Today I’m speaking with Lauren Clinnick from Australian based studio Lumi Interactive about their upcoming game Kinder World, a Wholesome vibes gardening simulator for IOS and Android devices.
LG: Can you go into some detail about your game Kinder World and some of the mechanics?
LI: 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. Customization will also be a big part of shaping your own ideal green space in our future updates, too.
LG: I love that self-care and gratitude seem like huge parts of the experience. What made it important to include these?
LI: We love our work as game developers, and truly believe in the power of interactivity and the medium of games – they really can help your mood, and help us feel connected to others. Everyone in our small team also believes in the power and importance of showing yourself and others kindness, so we study ways to break down what that functionally and measurably can look like.
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.
LG: Upcoming features like propagation and sharing plant cuttings have an obvious community aspect to them. Was this always part of the blueprint for the game?
LI: Absolutely. Many apps or games designed to help our wellbeing can feel like very solo experiences, but we like to cultivate a connected feeling – something different from social media, or competitive gameplay. Plant communities are 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 that give that kind of warm, benevolent feeling. We’re very inspired by these 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.
LG: Can you talk a bit about your Plant Wish initiative?
LI: Plant Wish is all about creating a cute plant friend, and receiving a benevolent wish from the Kinder World community. Our aim is to collect 20,000 positive wishes for a better 2021, as a way of micro-healing from 2020.
We have an amazing Discord community where folks share kind wishes, as simple as ‘I hope you see a sweet dog today’, or as big as ‘I wish that you’ll feel one step closer to your dreams’, and we bring those into the game. Plant Wish is another way of receiving one of these sweet, nice messages without having to download the game. You can make something cute, get a wish, and then add a wish of your own to contribute to the community.
LG: Since the game is all about plants—do you personally own any? I myself have a decent amount of succulents. They’re hard to resist buying…
LI: Yes, heaps! I got into houseplants a few years ago, and now I’d say I have… maybe twenty? My current favourites are my big umbrella plant, dragontail and rubber plant! I adore any indoor plants, but I’ve also killed a lot of them too. This relates to a slightly ‘fantasy’ detail in Kinder World, too – the plants don’t die, because it’s designed as a relaxing oasis without that kind of stress or pressure.
LG: The Wholesome Games movement (games with lighter tones, with more of a focus on casual gameplay, like farming or decorating) has picked up speed in a huge way over the last few years. Have you always had an interest in Wholesome Games?
LI: Definitely. I play a really wide variety of games, but the ones that relax me the most don’t have ‘kill’ verbs. I love experiences that give emotional rewards like connection, expression and immersion, more than mastery, competition or destruction. I absolutely understand those can be very satisfying, but by and large I’ve had my fill of them. I feel there’s a lot of unexplored space in games that others would describe as ‘wholesome’, so it’s a really great space to be working in. We also tend to have extremely sweet, kind players too – the Kinder World community is the best I’ve ever served, we love spending time chatting with them in the Kinder World Discord and sharing pet pics!
LG: What got you interested in game development?
LI: Games bring together the cutting edge in technology and art, so it’s an amazing space to be in. Everything moves very fast, and you can have amazing interactions and input with your consumers as you develop your projects at every stage, which I love. I’ve always experienced the awesome satisfaction of games as a consumer; when I was young, I had frequent ear infections that kept me up at night – so playing Super Nintendo helped distract me from pain, and it has been a constant part of my life ever since. Knowing how great the medium is, it was very easy to build towards working in game development.
LG: Do you think having Wholesome Games is important right now with everything that’s going on in the world?
LI: We really think so. A great many of us are very stressed, overwhelmed and tired out by the global situation, and not all of us relax with more ‘traditional’ competitive or destructive games. The rise of wholesome game development makes complete sense when we consider how hard it is to be an adult, or how harrowing the modern world can be. We love helping our players take even just two minutes to do something nice for themselves – it’s the least we all deserve!
LG: Has Covid impacted development at all?
LI: It has – we all work from home now, and the overall stress and distraction, and lockdown blues definitely reduced our productivity for a while. It was challenging to be unable to see each other face to face for several months! We’re just lucky that we are able to keep working even in the pandemic situation on something that we really value and believe in. We’re also lucky that where we are (Australia) the management of Covid has been quite good. Touch wood!
LG: Lumi Interactive is an all women-run studio. Was this planned from the onset or a happy coincidence?
LI: Not planned, it just happened to be that my co-founder Christina and I are women, and Mandy is more resourceful and widely skilled than almost anyone I know in the industry. We’re all just the best ones for the roles that we perform in the team, regardless of gender. The company will always be ‘female-founded’, but we plan to grow into a slightly larger, more diverse team after our upcoming Kickstarter in February this year.
LG: Are there any plans to bring the game to PC or consoles, or just mobile platforms for now?
LI: We’ll be launching Kinder World on iOS and Android initially, but it’s ‘never say never’ for other platforms. A lot of this will depend on the scope of Kickstarter success, but we know we’ll be able to deliver on mobile at a minimum.
LG: What games are you playing right now?
LI: I’m snacking on a lot of different games – I’ve played a lot of Best Friend Forever lately, as well as The Return of the Obra Dinn, and Yes, Your Grace. On mobile, I regularly play Tsuki Adventure for its chill vibes, and it has definitely had some influence on Kinder World too.
LG: Is there anything you’re looking forward to in 2021 (besides the release of your game)?
LI: Hopefully getting vaccinated, haha!
Honestly, I’m just looking forward to working on Kinder World with my great team, working with our lovely community, and loving what life has to offer. Even in a pandemic, I’m extremely fortunate and thankful.
Make sure to follow Lumi Interactive on their Twitter updates about the game!