So I was asked a couple of things concerning design decisions on Friday which I kind of had answers for, but are really important to note. So here are my clearer answers:

1. Why just teach kanji?

Japanese sentence structure and grammar is actually a lot simpler than English, and there are many great, well-worded internet sites out there that can help you with this part of the language through testing and ‘gamified’ learning structures. Kanji, however, is what makes being able to read the language difficult, as there are about two thousand kanji in common use, each with between one and five different pronunciations. Many students choose to give up when faced with this hurdle, and the characters themselves are complicated enough that they deserve their own focus.

2. Will you promote this as a game, or as an educational app?

I stand by the fact that if you are creating anything as a game, it needs to be designed game first learning second. However, considering the game’s audience I feel that promotion should come from the educational side. This is because students are generally advised (and generally do, as it is easier) to learn hiragana and katakana before learning kanji, and they often have at least a basic grasp of how the language is laid out. So, as self-taught learners, the students have already come a considerable way towards learning the language before even considering kanji. This means that they are motivated to go further, and are looking for the easiest and fastest way forward – thus a game designed to teach them what they need to learn would be appealing to them, primarily as a learning tool.


Language comparison

Interesting stats, nicely graphed. Note that the harder to learn languages are those that don’t use romanised alphabets:

language graph


So, my audience is between 20 and 25 as I probably mentioned before, people out of compulsory education and doing, well, whatever they’re doing. I’ve managed to collect a testing group of twelve (plus any teachers who are around to test) and threw out a generic survey in order to gauge my market. I had a Bartle Test question in there, but due to idiocy on my part I managed to somehow replace it with “what is your favourite fruit?” Charming. Anyway, I’ve gone through the answers and, based on what I know of each person and their game playing methods, made an educated guess as to which type they fit into (except for the two smarties who refused to use their names. I could guess who they are but I’d rather not).Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.05.29 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.06.05 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.06.35 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.07.04 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.07.59 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.08.43 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.09.18 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.09.54 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.16.20 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.17.53 PM Screen shot 2014-07-26 at 8.18.25 PM . 



Kanji is originally taken from Chinese, and most Japanese kanji have the same meaning as their Chinese counterparts and are simply pronounced differently (all of those shown here have the same Japanese meaning). ShaoLan created this awesome website/system in order to teach kanji in a simpler fashion to both children and non-native speakers. It is really effective in its simplicity.

Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 7.41.42 AM Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 7.43.16 AM Screen shot 2014-07-24 at 7.44.33 AM

Loose Semester Two Timeline

Week One

– Set up audience group and get preliminary info on wants and needs

– Refine original game mechanics


Week Two through Nine

– Investigate aesthetic styles and develop character (if needed)

– Create game prototype

– Have audience test prototype

– Consider adjustments to mechanics and aesthetics

– Rinse and repeat weekly


Week Ten and Eleven

– Continue as with previous weeks

– Explore and add sound effects and music

– Write 800 word report


Week Twelve

– Finalise game

– Think about set up for Exposure

– Produce game on mobile device

– Test, test and retest

Proposed Brief (subject to change)


I aim to develop a submission-style game that will improve a learner’s ability to read, say and recognize Japanese kanji, widening their vocabulary significantly. The game needs to be an engaging, immersive and educational experience. The game design will be iteratively developed through game-testing, where users will be questioned on ease of gameplay, information retained and interest levels in order to provide the optimum digital learning environment.



~First and foremost, the game must be ‘fun’ and engaging in a way that surpasses ‘educational games’ and instead embraces simply being ‘a game’.

~It must teach the user something of the Japanese written language (restricted to identifying and memorizing kanji)

~The game must attempt to cater to all styles of learning (kinesthetic, read/write, aural, visual) in some way

~The game must be able to be picked up or dropped at will (i.e. short levels, auto-saving implemented)

~Designed for an audience of 20 -26 years (though not restricted to)

~Produced primarily for mobile devices (though may be ported elsewhere)


Target Audience:

My chosen audience is ranged between 20 – 26 years, and is a mix of students and full time workers. They are past the age of compulsory schooling, and thus are not learning language in a controlled environment (if they are). Self-learning a language tends to be more difficult and less structured than a classroom based course, and the on-the-go pick-up-whenever style of learning is appreciated, so that language learning can be structured as a secondary focus around a busy lifestyle.


Proposed platform:

If all goes to plan the game will be exported to an android device as an app. Best results would be an interface that can cross-platform, so I am currently working with a 54x88mm screen size (roughly Windows Phone or iPhone 5) as these dimensions scale up quite nicely to larger phone sizes and possibly tablets.

The point of focusing on a mobile platform is to embrace the idea of on-the-go learning, avoiding making the player feel obligated to learn.