The Gamification of Language


Language is naturally playful. It therefore lends itself to gamification in a lot of different ways.

At Inherent Games, we took this idea to an extreme. Our goal was to teach language concepts through gameplay. Not boring flashcards. Actual, legit gameplay. This required thinking about language in an entirely new way.

Let’s start with some basic language concepts:




Asleep yet?

Exactly. Learning nouns and verbs and yawn are critical to learning a language, but no one—NO ONE—wants to hear about nouns and—well, you get the idea. So we needed to gamilfy some really boring concepts while trying to teach them.

In fact, there’s a lot of evidence that people understand abstract notions—even categories like nouns and verbs—in concrete terms. Think of this way: Your brain naturally creates bins for abstract things, where nouns go in one bin and verbs go in the other. So why not treat these categories as physical objects?

Nanos were born.

Rather than EXPLICITLY teach categories, we would let players play with concrete objects and look to see if they IMPLICITLY learned to group those objects/words.

Here are some examples:


In gameplay, the player matches like shapes together, and when the shapes match, they balloon up so that the player can pop them. This frees more space for more nanos/words to drop down so that the player can build up a network (see future post) and complete the level.

This is but one idea of millions as to how applications can gamify an abstract thing like language. But there are LOTS of abstract things.

Even dealing with a mobile device’s interface is a pretty abstract thing—is it a window to the text, or do we touch the text?

The idea to treat abstract concepts as concrete objects is built on decades of research in Linguistics and Cognitive Science. This website will continually present new ideas of how to do so. Spoiler alert: A lot will relate to words.


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