IDEA developed our mobile language game, WordFlare, in an effort to impart the joy of language to a large audience of players while further developing their vocabularies and literacy skills. Over a period of five years, we created a game that presents the intellectual challenge of a crossword puzzle (deciphering words from a few letters and clues) in a new context and, in the process, exposes players to thousands of words.

There is a huge audience of people who love to play arcade games and games that use the match-three dynamic (e.g., Bejeweled) who aren’t necessarily word buffs. To introduce this audience to new words and word relationships, we combined our language-related tools, research, and expertise into an engaging arcade game with whimsical characters, fun game dynamics, and compelling strategy and skill requirements.


WordFlare appeals to players ages 12 and up and across the spectrum of incomes, education levels, and genders. The gameplay hooks players, and then exposes them to words that may reside in their active, inactive, and unknown vocabularies. An immersed player can easily spend more than 50 hours playing WordFlare, and in doing so practice word recognition and think about word meanings and relationships. Throughout WordFlare’s 100 game levels, players evaluate and consider more than 10,000 possible words, some of which will be outside of their vocabulary comfort zone, thus shifting a portion of the player’s inactive vocabulary to their active vocabulary, or introducing them to previously unknown words.

The core gameplay revolves around evaluating seed words against orbiting words to determine likely matches, and then flinging them into related orbiting words. The orbiting words have some letters obscured (e.g., “a?pl?”) If one of the seed words is “fruit,” the player might correctly guess that the partially hidden word is “apple.”


Entertaining game elements keep players engaged, which paves the way for more learning. There are 15 unique sidekicks that deliver power-ups, such as zapping, freezing, blasting, or randomizing the orbiting words. Players must strategize timing and sequencing moves to complete sets of three matching words while avoiding black holes and deadly mines. Optional clues and word definitions can help players achieve their goals, and in the process expand their vocabularies

Coming late 2016.

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