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Apr 20, 2017

Fluent in Feedback: How Our Members Make Our Language Games Better

From engineering to design to QA and beyond, our games are team efforts. Yet there’s one essential team member rarely showcased on our blog: our members.

We started posting Early Access versions of Language games like Continuum, Editor’s Choice, and Contextual over a year ago. Since then, they’ve inspired feedback from language lovers and word nerds around the world, from grade schoolers to ivy leaguers. As with all member responses, it’s a mix of positive and negative — but much of it has been delightfully creative. Even better, it’s actually improved these games in ways we never expected.

Now that we’ve launched our new Language category of games, we’d like to share some of our favorite member feedback and show how it’s actually helped us make these games better.

Words to (and from) the wise We love it when fans of our Language games go out of their way to show off their vocabularies. Take this feedback from Editor’s Choice:

Very interesting - the subtle nuances paraded involve cogent perusal in fastidious fashion! (smiley faces all 'round)

And this kind response from Contextual:

How brilliant to discover a 'grotto of opportunity,' to exercise one's knowledge of meaningful elements of the written word.

We even get feedback as “fan fiction,” written in the form of Contextual stories, complete with an intentional error (just like in the game)!

5 stars my favorite game. wonderful tool for contracting my vocabulary. I found that reading all the definitions was also helpful.

Can you find the incorrect word?

Filling in the blanks Some Lumosity games have indisputable content: Math, for instance, is the same everywhere. Language, however, is flexible. It contains figures of speech, slang, even regional terms (“pop” vs. “soda,” anyone?).

It makes writing the games an interesting balancing act. “Our games are played all over the world,” Narrative Designer Matt Keefer tells us, “So we shoot for a ‘non-regional dialect’ that can be understood by English speakers everywhere.”

Keeping everything accessible to a wide audience remains an ongoing challenge. Take Contextual, where members choose from dozens of stories about specialized subjects. While Matt and our two other Language game writers are skilled scribes and researchers working from a wide selection of vetted resources, he admits, “We can’t be experts in every field.”

That’s where our users occasionally help us bridge the gap. Take this response to a Contextual story that used the term “varietals”:

...I just went through the piece on tomatoes and noticed that in the last paragraph, the word "varietals" is used when the correct term when referring to fruit classification would be "variety," or when referring to the fruit's propagation you could use the word "cultivar."

The misuse of varietal is a pretty common screw-up, particularly when talking about the grape varieties used in wine production. If you think of varietal as an adjective, it makes it easier to use it properly. http://grammarist.com/spelling/variety-vs-varietal/

I know, picky, picky, picky...

What does this tell us (aside from how to refer to different tomato strains)? It shows how much we depend on member feedback to let us know when we’re on the right track, and when we’re going astray. In return, we try to give our members the best brain training possible. And when it comes to our language games, there’s a lot of value in giving them the last word.

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