As Seen on Kickstarter: 3 Reading Gamification Projects

Kickstarter is obviously a great crowdfunding platform for indie game developers but it is also a great place to gauge trends and fan interest. embarks on an exploration of campaigns (past and live, successful or unsuccessful ones) with interesting gamification ideas and mechanics. Today we take a look at three projects in an area of seemingly vast potential – gamified reading.


Hungry for escapist experiences, avid fiction readers are often equally passionate gamers. The success of Losswords and Game of Books, two Kickstarter literary game campaigns, only comes to confirm it.

The Game of Books: not every Kickstarter success story has a happy ending (for backers)

The Game of Books, developed by the team behind the BookLamp startup was made possible by their content analysis tool (the Book Genome project), able to identify recurrent themes in books and to potentially produce relevant book recommendations. The Game of Books is a textbook example of excellent gamification, from goal to concept and presentation:

  • A fun and engaging way to promote a technological tool and capability (the Book Genome project)
  • Huge base of intrinsically motivated potential players (book lovers)
  • Original idea – award experience points to readers based on specific themes covered in books they’ve read
  • Creative personalization – readers have personal ‘character cards’ displaying their accumulated experiences
  • Well-structured system of XP levels and badges in 4 categories of varying rarity



All of these soon drew a large number of fans and influencers (including acclaimed fantasy writer Patrick Rothfuss) and extensive media coverage. The goal was reached on the eve of Christmas 2012, when “1,327 backers had pledged $109,970 to help bring this project to life”. Over the next year, this new community was involved in the process of crafting the first 60 badges by suggesting and voting for theme combinations, badge names, and illustrations.



The first batch of community-designed badges was presented in October 2013. By the end of the year the corpus of titles covered had grown to 110,000 and the number of themes tracked was close to the target 500. The last update was posted on April 2, 2014. Instead of announcing the anticipated release, however, it informed all backers that they would be refunded…

“After careful consideration, we’ve come to the conclusion that The Game of Books is taking a different direction and we will not be able to deliver the project as originally envisioned.”

It turned out that this new direction was the Apple campus in Cupertino, California. Apple had acquired the BookLamp startup, by then known as the ‘Pandora for Books’, to develop content analysis capabilities and its book recommendation services.

Apple Acquired Pandora for Books Startup BookLamp In April Mac Rumors
Example of content analysis by Book Genome, the project BookLamp was best known for. Source:


While the BookLamp team ‘levelled up’ and could finally go after their reported goal of ‘beating Amazon at their own game’, the backers had to content themselves with their refunds and limited edition bookmarks…


In the making: LossWords. A Game of Literary Portions

There’s fortunately a new buzz among game and literature buffs eager to play with their passion for words and books. The mobile game Losswords promises “the most fun you’ve ever had with Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland, and Pride and Prejudice.”



The game universe

Losswords is set in a videogame dominated future where an oppressive government has banned all books. Players join an underground community called The Readers who scramble and unscramble passages from famous novels in their fight to save literature.



Gameplay involves two word puzzle processes: ‘losswording’ (scrambling) and ‘solving’ (unscrambling). You get a passage from a book and identify smaller words within the words, earning points for each one you extract . The scrambled passage and the leftover letters are then sent to another player who has to solve the puzzle (and will earn a new book to add to their secret library).

Losswords. A game of literary portions. by Colleen M John S Eric Z — Kickstarter

This means that users keep generating new puzzles as they play, constantly replenishing and increasing the stock (which now includes thousands of passages from hundreds of literary classics from public domain collections, e.g. Project Gutenberg).


Project Status

The team of game designers behind Losswords, Local No. 12, have already run two successful Kickstarter campaigns – for their ‘cultural debate’ card game The Metagame. When they brought their latest project to Kickstarter, they already had a working prototype and needed to raise $5,000 to go into production mode. Losswords raised $8,670 with 359 backers in a 35-day campaign between April 7- May 12, 2016. Release on iOS is expected in January 2017.


Off to a Bad Start: PATH to Reading

Reading is the very backbone of learning and game-based reading skills training is an important sector in the market for educational games. We found one new project on Kickstarter in this field – PATH to Reading, by neuroscientist Dr Teri Lawton.

PATH to Reading (PATH) is a patented breakthrough technology that dramatically, and permanently, improves attention, reading and working memory skills in children and adults. This includes paying attention in class, improving reading grade level, reading fluency, comprehension, spelling, pronunciation, writing, math skills, multitasking, and working memory.


Unfortunately, as we write, the project is $159,975 short of its funding goal with 1 backer and only 12 days to go. Clearly the campaign fails to capture the imagination of the Kickstarter audience and will probably follow the fate of another recently closed reading education project.



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