In the Steam Next Fest demo for Kind Words 2, I'm writing an inspiring message to strangers on a paper airplane. The idea is to put down some words of encouragement that you can send flying through the sky in the little cityscape for all to see. I take my time with it and try to type a few lines I think someone might need to see. "You are loved. You are appreciated. Be kind to yourself." It feels so cathartic to send it out into the in-game world, which is a small street diorama with a few buildings. I get the same feeling when I respond to someone in a conversation who's having a bad day, and then it dawns on me: I'm writing these words to myself as much as I am to my fellow anonymous players. In a way, everything I type out is what I actually needed to say to myself.
A lot of the time, it feels like my brain is hardwired to put me down. I'm often my own worst enemy, and the loud, ugly voice inside of myself that has a habit of saying nasty things about me can be hard to fight. But as I actively try to be compassionate and encouraging to others, it's an unexpected reminder I sorely needed. If I can say all of these nice things to complete strangers, why can't I say them to myself more often? Why can't I believe in my own words?
With this in mind, I wrote another paper airplane with the same sentiment: "Be kind to yourself". Then I sent it flying off into the sky, as if the act of doing so would hopefully instill that message within myself.
Not unlike the way the first game helped me feel less alone by penning letters following its release in late 2019, Kinds Words 2 has some lovely little ideas that let you share your thoughts, get creative, and above all, offer support and understanding to others. There's a handful of features to check out in the demo, such as asking for and giving recommendations in a bookshop, changing up the look of your avatar character in a clothing store, writing the aforementioned airplanes, and starting a conversation with someone outside. There's also a small interactive poster in the street where you can either write the description of a cat someone else can then name, or you can come up with name's yourself based on other people's descriptions.
What I love the most, though, are the options that let you sit back and see what others have written. I spend a lot of time, for example, kicking back on a bench and watching the words penned by others on airplanes soar across the sky. Gentle lo-fi music accompanies me as I do, and while there are some silly additions where people are clearly having a bit of fun testing out the features, it's mostly heartening messages that all share the same uplifting sentiment: "I hope playing this game helps you"; "Change can happen! Believe in yourself"; "You are not a burden. You matter. It'll take some time to feel better but it'll be worth it."
Words have weight, and as I watch these messages appear across the sky, I can already imagine how they could brighten up someone's day, or even help someone who needs to see a bit of encouragement. It also feels good to know I've contributed, too, and the sense of catharsis and cozy vibes I experience during my time with the demo makes me think it's the kind of game I'll want to revisit often. Of course, as with any social experience, there's always the concern that some might misuse it and go against the intended spirit Kind Words 2 is aiming for, but every time you see a message or reply, there's the option to report it. And happily from my short experience, I only saw kind, helpful, and lighthearted messages.
Even something as simple as "have an amazing day" can make a small difference to someone, and the more I think about Kind Words 2 and what it's trying to do, the more excited I am to see what else it offers when it's released in full. There's even a little train featured in the demo that teases what's to come, with it said to take you to different places to visit mountains, forests, and cozy hangouts for unique activities.
Sometimes you just need to see some kind words, or in my case, write them not just to others, but to myself, too. Kind Words 2 is already doing some interesting things, with creative ways to connect anonymously, and spend a bit of time spreading some encouragement and goodwill. I'm looking forward to trying out what else it has to offer in the future.
If you want to check it out for yourself, the Kind Words 2 Steam Next Fest demo is available until February 12.
See what indie gems we have to look forward to this year with our roundup of upcoming indie games.