time. Players use these public messages to share interests, tell jokes, and start hug chains.

This stream of consciousness is entertaining on its own, as you never know if a plane will ever fly through your room again if it goes unopened. Opening each one felt like catching a digital bottle at sea, a single moment and message that could have easily been lost forever.

Popcannibal, the studio behind Kind Words, draws inspiration from the Lo-Fi phenomenon “lofi hip hop radio – beats to relax/study to,” a stream hosted by ChilledCow, who has over 3 million subscribers. Dozens of other popular music streams have cropped up borrowing that same calming style and using a bedroom for its visuals. It reinforces a sense of tranquility, intimacy, and safety.

These themes line up perfectly with a game built around sharing your fears, worries, and secrets. As a regular viewer of ChilledCow’s stream, I’ve witnessed the live chat become a place for sharing and for kindness.

Kind Words is nominated for this year’s Games for Impact award at The Game Awards. Titles in this category are chosen for their thought-provoking, pro-social message. After experiencing Kind Words for myself, I think it epitomizes those standards. It not only has the potential to touch players in unique ways given the broad messages you can receive, but it gives us a glimpse at a more gentle internet.

We are all capable of supporting one another. And it all starts with a little bit of kindness.

Curious which games might win this year? Check out our The Game Awards 2019 predictions.

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