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Game-like aspects in Duolingo

I'm fascinated by the way Duolingo uses some game mechanics to help you learn, and I think they're cleverly used in a win-win way. Anyway, I've written a blog post about this at http://www.ralphlavelle.net/2013/05/language-learning-as-game-with-duolingo.html and I'd be interested in what people think.

Do people think it's like a game or not? If so, do they mind that, or enjoy it? Wish there were more competition, badges, etc or less? Has anyone identified any useful strategies with Duolingo other than to simply know the language you're learning?

(By the way, if I've made any mistakes in the article feel free to let me know. I haven't been using Duo that long.)

May 13, 2013



Great post, thanks for sharing!

For me Duolingo is a game, too. This is why it is so addictive. I love challenges and appreciate the risk to fail even if it's frustrating. More achievements and badges would be fun!


Yeah, agree. One of the biggest (if not the biggest) websites for programmers (of which I am one) is StackOverflow which is full of gamification, so I recognise addictive, game-like characteristics in a site when I see them!


It's not a game, even if it uses some of game principles. There are two types of games: the endless ones and the progressive ones.

In the endless ones, you play for a couple of minutes trying to increase your score everytime, gaining new achievements, levels, powerups and whatevs. The replay value is that even when the main objective is to increase your score, powerups, customizations, new features or achievements are here to help you keep playing even though it's boring. Examples: Jetpack Joyride, Temple Run, Tiny Wings, Nimble Quest or Punch Quest (these are iOS games, I won't talk about olde console games).

In the progressive ones, you have a quest (not necessarily) and you progress in a set of levels. Everytime you pass a level, you gain new features: your character becomes stronger, you gain allies, powers, unravelling a quest, new challenges and so on. Examples: Angry Birds, Cut the Rope, Plants VS Zombies, Shantae Quest, Zenonia...

Henceforth, Duolingo doesn't belong to any of these categories: - There is no score to beat: The timed and life games only goes to 20 questions. There is the streak meter, but it's too boring to keep wanting to increase it. At least if it was a streak of "successful practices", maybe yeah, we would have some great scorers. But not now. - There is no new features: It's always the same thing: practicing 15 to 20 questions, everytime on a new subject, until you pass the test. There is no "powerups", no "achievements" (except for the levels but the challenge is low), no "challenges" (such as duals, survivals, trivias...)...

But: - There is a quest: Your quest is to master a language. In this case, Duolingo serves it well: Everytime you finish a skill, you go to the next one. You cannot just skip and learn past tense until you learn the present tense. - There are skill levels, but they are pointless: sure, you gain access to some immersion articles, but it's not so cool as it seems.

What that means is that Duolingo has a replay value inciting people to practice more and efficiently learn a language. It's not as boring as to read a book, but it can definitely be improved. In any case, it cannot be considered as a game per se. It's more of a Flashcards application to learn a language easier.


Interesting, thanks. I think that with the decaying of your gold bars to blues and greens as time passes it becomes a kind of "endless" game where previously it had been something you finished once and for all, so that's an interesting take on it.

But as to Flashcard systems: well, most don't have a scoring system, don't involve competing against other flashcard users, nor can you fail them, nor do they have elements of chance, etc. So I'd have to say I don't really see Duo as a Flashcard app: it's much more fun than that!


I actually a discussion about awards you could earn other than completing the exercise.


Huh? Sorry, what do you mean?


I was once going to refer to Duolingo as being the same as the browser games my schoolmates are playing, except everything doesn't disappear when I exit.


So maybe it's a persistent-world type of game! Is that the term? Interesting: so that's another aspect of games, the question of whether you have to start from scratch each time you play, or you continue with your progress from the last time. Nice insight, thanks.

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