Today marks the release of Grammar Pop, a fun new word-matching game created by Mignon Fogarty of Grammar Girl fame. While this is Mignon’s first game title, she is a well-established industry veteran who specializes in far more than championing good grammar.
We had the pleasure of catching up with Grammar Girl to learn more about her first-time developer experience as well as the game.
GameSalad: Thanks for setting aside the time to answer some questions! Tell us a little about yourself – what made you decide to create your Grammar Girl persona?
Mignon: As an editor, I saw my clients making the same mistakes over and over again: misusing semicolons, confusing “affect” and “effect,” and so on. But all of the material out there that could help them was either too boring or too snarky. At the same time, I saw that my brother was struggling in school, but he could tell me anything (anything!) about the Pokemon universe. The kid wasn’t dumb; he just wasn’t interested.
Creating the Grammar Girl podcast (which was how I got my start) was really something I did on a whim. I wanted to create something fun and friendly, and yet helpful. I wanted to make learning about grammar as fun as learning about Pokemon. (Well, I never had *that* delusion, but let’s just say “to make learning grammar more fun than it was.”)
For people who are interested, Neiman Journalism Lab did a long profile of me that walks you through how I started my podcast and turned it into a podcasting network and a series of successful books: http://www.niemanlab.org/2012/02/how-grammar-girl-turned-a-single-hobby-podcast-into-a-growing-media-network/
GameSalad: Can you tell us a little more about your background?
Mignon: I have an undergraduate degree in English and a master’s in biology from Stanford. I’m a PhD dropout; I left grad school to be employee number one at a friend’s start-up during the dotcom craze. I spent a couple of years at start-ups and when everything fell apart, I made a shockingly smooth transition into being a technical writer and editor. I did that for a few years until the podcasting bug got me and Grammar Girl took off.
GameSalad: What brought you the idea of creating a game?
Mignon: My main goal is to make learning fun, so it’s not a big leap to think about games. The problem was always finding a way to make games. I kept seeing other people come out with educational apps and games, and I got bids a couple of times, but they were always too high. Developers seemed to think that because I’m partnered with Macmillan, I had a huge budget, but I didn’t. This is more of a demonstration project–me showing them that it’s possible and a good idea.
GameSalad: In your own words, tell us about Grammar Pop:
Mignon: Grammar Pop is a word-matching game. A sentence appears on the screen with each word in a cloud, and you select its part of speech. For example, the name “Bob” is a noun, so you tap the “noun” button and then tap the cloud with “Bob.” The cloud pops and makes a happy sound, and sometimes you get a coin (the cloud’s silver lining).
It starts out really simple with 3 parts of speech and 3-word sentences, but advances all the way up to 12-word sentences and 11 parts of speech. It’s quite difficult by the end.
It has more than 14,000 words and was reviewed by a linguist.
GameSalad: What inspired your design?
Mignon: It started as a game I would want to play myself. I love word games, and there’s nothing like this out there. The existing games are simpler and much more childish. They seem to be designed for first-graders. Although Grammar Pop is accessible to children (and beta testers told us their kids liked it), it’s not insulting to adults. The higher levels will definitely be challenging.
Then, after the beta testing, it became clear that teachers were really excited about the game, so I went back and cross referenced my sentences more systematically with teaching guidelines such as the Common Core Standards to make sure the game included sentences that hit all the concepts English teachers want to reinforce.
GameSalad: In your own words, what do you feel makes Grammar Pop a unique, must-play experience?
Mignon: If you’re into grammar and enjoy word games, this is the only game out there that isn’t explicitly for little kids. I like the rewarding feeling you get when you make a match and the cloud pops and makes happy sounds. Even though I spent hundreds of hour testing it, now that I’ve had a short break, I still open it and play it when I have free time.
GameSalad: How did you discover GameSalad? What do you think are the biggest advantages of developing with GameSalad?
Mignon: I actually don’t remember how I discovered GameSalad. I presume it was a media story (or maybe I Googled “make your own app”). I know I first bookmarked it at least three years ago, and I kept looking at it thinking, “I’m going to do that someday.”
The biggest advantage of GameSalad by far is that it’s understandable. I had tried to teach myself to make apps using Apple’s instructions and language, and it was beyond me.
With GameSalad, anyone can do it. I really believe that. I have a strong technical background, and I’m not afraid of technology, but I believe that anyone who is willing to invest some time reading the tutorials and watching the videos can make a game regardless of their background.
The other huge advantage of GameSalad is the community. It reminds me of the early days of podcasting. People seem to make helpful videos just because they want to, and people on the forums are incredibly helpful. There were times when I was stuck, and someone on the forums was always happy to help.
GameSalad: Any new projects on the horizon? What are you currently working on?
Mignon: Right now, I’m getting a card game ready to do a Kickstarter project in a few weeks. It’s called Peeve Wars, and of course, it also has a grammar theme. After that, I’d like to do more educational app games. Working with GameSalad turned on some switch in my brain, and now everywhere I look, I see possibilities for games.
GameSalad: Do you have any advice you’d like to share with current or prospective game developers?
Mignon: Yes! It is possible to make your game. Don’t give up. When I said I was going to make my own game–not just oversee the project, but also make it–most people thought I was crazy. I know most people thought I would fail. It may take longer than you expect, but keep trying. Don’t be afraid to ask questions on the forums. Make sure you keep up with all the posts and new versions. Watch all the videos because even if you don’t think you need to know a certain trick, you still learn things that are generally helpful. When you’re troubleshooting, treat it like a scientific experiment: change one variable at a time and eventually you’ll find the problem.
GameSalad: Thank you for your time, Mignon! We look forward to playing Grammar Pop and seeing more from you!
Grammar Pop is available now for download! Sharpen your linguistic arsenal today!
Purchase Grammar Pop!