Join an adventurous educational game
The game in short
Ordheltene (the Word Heroes) is an educational game developed to help dyslexic children improve their reading skills.
The core game-play is centered around three main characters – our heroes – who live in the wood of words! The wonderful wood of words and it’s charming creatures are being threatened by evil magic which transforms the creatures into smelly monsters. The only way to save the creatures from a horrible destiny is by solving different word tasks. Therefore, our three heroes call for help.They can only solve the challenges with help from the children playing.
The child is the hero
One of the challenges when creating the storyline, characters and universe was to make sure that the child becomes the hero. As we are targeting children who already find it difficult to read, it is paramount to create a positive play experience. The game needs to empower and motivate the child to learn the three reading strategies and at the same time make it less discouraging to fail.
“We wanted to make reading cool and create a feeling of embarking on an epic adventure. It was important to us, to tie the reading strategies to something memorable and relatable, which is why we designed characters - the word heroes - who each represent a different reading strategy.”Sophie Refshauge, Art Director
By placing the three characters in front of different challenges, we create a scenario where the child must help the hero overcome the tasks. At the same time, we use the hero to create a distance between the child and task in the situation when things go wrong.
Strong game characters represent the reading strategies
Originating from the three overall reading strategies, the game’s characters take on personalities and use different artifacts to visualise what strategy they represent.
The use of visual elements and artifacts is a conscious choice and serves the purpose of strengthening the child’s ability to understand and decode the three heroes’ different competences. By creating a clear and visual understanding of the reading strategies, dyslexic children have far better chances of remembering and choosing the right strategy when reading - hopefully even when they are not using the app.
Meet the Master of Audio who is great at sampling sounds and understanding different letters’ sounds in relation to other letters. In the fight to transform smelly monsters into sweet creatures, his weapon is musical instruments.
The Rhyme Fairy is creative and good at patterns. She uses her brush and ability to decode patterns to find words that rhyme.
The Vocal Detective is brilliant at noticing the little details. He discovers that one vocal can sound like another vocal. He uses crystals and a magnifying glass to study sounds.
Creating a universe that appeals to a broad audience
The primary target group is dyslexic children within the third to fifth grade. However, the game’s levels of progression adjust to the user thereby supporting both dyslexic and non-dyslexic children to strengthen their reading abilities. To maintain and support a broad target audience, the game builds on several layers to interpret.
When creating the concept art and visual style, we decided to go slightly up in age and use teenagers as a stepping stone. By creating a visual style that appeals to teenagers and (hopefully) turns them into fans of the universe make tweens want to follow too. This way, we will end up with a much broader audience. All done with great respect for age and competence appropriate game design.
Keywords for designing the universe have been: Adventure Time and Harry Potter, combining a peculiar and fun style with magic and mystery. Both appeal to boys and girls as do Ordheltene.
To sum up. We have created a universe that makes learning (more) fun.
Develop a game that will encourage and help dyslexic children to engage in and eventually understand the three reading strategies thereby strengthening their ability to learn how to read.
The development process kicked off with a joint workshop between our partner Progression Park and a dedicated team at Funday Factory – all as a part of our classic Concept Development phase. In close collaboration with experts within the field of dyslexic children, the game development went from concept phase to Pre-Production. The Pre-Production involved tests with dyslexic children, experts’ feedback, and iterations before the game could enter the final phase; Production.
The result is a game which makes abstract reading strategies concrete and accessible through materialising them into heroes with visual artefacts. The game is adventurous and creates an intriguing universe that invites the child to explore and contribute to the game’s storyline without having to worry about failure. The child is empowered by helping others instead of being the one who needs help. Further, the game offers an overview of the child’s difficulties within the three reading strategies making it much easier for the child to improve its competences - and easier for the child’s parents, teachers etc. to support the child in becoming a better reader..