Credit: Kayla Segal
The new app encouraging us to spread positivity via 'love taps'
We could all do with a little more positive human connection these days. At least that's what the folks behind design company Frosty Pop think -- and they have decided to do something about it.
Based between Vancouver Island and New York City, the gaming specialists have teamed up with Welsh artist Harry Hambley to create BeanKind, a new app intended to create an "emotive social experiment" by getting the world to share some love.
"This was never about creating another video game in the classic sense," said Frosty Pop co-founder J.D. Ostrow via email. "It's about responding to something we are feeling at this time -- people at home, wanting to be with family and friends, using digital (platforms) to find remote connections."
Taking part is simple. After downloading the app, you simply tap the illustrated heart designed by Hambley, whose cartoons and stickers have earned him a huge following on Instagram. As you add your own "love taps," you can watch as those given by the rest of the world accumulate in real-time too.
The tapping generates "haptic" feedback, meaning you can feel a vibration when you tap on your phone. And even while you're out of the app, your taps will continue to accumulate automatically.
"On many levels, it was about making the anti-mobile game. No ads, no in-app purchases, totally free and more meditative in experience," Ostrow said. "There is no winning or losing. BeanKind is about achieving a community goal rather than an individual one. It's we, not me."
The little Bean that could
At the core of the game is Hambley's signature character, the Bean, a light-pink, wide-eyed illustration designed two years ago during his last year of high school in Cardiff, Wales. The artist has since amassed nearly 2 million followers for an Instagram account dedicated to his web comic, Ketnipz. Here you can watch Bean in various short animations, which have recently seen him thwarting a "Karen" who doesn't want to wear a mask in line, and accidentally using the Grim Reaper's cloak as a face towel.
"I've always wanted to make a video game (or) app for the Bean, but didn't really know where to start," Hambley said, via email, about teaming up with Frosty Pop. "We had some ideas in the works, but it wasn't until everything happened with the pandemic earlier this year that we knew exactly what we wanted to do.
"The more things took a turn for the worse in day-to-day life, the more we felt the need to make a game focused on connection and making small contributions of positivity."
In the app, Bean softly bobs up and down while you tap the heart, change the background illustration or add furniture to decorate your personalized space. As the number of love taps from around the world increases, new characters are "unlocked" -- like a dog or an elderly woman -- to join Bean.
"I wanted Bean to bring something a bit more positive to the table," Hambley said. "In many ways, Bean got me through a rough patch in my life, so it felt right to try and see whether it could help others too -- even if only in a small way.
"(This year) has really thrown a lot of people through the loop -- myself included -- and these days everything feels way more chaotic and uncertain," he added. "I must have gravitated towards the idea of Bean being able to decorate a space, because it felt like regaining some autonomy over my own environment. Of course, being able to change the scene in a video game is something entirely different from actually being able to change my real-life surroundings, but I still found a lot of comfort in the idea."
United we tap
The goal of BeanKind, if it can be said to have a definitive one at all (the game can be categorized as part of the "idle" genre, in which points are earned through simple or repetitive actions), is for users to unlock all of Bean's friends so they can be together. Collectively, this feat will take 43 trillion taps. The app tracks where the love is coming from, with more than half of the 80 billion love taps sent globally coming from the US, at the time of writing.
Frosty Pop approached Hambley because they "look at the world in similar ways" and because the design agency was "inspired by the sensitivity of Ketnipz," Ostrow said. "When we started this company, we wanted to rethink how games, brands, and purpose come together to create things we believe in."
Ostrow, who worked at clothing brand Theory and spent ten years in senior marketing roles at Burberry, joined Frosty Pop last year, alongside Burberry's former senior vice president of creative, Greg Stogdon. The company was first established six years ago by game developer Faisal Sethi. Today, the trio focus on games and digital products that foster social responsibility, equal representation and empathy.
"We will continue to pursue projects that lead with play, positivity, and fun -- embracing digital and creativity with a conscience," Ostrow said.