Title: Kind Words
Release Date: September 13, 2019
My Rating: 5/5
Kind Words has been on my radar since I heard about it a few months ago, and it came right back up to the front of my to-play list thanks to the Game Awards having it as a nominee for the Games for Impact award. I was finally able to download it, and I am not disappointed in it.
Note that this review doesn’t use the typical template. Mechanically speaking, there’s not much to this game. You have a little avatar that relaxes in a small bedroom while scribbling away letters to other people. The goal is, simply, to be kind, to send words of encouragement, to give advice in response to other people’s letters, or to just let them know, “I am here and I hear you.”
The menu on the side allows you to see requests that you can answer, send a request yourself to receive advice, send a paper airplane that floats through everyone’s room, and see your inbox, among options for the credits and settings. The setting is minimal, clean, and calming with the soft lights and the chill mix of music that you can adjust to your liking by clicking on the radio above the bed.
The game itself opens up and you meet the Mail Deer. This adorable creature claims that they are the one who sends your letters along, letting you know the gist of the game as well as warning you that you are communicating with real people and to be careful about giving away too much personal information. Mail Deer also speaks about how important they take cyber bullying or dangerous messages, and urges players to report any requests that fall under those categories. Security and safety are this game’s utmost priorities, and it shows in the community and how swiftly those reports are handled.
One of the main criticisms of this game — and there are very few of those — is players asking for more room on the letters and paper airplanes to write their requests or advice. Sometimes the main point of a request gets lost when not all the context is there due to the lack of room, and the advice that follows doesn’t quite work.
While it can be somewhat of an issue to not have the full story, I do like the fact that the letters must be shorter. It helps with the anonymity of the game and helps to illustrate that one may not receive all the advice they hope to from a stranger online. Indeed, strangers helping out one another with advice and words of encouragement is wonderful, but there is only so much that a stranger can do. To help with that, Kind Words does have a link to mental health resources that is prominent at the bottom of the screen whenever a letter or airplane is written. If one truly needs help, that link is there for when simple advice cannot.
Another criticism that I’ve heard about the game is that there is no method of keeping in touch or continuing to send and receive letters from the same strangers. Some have found that certain people give fantastic advice, others are wondering how well their advice was received or how someone who had written a particular letter is doing. While it would be nice to be able to keep in touch with someone else, especially since — despite the dangers — online relationships can be wonderful, I believe the one-time reply does its job well. People inherently want to help others, but it can be dangerous to be so involved with others’ problems, dangerous for both parties’ self-esteem and their mental health. To harp on a stranger’s issue, as well-meaning as one may be, can be destructive for both parties.
As the Mail Deer, sometimes the best you can do is to send along a kind word, and you have to hope that will be enough. Know that you did your best for a stranger in the form of an anonymous letter and that they will be able to take strength from your kindness.
I believe every person has a little bit of, “I want to save the world,” in them, but it can be overwhelming when it appears that you, as only one person, can’t make as much of an impact as you think. To be able to help just one person enables one to realize that perhaps they cannot impact the whole world but, for that one person they helped, they were able to impact that one individual world, hopefully for the better.
Kind Words enables us to do just that.
Originally published at https://doublexjump.com on January 20, 2020.