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Have You Played… Kind Words?

Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day, perhaps for all time.

On my first night playing Kind Words, I sent out a paper aeroplane telling the helpers not to stay up all night. Not to worry about the people who might need them while they’re asleep.

We know this. We all know this. It doesn’t make it any easier.

Kind Words might be the most important game ever made. It might also be the most timely.

It’ll never be acknowledged as influential, at least not to the degree that your Half Lives and Dwarf Fortresses are. It might not even have any direct impact on games at all. But what it’s done for

It’s literally a game about being kind. Not about “kind” in the polite, saccharine, sometimes hollow sense, but about real kindness. You tell the world what’s bothering you, and what you want it to hear. People listen to you. Some will take the time to think about you, what you’ve said, how much like you they are and what they can say that will help. Even when they get it wrong, they are doing this, these total strangers have chosen to spend part of their lives, to listen to you, and to try their best to share their heart with you.

A few years back, my mum came home and told me she’d met someone that day. A man in his late 20s recognised her and introduced himself. He thanked her profusely for changing his life. My mum had no idea what he was talking about.

Decades earlier, when he was just a child, my mum worked as a classroom assistant at his school. Not even for his class. But out in the playground one day, she noticed that his ears were cold, and the next day she gave him a woolly hat. Nobody had ever been that kind to him before.

That’s why Kind Words is important. Thousand of people have poured their hearts out to this game. To each other. Just for the sake of supporting a stranger. It is so beautiful and so sad that it hurts my heart, and since it came out last September I’ve written and deleted thousands of words about it that spiralled into a fountain of emotions, about myself, about my friends, about the world, about all the people sending each other these wonderful, devastating notes. This very post was supposed to be about half as short as it is. Oops.

But most importantly, and the reason it works, is that there is no pressure here. There’s no continuity. Everything is anonymous and you can’t reply to your replies. It’s safe to reach out, even when reaching out to your friends or family or doctors is too much to bear. Your feelings have somewhere to go, and they won’t ricochet off anything, and you won’t have to follow up or worry about consequences.

It’s also reminded me of something huge, something a lot of us struggle and feel overwhelmed with right now: you can’t help everyone. But you don’t need to. There are others like you. We are all here together.

I leave you with my favourite, not least because its source is so unexpected, quote from Nietzsche:

“Kindliness, friendliness, the courtesy of the heart, are ever flowing streams of un-egoistic impulses, and have given far more powerful assistance to culture than even those much more famous demonstrations which are called pity, mercy, and self sacrifice. But they are thought little of, and, as a matter of fact, there is not much that is un-egoistic in them. The sum of these small doses is nevertheless mighty, their united force is amongst the strongest forces. Thus one finds much more happiness in the world than sad eyes see, if one only reckons rightly, and does not forget all those moments of comfort in which every day is rich, even in the most harried of human lives.”

You can play Kind Words (lo fi chill beats to write to) on Steam for £4/€4/$5.

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