Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project
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'Speare - The Literacy Arcade Game

Chronos - The Spelling Game That Spells Back

Welcome to the CASP page that features two unique literacy / learning games for youth developed by the Project: 'Speare and Chronos. The information below allows site users to familiarize themselves with some of the games' many features and provides FREE access to both games. Enjoy!

Users will require a recent version of Adobe's Flash Player in order to play the games.

Play 'Speare:

'Speare poster

"'Speare's ingenious design is a brilliantly executed strategy for making kids love learning what is good for them—and a relief to parents world-wide

(p.s. Don’t tell the kids it’s good for them!).” 

Darina Griffin,

Past Director of Information Technology,

Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada

'Speare logo

Video Introduction to 'Speare: City News

‘Speare is ingenious, original, and, above all else, a fun game that also teaches literacy skills. Successfully tested with a wide range of ages, 'Speare has been shown to entertain as much as it educates. It is the first educational SmartGame designed by CASP, a prototype with a wide range of learning and teaching tools.

'Speare fully integrates gaming and educational goals to the degree that the two are indistinguishable.

Some learning challenges that ‘Speare aims to address include:

  • The vast majority of online games and websites do not present positive, productive, learning environments for youth (elementary school through undergraduate).

  • Three fifths of American teenagers play video games each week, and a quarter of them play games six hours or more––most of these commercial games have no educational value, and contribute to violent, dissociated engagement with media.

  • In contrast to the commercial gaming market, educational games rarely have authentic appeal to gamers thus limiting their efficacy and widespread dissemination.

‘Speare addresses the problem of how to be pedagogical and how to appeal to gamers simultaneously.

‘Speare has been designed with supplemental free activities that promote use of the game as an effective teaching and learning tool for both teachers and students. These extras include activities for students and teachers hosted at the CASP Learning Commons and the Interactive Folio: Romeo and Juliet, the most sophisticated, media-rich version of the play ever created.


About 'Speare:

'Speare fuses fast-paced online arcade game action with the curricular goals of literacy promotion using Shakespeare's tragedy Romeo and Juliet.

In the style of classic arcade games, 'Speare launches the player into outer space on a mission to reclaim stolen knowledge (story traces) based on Shakespeare's plays. By collecting words, phrases, and facts through game play, 'Speare challenges its players to use information to become successful knowledge gatherers. Only through knowledge gathering can a player successfully complete the game.

One of the unique gaming features of 'Speare is that it reads Romeo and Juliet as a play about the failure of a community of people to communicate with each other to resolve their conflicts non-violently.  The game builds on this lesson and reinforces the value of creative communication and literacy instead of violence and destruction.

'Speare has been designed with a core literacy audience of youth ages ten to fifteen. The game's appeal is much broader than this, however, and it is an excellent way to introduce Shakespeare's language to younger children as well as older youths in a non-threatening, carefully mediated, and highly interactive environment.

'Speare's arcade-style format uses quotes from Romeo and Juliet as the content for a puzzle game that coaches players to differentiate quickly between words and in order to develop the ties among Shakespearean vocabulary, homonyms, synonyms, and other facets of basic literacy.  This language is decoded for players using audio clips of narrated Shakespearean text (transmissions), as well as word definitions and explanations embedded throughout the game. In addition to kinetic and visual cues, the game uses proprietary technology for transforming game objects into text objects and does so with an advanced audio cue system. What this means is that players who successfully perform a knowledge gathering operation will get both visual and audio cues to confirm their success, thus reinforcing the links between the sound and the sight of the game text in play.

Also part of the game are hundreds of facts about Shakespeare that include historical, cultural, and artistic information, all of which can all be used to create in-class activities available on CASP's Learning Commons.

Curricular goals are reinforced through the arcade-game format of 'Speare that allows teachers to use 'Speare, the Interactive Folio:  Romeo and Juliet, and the CASP Learning Commons as a hybrid in-class/online learning system.

The result of close to two years of research and development, 'Speare is the first in a series of planned SmartGames (and a Shakespearean Gamebox) designed to reach and teach young learners currently under development by CASP. 'Speare fuses kinetic and cognitive skills and outcomes that are latent in online game play and activates their potential within an environment that has been carefully designed to entertain and instruct all at once.

'Speare Media:

When 'Speare was first launched in Spring 2007, considerable media attention focused on it. Here are a few samples of what was said about the game by various media.

Video and Audio:

City News

CBC Radio On Today

CBC Radio The Current

Introduction to 'Speare

'Speare as a literacy tool

Gamers, Gaming, Literacy

Game Launch


CBC News: 'Prof catches kids' attention'

Reuters: 'Video game aims to hook children on Shakespeare' 'Guelph sci-fi video game to help teach Shakespeare'

Toronto Star: 'Wherefore art thou (zap) Romeo?' 'Video game helps kids learn about Shakespeare' 'Wherefore art thou, Shakespeare gamers?'

PC World: 'Speare: To Zap or Not To Zap'

Kotaku: 'Shakespear's Shooter - The Game's The Thing'
'Speare Press Release

The Bard breaks into video games in city professor's literacy project



Play Chronos

About Chronos:

Chronos: The spelling game that spells back. Chronos was developed by the CASP team in the summer of 2007 as an offshoot of 'Speare along similar principles: namely, to teach literacy skills in a challenging game environment familar to youth.

Chronos is a prototype puzzle game designed to improve the player's vocabulary and literacy. Similar to traditional word search games, Chronos challenges players to find words on a game board to earn points. These points become multiplied when the player toggles letters to complete a target vocabulary word. More vocabulary words collected means a higher score, increased levels, and faster game play as the Chronos clock counts down.

Anyone who relies on complex vocabulary for school or work will enjoy Chronos as a value-added reward during training, or as a painless refresher exercise.

* Add value to your downtime at home, school, or work by brushing up on the vocabulary you need to excel
* Increase your digital literacy with Chronos' sophisticated non-linear design and active interface
* Challenge your friends and family to a game and compare your scores and new vocabulary




The ultimate goal of Chronos is to achieve the highest level and score per session. In order to advance in the game, the player must spell words containing letters that correspond with the target word at the bottom of the screen, which is drawn from a specific word list. As the player spells words on the game board, letters matching the target word are highlighted. When the target word is completely highlighted, a new word is drawn from the list and the player's level and score are increased.

The target word is accompanied by a brief definition, and each word/definition is drawn from a selection of subject-specific word lists. For example, if the player wants to improve his or her spelling bee skills, they can select a spelling bee definitions list.

The player must spell a word within the allocated session time. If the session time expires, the player's health will start to decrease (acting as a time bank). Once a player's health reaches 0 the game ends. Difficulty increases as the game progresses. The player's session time slowly decreases from 60 seconds on their first turn down to 30 seconds, decreasing at a rate of 1 second per turn/word submission. Players are also given rules in the game called "laws." A law tells the player that a certain letter is restricted––if the player chooses to break a law, a board hazard is generated. Up to 3 laws can be present on the board at the same time, giving even the most experienced users a difficult challenge.

Hazards are letter tiles on the game board that generate a negative effect when they are used to spell a word. Hazard effects vary from temporarily reducing the player's session time, to locking the use of one third of the game board. All hazard tiles damage the player's health, potentially ending a game.

Chronos rewards players who challenge themselves by spelling longer words. Words with 5 or more letters are granted a bonus tile, which generates positive effects for the player. A positive effect can vary from increasing a player's health to immediately advancing a level. Chronos also allows players to direct where tiles are generated on the board. This creates the opportunity for a player to customize areas of the board, with the goal of spelling longer words. A player can see up to 3 tiles in the queue in order to plan the placement of upcoming tiles accordingly.

The player is given several tools to clear up tricky situations. One of these tools is the ability to bomb an area of the board, which can help to remove unwanted hazard tiles or difficult to use letters. The player is also able to use the "Chronos" function, which freezes the session time, allowing the player an infinite amount of time to strategize their next moves on the game board. Scrambling the game board is also an option, but should be used sparingly because this incurs negative effects to the player's overall score and health.

Note that Chronos can be reprogrammed with virtually any specialized vocabulary in any field of endeavour to fulfill specific learning functions for the end-user.

Other Pedagogical Resources Available on the CASP site:

Interactive Folio: Romeo and Juliet logo

Visit the
Interactive Folio: Romeo and Juliet

CASP Learning Commons logo

Visit the
Shakespeare Learning Commons



Chronos was designed by virtually the same CASP team that created the literacy arcade game 'Speare, which was based on Shakespearean themes and learning strategies evolved by the Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project: Mat Buntin, Yuri Doubov, Brad Eccles, and Daniel Fischlin, with help from Kenny Doren and Max Summerlee. CASP gratefully acknowledges the support of the President's Office at the University of Guelph, the College of Arts Dean's Office, the Office of the Vice-President of Research at the University of Guelph, the Guelph Rotary Club (Literacy Committee), and especially Dr. William Winegard. All of these participants played a significant role in the production of both 'Speare and Chronos and were major supporters of the underlying design and pedagogical principles found in both games.

This site has been designed with only non-commercial, academic uses in mind. Although every effort has been made to secure permission for materials uploaded on the CASP site, in some circumstances we have been unable to locate copyright holders. Links may be made to our site but under no conditions are the texts and images to be copied and mounted onto another site server. Researchers using the site should accredit it following standard MLA guidelines on how to do so. Correct citation of information from the

site is as follows:

Fischlin, Daniel. Canadian Adaptations of Shakespeare Project. University of Guelph. 2004. <>.

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