Untapped Market: Game Apps for Word Nerds

Elizabeth Bluemle - September 14, 2010

So I was in the iTunes app store looking around, and got all excited about a game I saw featured “New and Noteworthy” section called Assault Comma. See it there? To the right, promising grenades and punctuation?! I was all set to plunk down my 99¢.
Sadly, the title was cut off, and the game is actually Assault Commando, and when I realized that, I lost all interest and consoled myself browsing among productivity tools I will never actually use but make me feel hopeful about creating order in a chaotic universe. I think this says pretty much everything about me that you need to know.
I had to laugh at myself for actually believing there would be an action game based on a punctuation mark, so I made fun of my nerdiness by confessing this on Facebook. But then I got an outpouring of responses from amused writer friends who would totally buy an app called Assault Comma — no matter what it actually did. Which makes me think there’s a huge untapped market of games for nerdy book lovers and writer-types. Are you listening, developers?
My vision of Assault Comma would be a game where you’d have to get commas into the right places and zap them from the wrong places, with points for speed and daring. Kate Messner suggested a quest version of the game, with the subtitle, “A Copyediting Odyssey.” Both would be more fun than they sound, honest. If you, you know, like commas.
From English Fail BlogThis led to ideas for other games, too. MJ Auch came up with “Apostrophe Apocalypse,” where “you could run around blowing up those signs that say Strawberry’s for Sale.”
Hahahahaha! Perfect. I would pay a buck for that, especially if the signs were from real photos found around the world. GoogleMaps could get involved; players would learn the geography of all the worst apostrophe offenders, so it would be educational as well as hilarious.

MJ’s game sparked for me a natural spin-off: Quotation Qwitter, a flight simulator game where you zoom in and blast all the quote marks off signs like EVERYTHING “ON SALE” TODAY! or WE USE “REAL” CHEESE.
Chronicle Books might want to hop on this one, since they just published The Book of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks: A Celebration of Creative Punctuation by Bethany Keeley, based on her Unnecessary Quotes web site.
Searching for images to include in this ShelfTalker post led me to all kinds of funny websites—which led me to yet more. The English Fail Blog has a great blog roll (a list of blogs they follow, with links). Each one is a perfect procrastination tool for writers.
Which is why I wanted Assault Comma in the first place: as a fun way to waste time. And really, that’s what all writers want. Most of us will readily admit it, and shell out (pennies, if not big bucks) to get it. Game developers: you have a captive, easily lured audience here. Bring us our nerdy game’s, and we will “flock,” to them.

12 thoughts on “Untapped Market: Game Apps for Word Nerds

  1. SuzzyPC

    Oh Elizabeth – such good ideas! I’m not a writer but love grammar (I also loved diagramming sentences eons back in 5th grade.) Word & grammar nerds unite!

  2. Janet Fox

    I’m so there. I’d buy this app in a heartbeat – especially if it included a zapper for fixing those grammar mistakes in the field. Aim your iPhone and zap! Sign painted over!
    Love this, Elizabeth.

  3. Chris

    I don’t even own an iphone, pad, or pod, but if such “apps” existed, I might have to comply with a social norm or two.

  4. murrie

    One step further, please. Down with ALL punctuation marks. One would then linger over written material, spending days and possibly nights pondering meanings and the subtleties of the language. It would lead to lengthy discussion and debate. It could lead to famine and war, however, too. Perhaps we are not ready for the elimination of PMs. One day, when we become solely app-ish we may not need them anyway.

  5. AngieBookNerd

    Love it! Would totally buy it. Sell it with a free t-shirt that reads “I’m the Grammarian about whom your Mother warned you!” LOL

  6. Kathy Erskine

    Too funny, although it’s a seriously good idea. My kids might actually learn something from games like that and start using your/you’re, there/they’re/their, etc. correctly. I would pay BIG bucks for that.

  7. Jessica Leader

    So funny–I was just reminiscing today about the year I taught sixth grade and came up with an activity called The Ultimate Paragraph. When kids felt that the para they had written was Ultimate (topic sentence, 3 examples, etc), they got to come up and ding a bell. They practically wrestled each other to be the first to ding–low-tech fun! But the best was when one of the students designed me a CD meant to look like an Ultimate Paragraph video game that featured the mock-ad, “Get exclamation ‘points’ for getting it right!” I think kids love to take the nerdiness and run just as much as the adults do. An untapped market for fun, profit, and learning indeed.

  8. Vikram Narayan

    Consider it done. We’ll build something like this and put it up on the app store.
    We’ve built a simple memory-matching game using book covers and targeted towards book lovers on Freado. The game has taken off with several game addicts who play thousands of games every month.
    I’m curious about one thing though. Most of the people who’ve made comments above appear to be women. Similarly most of the winners on Freado are women. Perhaps women like to play such games more than men? Or maybe they tend to be more successful at such games.


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