2015 | PhonicBlocks | Bottlerocket Games Studio

Gamifying phonics acquisition for early readers

As my own children started to learn to read, I found it difficult to locate games that combined fun gameplay with focused educational content, especially around phonics acquisition.

As a personal project, I could combine my loves of programming (all titles we authored by myself), design, illustration and research to build a number of games free from the limitations that impact commercial work. PhonicBlocks is the result  of applying user-centred approaches  in partnership with educators and reading/phonics specialists in the local school system. All with the added benefit of willing ‘play-testers’ under my roof.


In Phonic Blocks, players match letter sounds with pictures ("S for Sun"), repeating and learning different combinations of sounds and images. Scoring and bonuses relate to different combinations that can be achieved. Players are pushed for time, needing to remove blocks under so that the goal blocks can moved through the playing area to their final position. Speed isn't the only benefit here, matching multpiple sound blocks to pictures (and vice versa) scores more points and removes more blocks.

Bottlerocket Games Studio

This work was run through my games studio, Bottlerocket Games, whose purpose was to create compelling games experience that both children parents could share. It produced a number of games and digital toys, with the dual purpose of being both fun and a valuable use of time. Worried seeing adults sink time into games like Candy Crush on the Tube, I wondered thought that that level of engagement could mean if it was directoed towards an activity like reading acquisition. That would be a great way to spend time.

Phonic Soup

My first title was a simple matching game aimed at very early readers, around 4 in the UK. Fun interations underpnned the repeated hearing of letter sounds and viewing of letter forms.

One of our first titles, Phonic soup helped young readers match letter shapes (graphemes) with letter sounds (phonemes) - with a voice over provided by my daughter

Phunny Phace

As a digital toy, PhunyPhace let kids combine different head shots to make humorous mashups.

Using device camera, with guides on on composition, kids could easily take head-shots and mash them to form a wierd frankenstein composite