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Tiltfactor Lab

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The Tiltfactor Laboratory is a game research center located at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire. Its work is centered on critical play an approach that uses games and play to investigate and explain ideas. Outcomes from the lab's work range from scholarly papers and conference presentations to video games, urban games, board games, and performances.


In 2003, Mary Flanagan founded the Tiltfactor Lab while a professor at Hunter College in New York City. Tiltfactor was the first academic game research lab in New York and early work included Rapunsel, a video game to teach young girls computer programming developed in collaboration with researchers at New York University. In 2008 Tiltfactor moved to Dartmouth College when Dr. Flanagan accepted her position as Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities.[1]

Selected Games

Tiltfactor develops games in a variety of media for different audiences.

Metadata Games This collection of online casual games is designed to help digital archivists organize visual libraries. In the Metadata Games, players tag photos, helping to increase the usefulness of the image library.[2]

Layoff In Layoff, players assume the role of corporate management planning jobs cuts. In a mechanic similar to Bejewled, players match identical types of workers in groups in order to lay the workers off and increase profits. Layoff was developed in collaboration with the Rochester Institute of Technology and launched in the spring of 2009 amid significant economic turbulence in the United States. With its timely arrival and dark humor, the game garnered significant attention and was played over a million times within its first week.[3]

Vexata Tiltfactor's first board game is designed to help middle school students develop their game literacy. In Vexata, players move around the board landing on different category spaces that express either positive values such as "cooperation" or negative ideas like "prejudice." Each square has a game mechanic associated with it that expresses its particular value or idea. By moving around the game board, players experience and learn how game mechanics can express ideas and values.

Massively Multiplayer Mushu Massively Multiplayer Mushu (MMM) is the second iteration of the Massively Multiplayer Urban games, the first being Massively Multiplayer Soba (MMS). In MMM players use food to explore new neighborhoods, languages and cultures. Players have a number of cards with ingredients written in a variety of languages other than English. To discover what the ingredients are, players must approach strangers and ask them to help translate the ingredients. Points can also be accumulated by interviewing strangers about food-related stories and opinions, and even by convincing a stranger to return to the post-game dinner. MMM and MMS have been played at the 2008 Conflux festival, the 2009 Come Out & Play festival, and on their own.[4]

Grow-A-Game Cards Developed as part of the Values At Play project, Grow-A-Game cards are a game and game design tool that helps novices understand how games express ideas and helps designers be more intetional about the ideas their games communicate.[5]

The Adventures of Josie True Though it's development began in 1999, years before Dr. Flanagan founded Tiltfactor, The Adventures of Josie True has continued to be an important and relevant game and is now maintained by Tiltfactor. The game was designed with four goals in mind: it was meant to increase the time 9 to 11 year old girls spent using technology, promote heroes from under-represented groups, increase math and science skills, and change misconceptions about math, science, and technology in order to encourage girls to pursue those fields. Rigorous evaluation of the game indicated that it accomplished its goals, effectively changing players' attitudes and increasing their interest in math, science and technology.[6]

Selected Research

Using the critical play methodology, Tiltfactor investigates games and play culture, uses games and play as research tools, and designs games and playful events based on findings from research.

Interrupt! Health Games The Interrupt! series of games is designed to encourage physical activity and promote healthy behavior. Research in conjunction with the Dartmouth Psychiatric Research Center studies how games can be used as tools for increasing health issue awareness and healthy behavior specifically relating to HIV/AIDS, mental health, and disease prevention.

Games For Learning Tiltfactor is one branch of the Games for Learning Institute, a multi-institution initiative to study the specific aspects of games that are best suited to promote learning. Tiltfactor's research focuses on the immersive qualities of games and the affordances that make games uniquely capable as learning tools.

Values At Play In collaboration with researchers at NYU, Tiltfactor studies the ways in which games communicate social, political, and moral values. The National Science Foundation funded project has produced college curricula, workshops, a game design competition, and tools to explore "values conscious" game design.[7]


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