What is Crowdhealing?
If there is one thing the pandemic highlighted for us, it’s that people need people. When we feel global conditions, systems and governance have failed us, the support of other people and our duty to others gives us both purpose and an opportunity to heal.
This is the core idea of Crowdhealing, a term we’ve coined to encapsulate the concept of collective healing. Crowdhealing is a guiding principle we’re using to design Kinder World in order to foster a network of kind people whose acts offer mutual emotional aid to one another.
Crowdhealing is an evidence-based practice of collective healing. We coined this term in collaboration with our players to describe the benefits they feel from participating in the Kinder World community.
The hypothesis of Crowdhealing is that simply being an active member of a kind community is an effective way to heal from the stresses of everyday life. In other words, when it comes to improving your own individual wellbeing, the more kind people doing kind things that you surround yourself with, the better.
Of course, Crowdhealing is not intended as a replacement for formal or clinical therapy, but instead aims to provide nurturing social and emotional enrichment in a person’s life.
In an increasingly-connected world, the cruel contradiction is that we often feel even more alone. It’s our experience that modern issues like doomscrolling and languishing make day-to-day living feel isolating and stressful. We believe that Crowdhealing can be one remedy to that issue.
We aren’t the only ones who feel this way. Our definition of Crowdhealing has resonated strongly with focus groups, and participants contributed their own feelings, such as:
- The people you surround yourself with help shape you.
- It doesn’t feel like it’s enough to surround yourself with a group of kind people. Acts of kindness, not just kind people, are healing.
- It’s about having a community with like-minded people with shared values - in this case, vulnerability, sharing and being supportive.
Ultimately, what we learned from our focus groups is that Crowdhealing is not just about being surrounded by kind people, but being surrounded by people doing kind things.
In other words: actions, more than characteristics, shape the experiences of people within a community.
The science of Crowdhealing
We see Crowdhealing as the application of evidence-based activities to foster and engage with a nurturing, healing community. The idea is that empathy begets more empathy – that compassion and kindness are “contagious” (in a good way!) within human society.
A group provides support and encouragement to its members, and seeing that others are going through the same thing fosters a sense of empathy and togetherness.
Scientists have found there’s merit to this idea. As more people take on the perspectives of others and treat one another with kindness, those empathic qualities can spread throughout a population (Radzvilavicius 2019).
Think of the last time you were going through something difficult and someone was able to empathise with you. Most likely, this connection and the feeling of ‘being seen’ made it easier to extend empathy to another person later down the line.
The idea isn’t dissimilar from group therapy, where individuals come together to heal collectively. However, Crowdhealing isn’t intended as a replacement for therapy, but rather a low-input, low-pressure platform for building empathy, as well as practising both receiving and giving gentle care to one another, and to oneself.
Another similar concept is that of mutual aid. This is when everyday people get together to meet each other’s needs, understanding that the systems we live in are not meeting our needs and that we can meet them together, right now. We know that altruism is coded within our evolutionary, neural and genetic frameworks (Acevedo et al. 2019; Ali, 2019), so the hypothesis of Crowdhealing is that, given the opportunity, people will help one another heal.
We’ve already seen examples of mutual aid in modern videogaming, with some popular games providing low-contact and potentially even low-reward means of helping other players. In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, players are able to visit one another, trade items and access one another’s resources, with very shallow means of actual communication.
Even in more violent games like Dark Souls, we see the majority of players aiming to help one another by leaving helpful messages ahead of threats or secrets. The multiplayer system, dubbed “Jolly Cooperation” by the community, facilitates players supporting one another with minimal communication – instead relying on kind and supportive actions.
These systems show that, given the right toolsets, players want to help other players. People want to help other people. Of course, there is negative behaviour that does happen within games - but minimising its impact is all about designing for empathy and curating a supportive community. These are two of the principle tenets of Crowdhealing.
How we’re designing for Crowdhealing in Kinder World
Kinder World is a Crowdhealing game developed by Lumi Interactive. Born out of pandemic stress, the game was created with a core goal in mind: to make the world a kinder place.
Functionally, Kinder World straddles the line between a wellness app and cozy game. Its design is centred around short twice-daily play sessions, in which players are gently encouraged to complete low-pressure mindfulness activities in order to better grow their houseplants. The players are joined by a cast of compassionate animal characters, each with their own stories of kindness and healing, as well as the support of the player community.
The mindfulness activities are informed by psychology research and are intended to help players gently practise self-kindness and build individual empathy. Of course, Crowdhealing focuses on going beyond the individual - so how are we designing to make Kinder World a Crowdhealing experience?
Kinder World’s community is crucial to its goal of improving player wellbeing. While the community as a connected entity currently exists outside the game (via the Kinder World Discord channel), curating and nurturing this community has been essential in guiding the development of the game.
The Kinder World community has grown to over 4,000 active players and continues to grow each day. In our Discord, people can of course talk about the game, but we also prompt players to engage in supporting one another, being vulnerable within their comfort level, and ultimately helping each other find a reason to smile.
Knowing that our community is full of people who are looking to heal, we’re able to learn so much about what people need to feel they can heal, and how a community can heal together.
Kind Wishes is a feature born from our Discord channel, in which players are encourage to submit supportive messages to strangers. These messages are added to the game, and randomly delivered to players with a peaceful polaroid-style screenshot of their houseplant and any critters who visited throughout the day.
This feature is all about creating those small moments of joy in someone’s day, giving people a reason to smile. It draws upon a community of people who are healing together, to uplift one another and show that none of us are alone in our journeys toward self-love.
Monetisation is an oftentimes difficult topic in the world of mental health apps. Like or not, most of us live in a capitalist society, and are somewhat beholden to its systems. In short, people form companies, companies make games, and companies need to make money to continue making games.
With that in mind, how can we design monetisation to ensure the longevity of the game, without sacrificing our core principles of making the world a kinder place?
In terms of what not to do, the answer was fairly simple. Without naming names, there are well-known examples of predatory, coercive monetisation models in the free-to-play (F2P) mobile games space today that we’re able to learn from.
What’s more interesting is what we can do. Our first and most simple choice was to ensure that no wellbeing activities would be paywalled. If the core goal of the game is to make the world a kinder place, that means that all people, regardless of wealth, should be able to access activities and interventions that help them survive their daily lives.
Instead, in-app purchases are for decoration items and some in-game content. They’re nice to have, but they aren’t required for the core wellbeing activities to be effective.
We also designed a Buy 1, Gift 1 function for pots within the game. A featured pot is made available each month, which can be bought using real money or with an in-game currency which can be earned simply by completing the twice-daily wellbeing activities. When players purchase the pot with either currency, a copy of that pot is gifted to a randomly selected player. The purchasing player can also choose to write a kind message for the recipient to read, following the same principles of the Kind Words feature.
Crowdhealing is about kind people doing kind things
Ultimately, Crowdhealing is a platform upon which communities can be born and nurtured. When active members have the opportunity to do kind things for other people, it’s astounding just how many people will jump at the chance.
Games have an incredible power to connect total strangers with a common goal, and it’s the mission of Crowdhealing games like Kinder World to make that common goal a real-world objective of making the world a kinder place.
If you’d like to speak with us about Crowdhealing, hop on over to our Discord, where we’ll be happy to keep the conversation going.