Alex enjoys games with rich storytelling and bold character arcs that inspire his own pursuits in narrative design. He also can be found on Twitch regularly playing games till late!
After initially beginning development in lockdown last year, Melbourne game developer Lumi Interactive’s Kinder World has already hit its goal on Kickstarter. In less than 2 days the game secured $25,000 AUD from its loyal, plant-loving supporters.
The first stretch goal of $50,000 AUD to make the plants lively and responsive to touch has also now been met and now the project is on the way to its second stretch goal. If the project makes it to a total of $60,000 AUD, they’ll be adding even more plants to the game. One of these plants will be the gorgeous Pink Princess plant as seen below.
When I first came across this game, it was thanks to a Discord invite that was shared on Twitter. It brought me to one of the less intense spaces I’ve ever seen on the platform. Not only does it include promotional content for the game, but it features many spaces dedicated to self-kindness. You can join the Kinder World Discord community here!
Lockdown proved that many gamers not only enjoy but prefer games that encourage player forethought and reflection. Examples include Animal Crossing, Stardew Valley, The Sims, and even Minecraft which all allow players to live a simulated life. They give players access to game worlds full of options that make them personal to each player. Kinder World fits in this same category of games in that it gives us a zoomed-in approach.
We are given a digital house plant which we can visit as often as we wish and learn about self-kindness. The game is quite easy to pick up. Players are shown how to care for the plant which is as simple as watering it whenever the player uses the app. The app encourages players to check back in but doesn’t put a timer on the task. After each watering, the plant grows, often adding a new leaf and a peaceful smile on the flowerpot.
Players also have the option to enrich the water, upon which the game prompts the player to answer a short, self-reflective question that focuses on gratitude. Something I didn’t expect from the app is that leaves are added to the plants through procedural generation. This means players aren’t just assembling a standard plant like every other player, but a plant that is solely their own. Also when users return to the app they may have been visited by a cute bunch of little critters. These bring with them a message of kindness from another Kinder World user.
I was lucky enough to have the chance to ask the Lumi Interactive team about Kinder World’s development and creating spaces that encourage kindness to oneself and your community.
Where did the idea for Kinder World stem from? What have been the biggest inspirations for the Lumi Interactive team throughout the development of the app?
“We describe Kinder World as a game of houseplants, healing and practicing kindness. Players nurture their plants in-game by nurturing themselves in the real world, completing evidence-based wellbeing exercises like stretching, breathing, and expressing gratitude. Community is also a central theme, so players share supportive messages as a way to practice showing kindness to others.”
“If this sounds like your jam, please support the Kinder World Kickstarter! :)”
“Some of our influences include games like Animal Crossing, Neko Atsume, Tabikaeru (旅かえる) and Tsuki Adventure. We’re very inspired by the moments in games, whether they be an MMO or Animal Crossing, when players are happy to help each other or give gifts, even to a stranger they don’t know. That’s when humanity is at its best, so we want to cultivate that in Kinder World. :)”
What are the focuses of Kinder World as a game that encourages kindness?
“To be direct with you, the goal behind Kinder World is in the name itself: To create a kinder world.”
“It’s important to us that Kinder World actually helps you feel better, and helps us through creating it. There’s something comforting about working on a project where the core pillar we come back to is ‘kindness’. Whenever we design something new for the game, it always comes back to the question: is this in line with our values around kindness? If not, then we change it. Being able to count on this foundation has been valuable especially throughout the past year. We can honestly say it has been the most fulfilling and joyful work we’ve ever done.”
How might someone who’s never used a mindfulness app approach Kinder World – is it easily accessible to all users?
“Our intention is to design Kinder World as something that will be beneficial for folks that ‘can’t stick’ with traditional meditation and mindfulness apps, but still want something that helps them relax and be kinder to themselves.”
“While many of us ‘know’ that activities like meditation or mindfulness might help our wellbeing, it’s still really hard to form a habit – so the incentive of integrating it with cute plant care has really helped many of our players actually practice it as a positive, regular part of their day. Our first plant in Kinder World is the monstera, which is tied to completing gratitude exercises – we found that it’s a small, often familiar task that can ease someone into a sustainable self-kindness habit.”
How has Kickstarter benefited Kinder World’s launch?
“Our primary goal with Kickstarter is to discover more amazing community members that share our values, and are super excited for Kinder World in its early days. These are the players we want to delight, so being able to involve them through running the Kickstarter is a huge benefit!”
The Discord community for Kinder World is a profound space full of positivity. From a community management point of view, was this a challenge to achieve on a platform such as Discord?
“Plant communities are usually amazingly warm and generous with each other, and so many of our players love to grow cuttings as gifts for friends ‘in real life’, so we’ve always looked for ways to integrate mechanics in the game that give that kind of warm, benevolent feeling. We had to design the player community in the same way. Previously we have built and managed player communities on Facebook and Twitter, but those platforms are increasingly hostile. We found that as long as we demonstrated and moderated in accordance to the values and theme of Kinder World, it has actually worked out really well!”
“We shared the smallest glimpses of the game, our small demo, and folks showed up in the hundreds. Suddenly there were over a thousand people in the Kinder World Discord, practicing gratitude and sharing kind wishes. The community were kind to each other automatically, connected by a desire to be kinder to themselves and have a place to encourage each other. We were floored, and it was clear that we had to make Kinder World a reality.”
“We all have things that we are healing from, and feeling like you have companions on that journey is a wonderful thing.”
With online social spaces becoming a necessary outlet during the pandemic, how does Kinder World help users cope with the effects of such a global event?
“With your help, we’re creating Kinder World to be a relaxing, mindful moment in your day – like a perfect cup of tea, surrounded by lovely plants in real life. This small feeling of safety, gentleness, and connection has a real impact on you – and in turn, the way you treat yourself and others contributes to our vision of a kinder world. We all have things that we are healing from, and feeling like you have companions on that journey is a wonderful thing.”
“It’s a gentle moment in your day that doesn’t ask too much of you, in a community of players that share values around kindness and support – so this approach and ‘mood’ to the game and community has been very helpful for our players.”
Not to out myself as a serial plant collector, but does the team know how many plants will be present in the game on the release of the beta? Is this dependent on the Kickstarter stretch goals?
“We can’t confirm the exact planned number, because it will depend somewhat on the degree of success of the Kickstarter. We’re fully funded, but helping us smash stretch goals will unlock extra plants for everyone! :)”
It’s nice that an app like Kinder World removes the stakes of growing real plants and instead replaces them with inward reflection. When using the beta, I’ve found myself drawn back to the game because I was excited to know more about self-revision. I feel no pressure from the app as well. I know the plant will be fine when I return, unlike the house plant currently in my kitchen that’s reached that brown crunchy stage of its life.
I’d recommend this game to anyone who has found mindfulness apps unapproachable or hard to keep up with. Lumi Interactive has created this app that uses the plants’ growth as a reward to get you to return to the app while you actually build that habitual relationship. The app naturally makes you return with zero feelings of pressure or obligation.
I’d also like to thank the Lumi Interactive team for agreeing to answer my questions, it was an honor covering a story from the Melbourne game development scene!