Empathy is a lot like a muscle – the only way to build it up is with repeated effort. Sure, you can (and probably should) improve it by listening to real people and understanding their real struggles, but you can also work on it in your downtime. Try reading a good book or sitting down for some tabletop roleplaying.
Or try making the surreal but miserable fruit people of Karambola happy, because it’s hard not to feel for the little guys.
Here’s Karambola’s delightful summary:
In the middle of the summer, a pack of evil bird-thoughts
attacked a peaceful village of emotional fruit people.
They have been separated, each sent into a different season,
focused on their own loneliness and internal landscape of troubles.
If you wish, help Karambola on his quest to rescue
his friends from the power of evil thoughts.
It’s as odd as it sounds. You’ll spend nine vignettes solving the problems keeping the fruit people isolated — problems that aren’t so surreal that they’re entirely unfamiliar. Finishing each of the little puzzles helps bring Karambola and his friends back together.
Speaking to Kill Screen, creator Agata Nawrot explained how Karambola helped her through difficult times.
“The fruit people don’t realize they are really in a beautiful world, because they’re stuck in their thoughts,” explained Nawrot. Solving each puzzle helps free the fruit people and brings them one step closer to reuniting with their friends.
Nawrot hopes that Karambola will move beyond mere entertainment and “help all the lonely souls feel a little less alone.” It seems that making it has helped her get through a period of loneliness himself. “My dream is that the game will be heart lifting for those people dealing with loneliness or depression,” she said. It’s why the game is available for free to everyone who might need it.
Video games help many of us when we’re lonely or depressed, and they may also be able to teach us empathy. A 2010 study published in Emotion found that playing prosocial video games (games that encourage positive social behavior) increased interpersonal empathy and decreased schadenfreude. People who played Lemmings first were less likely to delight in Paris Hilton’s misfortune, specifically. A 2013 study found similar results in adolescents and young adults from around the world.
So if you agree that we could all use a little more empathy, the sad fruit of Karombola are waiting. You can find them on itch.io.