Kind Words

Kind Words is barely a game. And that's a good thing.

A while ago I started thinking about the sort of game I would like my kids to play. Ideally I'd love for them to have a game that teaches empathy instead of conquest. It's fun to go around and blow up bad guys, but it's not a life skill. What if we could use the power of video games to teach people to see others in a more human way? What if we could create experiences that help us connect to each other?

Kind Words is that.

Here's the game:

You can choose to answer letters. These letters come from random people online. They are all questions. You get seventeen short lines of text to give this random stranger some encouragement, advice, commiseration, whatever you like. The rule of the game is in the name: these are meant to be Kind Words. You send your letter and that's the last you'll hear from this person. There's no real payback, just the joy of sending happiness out into the world.

And, of course, you can also ask questions, or send your own letter out to be answered by random people. This is a surprisingly difficult thing to do. Even though there's no real way these people can trace anything back to you, it's still a moment of vulnerability. But if you can open up and accept that vulnerability the payback is immense. I wrote about a problem I'm having. It's nothing huge, because my life is good. But It's something that does keep me up at night.

Within a few minutes I had five letters from complete strangers telling me that I was doing okay, that things would get better, that people out there have faced similar problems and have made it through.

I went back to answer other people's questions, occasionally stopping to read the little happy thought paper airplanes that float through the game (also written by other people) and to write a few happy thoughts of my own to send out there. I got a few more notes of encouragement from my letter. And I realized something:

I'd been “playing” for about an hour, and I couldn't stop smiling.

When was the last time you could say that about a game? I felt genuinely happy. It feels good to help lift other people's burdens, even if you don't know them at all. It feels good to go into a place where everyone is focused on being kind to one another. This game feels. good.

So I'm formally inviting you to send out some letters. Let others give you some encouragement, and try your hand at encouraging others as well. If there's one thing we need, heading into 2020, it's more Kind Words.