Based in Brooklyn, NY

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@LocalNo12 (#Losswords)


Losswords is a mobile word puzzle game where players reconfigure passages from classic literature. It’s the most fun you have ever had playing with Moby Dick, Alice in Wonderland, and Pride and Prejudice.

  • Using classic works of literature as the raw materials for the game, Losswords players scramble and unscramble passages from famous books.
  • Losswords is set in a future where books have been outlawed and players are members of a secret literary underground.
  • The addictive core mechanic of the game is finding words within words - like finding the words “EAT” and “ion” in the middle of “CREATION.”
  • Gameplay is social. You send and receive books to and from your friends - and other players you don’t know.
  • The game will launch with hundreds of classic books included. As far as we can tell, we’re the first to use Project Gutenberg’s online database of public domain books as the basis of a game.
  • Designed by Local No. 12, the team that brought you The Metagame - the card game about cultural debate.
  • Losswords is being developed for iPhones, with likely releases on other smartphone and tablet platforms - depending on the success of our Kickstarter campaign.
  • We are running a Kickstarter campaign until May 11, with the game slated for an early 2017 release.


Origin Story

Losswords began life as a failed experiment. On Twitter.

We had experimented with Twitter games before. A previous game called Backchatter let you bet on words you think people would tweet most during a live event. The original idea of Losswords was that the game would tweet a passage from a famous book. You and a friend would compete to find the most “words within the words” of the quote.

We evolved this initial idea for Losswords through a very long process of playtesting and iteration. We prototyped the game first on paper, then by “faking” computer output (one of us typed text, pretending to be the program), and finally through a series of extremely ugly-looking prototypes. We enlisted friends, students, and fellow designers to play the game and begged them to give us their harshest feedback. What did we learn from all of this playtesting? Designing a game for Twitter was a terrible idea.

But maybe it could work on smartphones. So we evolved the game to have a graphical interface. Along the way, we added a story about players being members of a secret literary underground, amassing hidden libraries of contraband books. The gameplay evolved to include both taking apart and putting together passages from famous works of literature. And to compliment the book-centric theme, we developed a visual language that was an homage to mid 20th century book design.

After all of this creative fermentation, we are finally ready to bring Losswords to the world! We have a working Alpha version, and with the help of Kickstarter backers, we will complete the game’s production and launch in early 2017.

How does it work?

Losswords takes place in a future state that has outlawed books. Digital games are the only government-approved form of media. You are a member of the literary underground and you play the game by scrambling the meaning of famous books and then sending them to your comrades, who attempt to unscramble them back to their original state.

The first step is LOSSWORDING a book - which means finding words within words. For example, within this sentence from The Wizard of Oz:

  • Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!
  • You might find the following words (in caps):

  • PAy no atTENtION to tHE MAn beHIND the CURTain!
  • The rest of the words would be removed from the sentence, leaving:

  • This mysterious sentence (and the fragments that were cut out) would then be sent to another Losswords player, who would have to SOLVE it by putting the fragments back in the right place. Every player both deconstructs and reconstructs passages.

    As the game proceeds, you level up, getting special rewards for finding long and rare words, for putting passages back together quickly, and for guessing the author and title of books. Players gradually accumulate a library of their contraband literature in a hidden underground lair.

    What's so special about it?

    Gaming literature.
    Losswords uses actual passages from classic literature as the raw material for the game. As you play, you collect books like Pride and Prejudice and Alice in Wonderland and play with the actual text from the book.

    Copyleft culture.
    Losswords may be the first video game ever to be based directly on the public domain books in the online Project Gutenberg. The gameplay is based on scrambling and unscrambling passages from the books.

    Celebrated literary curators.
    To help us curate the hundreds of books in the game, we have enlisted the help of “literary curators” - cultural figures writer Douglas Rushkoff, Chris Suellentrop of the New York Times, and Julia Kaganskiy from the New Museum.

    The literary underground.
    In the world of Losswords, books have been banned and videogames are the only form of state approved culture. Players are literary outlaws who scramble and unscramble the books to keep them out of the hands of the government. We love the idea that reading and collecting books can make you a subversive hero. And also that we’re using a videogame to communicate this idea.

    New gameplay.
    We have found a new kind of word puzzle gameplay where players find words within words. Then other players put the fragmented passage back together again. So far, our playtesters love it.

    The creators.
    Losswords is part of Local No. 12’s mission to make games that engage with culture at large. Our other project, a card game called The Metagame, encourages players to discuss and debate everything from Big Macs to the Mona Lisa. By leveraging public domain literature as the raw material for the game, Losswords makes a statement about what games can learn from other forms of human expression - and vice versa.

    Amazing visuals.
    Did we mention the amazing designs and illustrations? We are working with Winnie Song, creator of the hit indie title Bad Blood, on the game illustrations. Inspired by mid-century book designs, the world of Losswords is a treat for the eyes.

    Who made it?

    Local No. 12 is a game design collective that loves making games about culture. Our most recent title, The Metagame, turns cultural conversation into a card game. In Losswords, we take on word games and literature.

  • PETER BERRY is a principal of the digital studio Supercosm and has built several game titles for iOS/Android, including the literary platformer Stride & Prejudice.
  • COLLEEN MACKLIN has made games about everything from activism to the federal debt, to disaster preparedness for the Red Cross and founded and co-directs the PETLab game design lab at Parsons School of Design where she also teaches.
  • JOHN SHARP is a former DJ and art director who teaches in the MFA Design & Technology program at Parsons School of Design. His new book, Works of Game, tackles the intersection of games and art.
  • ERIC ZIMMERMAN is a 20-year veteran of the game industry and has created titles like Diner Dash and SiSSYFiGHT 2000. He is a professor at the NYU Game Center.


    The Losswords sneak-peek trailer: Vimeo



    There are far more images available for Losswords, but these are the ones we felt would be most useful to you. If you have specific requests, please do contact us!

    download logo files as .zip (218KB)

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    Team & Repeating Collaborator

    Peter Berry

    Lucy Bonner
    Community liason

    Colleen Macklin
    Interaction design, narrative design

    John Sharp
    Art direction

    Eric Zimmerman
    Game design lead

    presskit() by Rami Ismail (Vlambeer) - also thanks to these fine folks