A while back, I stumbled across the most bizarre and lovely multiplayer game I think I’ve ever seen. It’s called Kind Words, and the idea is sort of like if a Reddit advice board got mashed up with your 6th grade pen pal. People can log in and write messages seeking comfort, and then other people… write back something comforting, all anonymously. It’s slightly gamified with stickers, but the reviews make it clear that the actual human contact and chance to make a difference in some stranger’s life are what make the experience so captivating, even for cynics who don’t think they’re going to get anything out of it at all. “I haven’t felt this euphoric since I was ten,” says one person who was initially inclined to refund the game but wound up enthralled by the soothing messages people sent.
Reading about this game and the incredibly moving experiences people were having made me really sad for MMORPG communities.
One of the reasons I got so involved with MMOs as a teenager was because I could reach out across the void and connect deeply with people who looked nothing like me and lived nowhere near me and yet felt a lot of the same things I felt. MMORPGs, especially, are such a vulnerable place – we’re all playing Global Multiplayer Pretend together! – and yet I suspect that if we tried to introduce Kind Words-style content, people would just be giant, cynical edgelords about it. Our Massively Uplifting column chronicles the amazing, warm-hearted things people do in MMOs every month, so yes I know some people would be lovely, but by and large, I am saddened to suspect that the greater MMO community would at best participate only ironically. What happened to us?
Am I wrong? Do you think MMORPG communities have grown to be too cynical?