The age-old argument that video games are breeding grounds for violence and trolls is still alive and well, but Sky: Children of the Light is here to counter that. In this social adventure game from thatgamecompany, players can fly through a dreamy sky kingdom where generosity and compassion light the way. The game focuses on developing relationships, completing quests, and, above all, spreading kindness.

Gamers play as Sky Children, exploring a serene world above the clouds. As the Sky Children arrive on the mysterious Isle of Dawn, players will discover that the mythical kingdom has perished, along with its light and constellations. The goal of the game is to team up with other Sky Children to spread light back into the realms and constellations. Throughout the game, players meet spirits who once inhabited the kingdom, and the story of the world unfolds as relationships build between the Sky Children and the spirits.

Made by the creators of the game Journey, Sky launches this month as a mobile game for iOS. thatgamecompany is working to develop the game for Android, PC, and console as well.

“While Journey is a focus on the ‘joys and hardships’ of life itself, we wanted to create a new game that was focused on gratitude and giving back to others,” says Eileen Hollinger, executive producer of thatgamecompany. “This was really the seed of the emotion of Sky, and how it grew to be a game that was centered around compassion and generosity in its theme, design, and gameplay.”

Sky players can team up online to create their own stories and explore the kingdom together. The game is designed around collaboration as players complete quests to uncover what happened to their civilizations, unlock expressions, and grow the abilities of their characters.

Sky Children of the Light

Sky is free to download and play, with in-game purchases available to give away as digital gifts between players. “It was important to us to create a culture and economy built around gratitude and gifting,” Hollinger says. “In that spirit, our primary in-game purchases are candles that can be gifted to other players (three candles can be offered as a rare heart in the game).”

When players gift a candle, they are rewarded by receiving a heart, which can be used to obtain items. Players can connect their candles to other players’ to “spread light.” Sky will also offer seasonal content with a premium component, and additional adventures and characters for players to interact with will roll out in future months.

Social interactivity is big in gaming now, as players connect online with friends to socialize and create a sense of community. “Sky can be played solo, but everything about the game is optimized around social play,” Hollinger says. “Quests are both more fun and more quickly achievable when played with friends. Players’ flight energy is charged by being around other players. Certain locations in Sky can only be accessed by solving multi-player puzzles.”

There are areas of the Sky world that new players might not be able to find on their own — but a veteran player can easily help show them the way. “To our delight, in our Beta community there quickly emerged an organic shepherding culture where experienced players jump at the chance to take a new player around the world and help them build up their character,” Hollinger says. “And each realm in Sky has a social hub where you’ll often find players socializing and coordinating questing.”

Sky Children of the Light

Amazingly, all of these social dynamics are communicated without any dialogue. “For the most part, our studio likes to design for universal audiences (across cultures and ages), and we feel like using visual/design/emotional language achieves an impact that maybe dialogue cannot,” Hollinger says. “As a result in Sky, we offer our players a wide variety of expressions — from pointing, laughing, dancing, and juggling — that can be unlocked and learned throughout the game. There is a simple ‘shout’ that can be quite expressive when used creatively. A number of musical instruments can be found, and players can frequently be found performing for each other in social hubs.” The absence of dialogue also eliminates video game trolls that tend to prowl around, slinging insults in peoples’ headsets.

“Ultimately we hope to inspire the kind of joy and camaraderie that comes from facing a great expanse in the company of friends,” Hollinger says. “In addition, because the ability for families to play together was one of our aims, we really wanted to allow for a kind of flexible gameplay that would allow people to group together meaningfully to achieve goals.”

thatgamecompany aims to tap into the sense of awe inspired by a vast and wondrous world through the stunning visuals and audio, the thoughtful narrative, and the interactive features at the core of Sky. “Everyone at thatgamecompany loves games and is a believer in the artistic and emotional potential of video games,” Hollinger says. “We hope they find the environment of Sky to be a safe place to express themselves and experience a kind of childlike wonder in both the world and one another.”

This article was originally published in the Pop Insider’s Summer 2019 Issue No. 4, click here to read more!