MindSnacks Metagame

MindSnacks was a popular language learning app for iOS. I helped contribute in lots of ways to MindSnacks’s development (including an absurd amount of project management), but my favorite contribution was the design of the “metagame”.

The MindSnacks apps (one for each of Spanish, Portuguese, French, Italian, Mandarin, Japanese, and German, as well as a US Geography app) were essentially collections of flash-card-esque minigames that could be played in short chunks. My goal with the metagame (i.e. the game-like experience within the app outside of the minigames) was to drive players to play different minigames, and generally stay with the app after typical drop-off points. To that end, I created over 80 different “quests” that challenged players to play the minigames in different ways, and balanced the various rewards for those quests to keep players on a steady cadence of success. I had a blast writing all of the wonderfully punny quest text.

I relied on my experience at Zynga to design the apps’ First Time User Experience. The FTUE for Mindsnacks was a semi-on-rails sequence that walked the player through the app’s core systems (games, skills, quests, XP and content mastery, and switching between content packs) within a single 5 minute session. During that session, the player also experienced the app’s main “hooks”: completing quests and unlocking/upgrading the app’s adorable mascot.

I also created the progression system that unlocked new minigames for the player. Working with the educational content designers, I categorized each game as developing one of four language learning skills. Players unlocked games as they leveled up with the app’s XP system, and the order of the unlocks ensured that players could always play a set of games that was relatively balanced with regards to those skills.