When I was younger, PostSecret emerged as a clever little visual pinboard for people’s worries, fears and unfulfilled desires. What starts as any other blogspot page grew into a worldwide project. It seemed that the act of writing out ones worries was just catharsis enough to help in some little way. The problem was no one could write back. It was a box of hundreds upon hundreds of postcards sent into the void.
Now more than ever (it’s May 2020, we’re still in a worldwide pandemic with varying levels of lockdown) I think people want to find ways of communicating, of reaching out and having someone reach back. What lockdown has shown is that we can’t all just fire up Zoom with our friends and colleagues and expect that to fill in the gaps. There are those nuanced microconnections that fill real world spaces. We don’t think of them so concretely, but they keep us sane. It’s things like hearing the murmur of voices in a coffee shop, or saying thank you to your bus driver. So many of these happen with strangers.
Early on during lockdown I tried to set up a separate space in my house for work, I put a little table by a window, with a tablecloth and a little potted succulent, and I put on lo-fi chill beats to study and relax to in the background, with an ambient noise machine simulating cafe chatter, the odd cutlery sound, and hum from street traffic. It made a world of difference, and I highly recommend it. There is something fascinating about the lo-fi hiphop boom. It’s like the new muzak, and I say that as the highest praise. To be able to make a piece of music that can simultaneously sit in the background, and also entirely change the mood of a space and those in it, is incredible. And now, it’s synonymous with the anime girl with her cat and googly eye headphones who has been diligently studying since February 2017.
Kind Words plays with this cultural knowledge and uses it as a shorthand to get the player in quickly and smoothly. It’s a perfect opener for a game that doesn’t rely on long intro sequences or even any real narrative. You are a person, in a room, writing letters. That’s it. But everything about the visual and audio design is so carefully considered that that’s all you need. Letters drift through your room as paper aeroplanes, you can open a mailbag of open letters to respond to, and you can send you own letter out to get responses. I creates a space that is so essential right now, and also one that doesn’t settle for just catharsis. It combines it with actual connection. Brief and light, but one of those microconnections that we couldn’t quite put our finger on, and so struggled to recreate from our lockdown worlds.