Be kind to strangers
It’s so easy to get overloaded and burned out these days. Between general life obligations (work, school, family), social media, and everything in between, it seems like everyone demands a piece of your time and your mental space. Sometimes the unexpected occurs, like a nasty breakup or the death of a loved one. Life and its problems can get to be too much, can weigh you down and fester into other issues, and can be hard to talk about — especially if you’re struggling with something you don’t feel like anyone else is experiencing or if you don’t feel comfortable sharing amongst those you know. But where else can you go, and who can you talk to when you feel like you can’t talk to anyone?
Enter Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to), the game that isn’t really a game, but more of an experience in mental and emotional safety. Available on Steam, the title provides a safe space — a chill, quiet, relaxing haven — to block out the negativity of daily life and focus on well-being, thoughtfulness, and…well, kind words.
The premise is exceedingly simple — you write your worries on a letter and release it to Ella, your mail deer. All letters are anonymous (only your first initial is shown) and there’s no ability to find a specific person, so your anonymity is guaranteed — feel free to write to your heart’s content. By pouring out what’s really bothering you, you can release some of that anger, hurt, frustration, and/or sadness into the universe, and that in and of itself is cathartic.
After writing a letter, Ella will place it into the system for other people to answer. While you wait for responses, browse the open letters written by other strangers; you’ll find they often express sentiments deserving of your support and care. This is the meat of the game, and honestly the most addicting — I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent simply responding to people who really needed to hear they weren’t alone and that someone out there wanted them to experience happiness, or at least know they were cared for.
While answering the letters of other strangers, Ella will pop in from time to time to let you know someone has written a thoughtful response to one of your own. After sending kind, thoughtful replies to anxious strangers, it’s nice to get kind and thoughtful messages back. Some of them are so sweet that it’s tempting to want to keep them stored somewhere so you can always refer back to them while outside of the game. Above all else, it’s just nice to be heard.
Of course, wading through all the worries and woes of random strangers can also take its toll on a certain kind of person — after awhile, I had little else I felt like sharing about myself and thought I’d spread kindness a different way. Instead of talking about my insecurities, I asked people to tell me about their day, or to share a random act of kindness they’d done. It was the responses from these letters that I looked forward to reading the most — it was these replies that made me feel good about humanity, if only for a moment.
Replies that make you feel warm and fuzzy inside certainly warrant a form of gratitude, and Kind Words offers the positively delightful option of gifting stickers. All players start with one of 11 possible stickers, and as you write replies, you can put a sticker in the bottom right corner of your letter. Players who love your reply can send one back, allowing you to complete your sticker set one by one. Your stickers also help to decorate your room — the mug sticker becomes the mug on your desk, the winged cat sticker becomes a stuffed animal on your bed, etc. It’s fun to try to collect them all!
There are two areas in which Kind Words absolutely shines — even more than it already overwhelmingly does — and that’s in its OST and paper airplanes feature. The OST lives up to the title, as the soundtrack is full of lofi chill beats to write to and is perfectly suited for cozying up and writing kind letters to strangers. I find myself keeping the game open all day at work just to listen to the soothing, calming music (my favorite track is Lavender), and I’ve found myself feeling less stressed and better able to focus throughout the day because of it.
The second incredibly amazing standout of this already superb experience is the paper airplanes mechanic. If you keep your game idle in the main room, paper airplanes will fly across the screen. Clicking on one of them will unfold to yield a thoughtful message meant for everyone to read. Like the letters, all players can participate in writing paper airplanes, but note that they must be generalized and meant to spread positivity to any who click. A nice quote, a reminder to breathe and stay hydrated, or a quick note to tell everyone they’re loved are welcome messages that fly from room to room, just waiting to be opened.
One of the strongest aspects of this game is that it’s not only completely anonymous, but there’s also no room for discussion. Some have compared Kind Words to “Kind Twitter” (a section of Twitter that is generally regarded as positive or nice), but I completely disagree. For one, Twitter (already known for being a typically unpleasant place) generally incites discussion and debate — even on kind topics — which does not happen in this game. There are two messages in a chain — the letter and the reply — and that’s where it ends. No discussion, no debate. This wonderful change of pace makes each word in the 14 line limit count, so it’s best to fill them with kindness and understanding.
Perhaps the best part of Kind Words isn’t anything in the game, but the ethos of the developers that drove them to make the endearing title in the first place. “The biggest thing [we] learned from making Kind Words is that most people are inherently good, they just need the environment for that part of them to flourish,” said Luigi Guatieri, illustrator and one half of the Popcannibal duo. The belief that humanity would respond positively to the game and continue to spread kindness and love to others paid off for the team, as Kind Words has earned a very rare and very coveted “overwhelmingly positive” rating from Steam. Perfection!
I genuinely did not think I was going to spend 80+ hours on a game that feels like sending good vibes into an echo chamber — the soothing music and calming atmosphere kept me involved long after the novelty of the concept wore off. It’s an absolute delight to play and is now an active part of my daily routine. I can’t thank the dev team enough for creating such a wonderful masterpiece and believing in the inherent good of humanity.
Final Verdict: 5/5
Available on: PC (reviewed); Publisher: Popcannibal; Developer: Popcannibal; Players: 1; Released: September 12, 2019; MSRP: $4.99
Editor’s note: This review is based on a retail copy of Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) purchased by the reviewer.