The Tiltfactor Laboratory is a serious 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. Tiltfactor's motto is "Game Design for Social Change."
A serious game or applied game is a game designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment. The "serious" adjective is generally prepended to refer to video games used by industries like defense, education, scientific exploration, health care, emergency management, city planning, engineering, and politics. Serious games are a subgenre of serious storytelling, where storytelling is applied "outside the context of entertainment, where the narration progresses as a sequence of patterns impressive in quality ... and is part of a thoughtful progress". The idea shares aspects with simulation generally, including flight simulation and medical simulation, but explicitly emphasizes the added pedagogical value of fun and competition.
Dartmouth College is a private Ivy League research university in Hanover, New Hampshire, United States. Established in 1769 by Eleazar Wheelock, it is the ninth-oldest institution of higher education in the United States and one of the nine colonial colleges chartered before the American Revolution. Although founded as a school to educate Native Americans in Christian theology and the English way of life, Dartmouth primarily trained Congregationalist ministers throughout its early history before it gradually secularized, emerging at the turn of the 20th century from relative obscurity into national prominence.
Hanover is a town along the Connecticut River in Grafton County, New Hampshire, United States. The population was 11,260 at the 2010 census. Dartmouth College and the US Army Corps of Engineers Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory are located in Hanover. The Appalachian Trail crosses the town.
Tiltfactor is engaged in producing games that combat biases and stereotypes against women in STEM; increase systems-level thinking; model effective bystander intervention in cases of sexual assault; facilitate open source metadata gathering for public institutions; create social networks to encourage altruism and prosocial behavior; and inspire new ways of thinking about health care delivery. They develop board games, card games, sports, urban games, and digital games for a variety of platforms, and publish both qualitative and quantitative research results from their controlled empirical studies.
Prosocial behavior, or intent to benefit others, is a social behavior that "benefit[s] other people or society as a whole", "such as helping, sharing, donating, co-operating, and volunteering". Obeying the rules and conforming to socially accepted behaviors are also regarded as prosocial behaviors. These actions may be motivated by empathy and by concern about the welfare and rights of others, as well as for egoistic or practical concerns, such as one's social status or reputation, hope for direct or indirect reciprocity, or adherence to one's perceived system of fairness. It may also be motivated by altruism, though the existence of pure altruism is somewhat disputed, and some have argued that this falls into philosophical rather than psychological realm of debate. Evidence suggests that pro sociality is central to the well-being of social groups across a range of scales, including schools. Prosocial behavior in the classroom can have a significant impact on a student's motivation for learning and contributions to the classroom and larger community. Empathy is a strong motive in eliciting prosocial behavior, and has deep evolutionary roots.
As of September 2012, Tiltfactor is located in the Black Family Visual Arts Center at Dartmouth. Tiltfactor is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, Microsoft Research, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Science Foundation, among others.
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.
Mary Flanagan is an artist, author, educator, and designer. She pioneered the field of game research with her ideas on critical play. She has written five scholarly books and has over fifty articles to her credit. She is known for being the founding director of the research laboratory and design studio Tiltfactor Lab and the CEO of the board game company Resonym. She is also a renowned digital artist whose work has been shown around the world and has won several awards and distinctions, including the Award of Distinction at Prix Ars Electronica in 2018.
Hunter College is one of the constituent colleges of the City University of New York, an American public university. It is located in the Lenox Hill neighborhood of the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York City. The college offers studies in more than one hundred undergraduate and postgraduate fields across five schools. It also administers Hunter College High School and Hunter College Elementary School.
New York University (NYU) is a private research university based in New York City. Founded in 1831, NYU's historical campus is in Greenwich Village, Lower Manhattan. NYU also has degree-granting campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai, and academic centers in Accra, Berlin, Buenos Aires, Florence, London, Los Angeles, Madrid, Paris, Prague, Sydney, Tel Aviv, and Washington, D.C.
Tiltfactor develops games in a variety of media for different audiences. Some of their games include:
POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE – a board game for 1 to 4 people. Players take turns vaccinating or curing members of a population against a disease outbreak. Through play, players understand group immunity and the need to vaccinate.
Pox: Save the People is a board game that challenges 1-4 players to stop the spread of a deadly disease that threatens to take over the community. It was developed at the Tiltfactor Laboratory in collaboration with the Mascoma Health Initiative to help stop the spread of misinformation regarding the effects of vaccination. An iPad app of the same name was released in 2011 and won "Best Digital Game" at Meaningful Play, 2012.
buffalo – a 20-minute party game where the objective is to name-drop faster than your friends and collect the most cards to win. The game was developed as part of a National Science Foundation funded project called “Transforming Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For Women and Girls: Reworking Stereotypes & Bias.” The two-year grant has allowed Tiltfactor to develop a number of game designs with additional assistance from the National Girls Collaborative Project, a nationwide organization that wishes to promote gender equity within STEM fields.
Buffalo is a card game that requires players to think of people or characters who match combinations of descriptions. It was developed by the Tiltfactor Laboratory as part of the National Science Foundation (NSF) funded project called "Transforming Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For Women and Girls: Reworking Stereotypes & Bias." The game was runner-up for Best Digital Game in the 2012 Meaningful Play Awards.
The National Science Foundation (NSF) is a United States government agency that supports fundamental research and education in all the non-medical fields of science and engineering. Its medical counterpart is the National Institutes of Health. With an annual budget of about US$7.8 billion, the NSF funds approximately 24% of all federally supported basic research conducted by the United States' colleges and universities. In some fields, such as mathematics, computer science, economics, and the social sciences, the NSF is the major source of federal backing.
Awkward Moment – the game puts 3–8 players in awkward social situations. Players gather a hand of reactions cards and together face embarrassing, or stressful events. Players use decider cards to determine the basis for a winning reaction.
Awkward Moment® is a party game that puts 3-8 players in awkward social situations. It was developed by the Tiltfactor Lab as part of a National Science Foundation-funded project called “Transforming Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) For Women and Girls: Reworking Stereotypes & Bias.” It is a 20 minute game for middle and high school students. The game won Meaningful Play's best non-digital game award in 2012.
ZOMBIEPOX – A zombie version of Pox, Zombiepox spreads as zombies wander through town biting people. Players help the humans escape by vaccinating them, winning the game if the disease can no longer spread and losing if too many people become full-blown zombies.
POX: Save the Puppies – An extension of the POX game model, Save the Puppies is an Android game for 1–5 players in which players fight the spread of a disease that threatens to take over our pet dog populations. The game is based on the way a typical disease spreads, and players must work to contain the spread of infection by either vaccinating or curing puppies. While the game's disease is fictitious, it is based on a very real disease, Canine parvovirus.
Metadata Games – A collection of online casual games designed to help digital archivists organize visual libraries. Players tag photos, helping to increase the usefulness of image libraries.
Entangled - a virtual reality video game where players take on the role of Dr. Smith, a physicist in a science fiction world who can manipulate objects in multiple dimensions. The player uses their skills to travel through the same science lab but in many different dimensions, escaping pursuit by a shadowy enemy. Entangled has been played at the 2019 BostonFIG Fest.
The Enchanter - a digital, point-and-click adventure computer game. Players take on the role of Gertie, a potion-making character, in a fictional world where she encounters and overcomes a range of gender-related obstacles.
Replay Health – a role-playing sport where players must balance performing physical activities to score points with trying to monitor and improve their character's health. The game takes less than an hour to play, and it fosters player empathy and understanding for the many major decision points in the healthcare system.
Leechwyves and Bonesetters – an active roleplaying game in which players combat plague in medieval Europe, play groups work collaboratively to make their fiefdom the wealthiest and least plague-ridden in the land. Players are assigned characters with their own strengths and weaknesses. Each round, they must balance the goal of working their manor lord’s land with the need to visit the leechwyfe or the bonesetter to keep themselves plague-free.
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. The game garnered significant attention and was played over a million times within its first week.
Vexata – Tiltfactor's first board game is designed to help middle school students develop their game literacy. Players move around the board landing on different category spaces that express either positive values such as "cooperation" or negative ideas such as "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 – 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.
Grow-A-Game – Developed as part of the Values At Play project, Grow-A-Game cards are a game and game design tool that help novices understand how games express ideas and help designers be more intentional about the ideas their games communicate.Also available for iPad and iPhone.
The Adventures of Josie True – Though its development began in 1999, years before Dr. Flanagan founded Tiltfactor, The Adventures of Josie True has continued to be maintained by Tiltfactor. The game was designed with four goals in mind: to increase the time 9 to 11-year-old girls spend 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. Evaluation indicated that it accomplished its goals, effectively changing players' attitudes and increasing their interest in math, science and technology.
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. Some of Tiltfactor's research projects include, but are not limited too:
Tiltfactor’s Bias project Transforming STEM For Women and Girls: Reworking Stereotypes & Bias is based on recent research which reveals the measures people and institutions can take to alter unconscious societal biases regarding girls’ achievements and interest in pursuing STEM-related careers.
Metadata Games Metadata games is a software development project in which Tiltfactor researched and created an open source game system that utilizes the idea of crowd-sourcing. Groups of people compete against one another to tag data for archives, libraries, and repositories. Funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies.
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.
Values At Play In collaboration with researchers at NYU, this National Science Foundation funded project has produced college curricula, workshops, a game design competition, and tools to explore "values conscious" game design.
Tiltfactor has also published a number of research papers and studies on game and play culture. Some of these works include:
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.
Lost in Translation: Comparing the Impact of an Analog and Digital Version of a Public Health Game on Players’ Perceptions, Attitudes, and Cognitions studies the impacts of nearly identical analog and digital games in facilitating learning and attitude changes about social issues, such as public health.
Citizen Archivists at Play: Game Design for Gathering Metadata for Cultural Heritage Institutions is a research paper authored in tandem with the Metadata Games project.
Magic: The Gathering is both a collectible and digital collectible card game created by Richard Garfield. Released in 1993 by Wizards of the Coast, Magic was the first trading card game and has approximately twenty million players as of 2015, and over twenty billion Magic cards produced in the period from 2008 to 2016, during which time it grew in popularity.
Massively multiplayer online role-playing games (MMORPGs) are a combination of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual world.
Poker is a family of card games that combines gambling, strategy, and different skills. All poker variants involve betting as an intrinsic part of play, and determine the winner of each hand according to the combinations of players' cards, at least some of which remain hidden until the end of the hand. Poker games vary in the number of cards dealt, the number of shared or "community" cards, the number of cards that remain hidden, and the betting procedures.
Educational games are games explicitly designed with educational purposes, or which have incidental or secondary educational value. All types of games may be used in an educational environment. Also Educational games are games that are designed to help people to learn about certain subjects, expand concepts, reinforce development, understand a historical event or culture, or assist them in learning a skill as they play. Game types include board, card, and video games. An educational game is a game designed to teach humans about a specific subject and to teach them a skill. As educators, governments, and parents realize the psychological need and benefits of gaming have on learning, this educational tool has become mainstream. Games are interactive play that teach us goals, rules, adaptation, problem solving, interaction, all represented as a story. They satisfy our fundamental need to learn by providing enjoyment, passionate involvement, structure, motivation, ego gratification, adrenaline, creativity, social interaction and emotion in the game itself while the learning takes place.
Critical design takes a critical theory based approach to design. This kind of design uses design fiction and speculative design proposals to challenge assumptions, conceptions about the role of objects play in everyday life. Critical design object plays a role of product design, but emphasizes on neither commercial purpose nor physical utility. It is mainly for sharing a critical perspective and carrying debate to the public, to increase awareness on social, cultural, or ethical issues by asking questions to the public. Critical design is popularized by Anthony Dunne and Fiona Raby through their firm, Dunne & Raby.
The Re-Mission games for young cancer patients were conceived by Pam Omidyar and designed based research by the nonprofit HopeLab Foundation, with direct input from young cancer patients and oncology doctors and nurses, and game developer Realtime Associates, among others. The games engage young cancer patients through entertaining game play while impacting specific psychological and behavioral outcomes associated with successful cancer treatment. HopeLab has made Re-Mission games available at no charge to young people with cancer and their families, as well as oncology healthcare workers and institutions around the world.
PoxNora: Battlefield of the Immortals is a multiplayer online game that combines a digital collectible card game with a turn-based strategy game in a fantasy setting. PoxNora was originally launched via Java Web Start through a browser and can be played on Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. The game is free to play with "Sample Battlegroups", and players can purchase additional game pieces, called "runes", and build their own strategies. The game currently includes more than 1600 runes. The game was originally designed and developed by Octopi Media Design Lab, which as of January 16, 2009 became owned by and operated by Sony Online Entertainment. This division of SOE was formerly referred to as SOETucson. On April 1, 2011, SOE closed down the Tucson studio along with its Seattle and Denver studios, laying off over 200 employees in the process. Some members of the PoxNora team were moved to the San Diego HQ to continue development.
Preservation metadata is information that supports and documents acts of preservation on digital materials. A specific type of metadata, preservation metadata works to maintain a digital object’s viability while also ensuring continued access through providing contextual information as well as details on usage and rights. It describes both the context of an item as well as its structure.
A human-based computation game or game with a purpose (GWAP) is a human-based computation technique of outsourcing steps within a computational process to humans in an entertaining way (gamification).
A game is a structured form of play, usually undertaken for enjoyment and sometimes used as an educational tool. Games are distinct from work, which is usually carried out for remuneration, and from art, which is more often an expression of aesthetic or ideological elements. However, the distinction is not clear-cut, and many games are also considered to be work or art.
Metadata is "data that provides information about other data". In short, it's data about data. Many distinct types of metadata exist, including descriptive metadata, structural metadata, administrative metadata, reference metadata and statistical metadata.
Filament Games is an American educational video game developer based in Madison, Wisconsin and founded in 2005 by partners Daniel White, Daniel Norton, and Alexander Stone. They are a design and production studio specializing in the creation of authentic gameplay mechanics that are also accurate representations of educational content. By actively embedding learning objectives within game activities, Filament's games help players transform their play experience into real world knowledge.
Zombiepox is a cooperative board game in which players fight the spread of zombies that threaten to take over the town. It was developed by Tiltfactor Laboratory, a game research center located at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, focusing on games and play that investigate and explain ideas.
Game design is the art of applying design and aesthetics to create a game for entertainment or for educational, exercise, or experimental purposes. Increasingly, elements and principles of game design are also applied to other interactions, in the form of gamification.
MetadataGames is a free and open-source digital gaming platform for gathering data on photo, audio, and moving image artifacts for use by archivists and researchers. Metadata games were developed by Dartmouth College's Tiltfactor Lab with funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities, American Council of Learned Societies and the Neukom Institute for Computational Science.
Behavioural design is a sub-category of design, which is concerned with how design can shape, or be used to influence human behaviour. All approaches of design for behaviour change acknowledge that artefacts have an important influence on human behaviour and/or behavioural decisions. They strongly draw on theories of behavioural change, including the division into personal, behavioural, and environmental characteristics as drivers for behaviour change. Areas in which design for behaviour change has been most commonly applied include health and wellbeing, sustainability, safety and social context, as well as crime prevention.