Indie Game of the Month: Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to)
The games covered in Indie Game of the Month are for a lot of reasons. Sometimes they are just the best indie game I played that month. Sometimes it’s a game that does something so interesting and innovative, it’s worth checking out despite its flaws. This month is something different. Kind Words is not featured because it’s a break through innovation or an example of quality. It’s featured because it’s important. In a month filled with fantastic indie games, I truly feel like this is the one that every gamer should play at least once.
Why is it important? Because, Kind Words is a game about, well, being kind, specifically being kind to complete strangers for no real gain. The internet and gaming communities in general are so stigmatized as cruel unfeeling places filled with jerks that will at best throw slurs at your face and at worst doxx, SWAT you, or ruin your life in any other manner of horrible ways. Yet this is a game whose sole purpose for existence is to help people who are having a hard time. That’s not something that I can say about many games in existence. It’s not something I can say about many past times in general.
So how does this little altruism program work? Well there’s only one environment in the game, your bedroom. You have a small little avatar, a radio, and a desk, and a single random sticker. A mail deer assists you by bringing you a variety of “requests,” short character limited cries for help created by actual other users in the game. Sometimes these cries for help can be serious questions asking for support in going through tough breakups, medical conditions, family problems, and the like. Sometimes they just ask for a neat anime to watch or some advice with cooking.
You might be thinking “how does this system avoid trolls?” Well the requests go out to basically everyone at the same time and they only stay up for a small period of time. If someone comes across a troll request they can immediately report it and get it taken down. While, yes, this can cause some false positives, requests only stay active for a small amount of time anyway so it’s barely noticed. The result is a system of requests that is surprisingly free of the hate and venom you usually get in online forums.
It also helps that you aren’t able to use your real name or give out any personal details whatsoever. If you do, that too will get you reported and taken down. You also aren’t able to do anything besides replying once. This prevents you from getting into reply trains that turn into long winded internet arguments.
Nope, the format is this. Requests are written in short form blurbs with a character limit. If you find a request that you think you have a reply for, you can type in a window with about twice the character limit and then send the reply off. If you like, you can send your sticker with the reply, which will then add a sticker to the recipient’s collection. If they like your answer, they too might send a sticker back.
These stickers are the only real “goal” of the game. You have a sticker collection and ostensibly you are trying to complete it. Each new sticker you get allows you to add more decorations to your spartan room. Everything from stuffed animals to desk curios can be used to give your room just a little bit of personality.
This goal also goes a long way toward keeping the game nice all around. If you fire off troll or garbage responses, you won’t get any stickers, which means you won’t make any progress toward your goal. If you write troll or garbage requests, no one will answer you, which once again means no stickers. If you care about progress whatsoever, you need to be kind. If you don’t, well you’ll get banned after enough reports anyway. The community is surprisingly good at self-policing.
This is pretty much all you can do in Kind Words. You can write requests, answer requests, or even send out an even shorter form blurb of random encouragement to the world in the form of a paper airplane. Yes, it’s not much, but if you keep at it you will unlock a variety of lo fi beats! You’ll get a new music track every day you come back and write a little. You won’t get it just for opening the program. You actually have to answer some requests to earn the track. Once again, making any sort of “progress” requires you to be a kind and active member of the community.
Kind Words has helped me out in all sorts of ways. I’ve recently been going through a few medical troubles myself, and simply being able to scream my worries into the void and have several people answer back was helpful. Not only did it make me feel like I wasn’t alone, I actually got a lot of truly good advice that has changed my life.
And the flipside was also rewarding. Sometimes I was able to give the exact piece of advice that could solve someone’s problem. Sometimes I had nothing to offer other than words of encouragement and a sticker. Either way I was happy that I could make a small difference in someone’s life.
Now, Kind Words has become something of a ritual for me. Whenever I have downtime I’ll open up the program and respond to some requests. If I find myself up in the middle of the night needing to vent off some energy before I go back to sleep, I’ll sign on and see what requests are coming through in the middle of the night. If I need background noise I’ll let Kind Words fill the void and maybe type a few encouraging words or two along the way.
Kind Words isn’t the most innovative game, nor is it the highest quality game. What Kind Words is, is a way to make the lives of others just a little bit better. Many video games have changed my life, but only in the way that profound works of art can change your life. Kind Words allows people to help other people with a video game framework. It’s a neat idea and it will bring a smile to your face and some tears to your eyes. That alone makes it worth experiencing.