SMU’s “Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis” adult literacy video game is puzzle-solving smartphone game app to help adults develop literacy skills

The SMU and Literacy Instruction for Texas (LIFT) team was named today one of eight semifinalists in the $7 million Barbara Bush Foundation Adult Literacy XPRIZE presented by Dollar General Literacy Foundation.

The XPRIZE is a global competition that challenges teams to develop mobile applications designed to increase literacy skills in adult learners.

SMU participants include education experts from SMU’s Simmons School of Education and Human Development, along with video game developers from SMU Guildhall — a graduate school video game development program. They are working with literacy experts from LIFT to design an engaging, puzzle-solving smartphone app to help adults develop literacy skills. Students from LIFT help test the game.

The SMU and LIFT team, People ForWords, is one of 109 teams who entered the competition in 2016. The team developed “Codex: Lost Words of Atlantis.”

In the game, players become archeologists hunting for relics from the imagined once-great civilization of Atlantis. By deciphering the forgotten language of Atlantis, players develop and strengthen their own reading skills. The game targets English- and Spanish-speaking adults.

Students at LIFT, a North Texas nonprofit adult literacy provider, have tested and provided key insights for the game during its development. According to LIFT, one in five adults in North Texas cannot read, a key factor in poverty. Dallas has the fourth highest concentration of poverty in the nation, with a 41 percent increase from 2000 to 2014. LIFT is one of the largest and most widely respected adult basic education programs in Texas and offers adult basic literacy, GED preparation and English as a Second Language programs with the goal of workforce empowerment.

Testing of the eight semi-finalists’ literacy software begins in mid-July with 12,000 adults who read English at a third grade level or lower. Selection of up to five finalists will depend on results of post-game testing to evaluate literacy gains among test subjects. Finalists will be named in May of 2018 and the winner will be named in 2019. — Nancy George, SMU