This week at the annual Game Developer’s Conference Education Summit, Tiltfactor Director Mary Flanagan has been called out to a ‘Game Design Curriculum Deathmatch,’ where leading game design instructors battle it out by revealing secrets to their game design teaching, their design philosophies, and pedagogical quirks. Speakers include yours truly (Mary), USC Interactive Media Division chair and Game Innovation Lab director Tracy Fullerton, UC Santa Cruz Expressive Intelligence Studio co-director and Expressive Processing author Noah Wardrip-Fruin, and Rules of Play and the Game Design Reader co-author and NYU Game Center professor Eric Zimmerman. The program will be MC’d by designer Justin Hall! Don’t miss it — the session ID is 823443.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
contact -at- tiltfactor -dot- org
July 31, 2012 (Hanover, NH) – The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) has announced that Tiltfactor director Mary Flanagan is one of seven award recipients in the endowment’s inaugural Digital Humanities Implementation Grant program. The Digital Humanities Implementation grants “support the implementation of innovative digital humanities projects that have successfully completed a start-up phase and demonstrated their value to the field.”
“Games provide a fun way to incorporate the knowledge and enthusiasm of the public with the museums, archives, and libraries around us, and this project is a big step forward in thinking about creating games with national impact,” said Flanagan, “Using crowdsourcing is a rather new idea, but one that we’ve shown to be a success. With this funding, our team can realize the potential for Metadata Games to enhance archives at our nation’s cultural institutions.”
The $324,872, three-year grant will allow Tiltfactor to expand its existing Metadata Games project, a suite of free, open source, internet-based computer games developed by Tiltfactor founder Mary Flanagan in collaboration with Peter Carini, Rauner Library archivist at Dartmouth College. The games help augment access to archival records by harnessing play activity to contribute high quality descriptive information about digital collections held by cultural heritage institutions. This new award will allow the Tiltfactor Lab to develop support for other media formats in addition to the image-based system currently in place. Project advisors include such diverse institutions and organizations as Writtle School of Design, Foundation 9 Entertainment, UC Santa Cruz, The Museum of the City of New York, and the NYPL Labs.
The Metadata Games project can be found at:
301 North Fairbanks – soon to be Black Family VAC
Hanover, NH 03755
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tiltfactor Laboratory is pleased to announce that ZOMBIEPOX™ has been selected for the IndieCade showcase at the 2012 annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show at the Los Angeles Convention Center from June 5th to June 7th. E3 is presented by the Entertainment Software Association (ESA) and is the world’s premier trade show for video game and related industries, with last year’s attendance peaking at 46,800.
IndieCade, known as “the video game industry’s Sundance,” supports and showcases new works within the emerging independent game movement. IndieCade encourages, publicizes, and cultivates innovation and artistry in interactive media, helping to create a public perception of games as rich, diverse, artistic, and culturally significant.
“I’m delighted that IndieCade has taken a liking to our zombies!” Tiltfactor founder and director, Mary Flanagan, noted about the selection. “IndieCade is the best independent game festival out there. We’re part of a historic movement. Good games are beautiful systems, and as we’ve shown in our research, they’re also amazing learning tools.”
ZOMBIEPOX is an evolution of POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE®, which was originally conceived as a game of disease control that came out of a partnership with the Mascoma Valley Health Initiative to stop the spread of misinformation concerning the effects of vaccination.
Previous research at Tiltfactor has found that players can apply concepts and systems thinking learned through playing POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE to problems outside the game. Currently, Tiltfactor is conducting research to examine the gameplay and learning outcomes of ZOMBIEPOX and how the zombie narrative compares with the original POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE game.
301 North Fairbanks
Hanover, NH 03755
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Dr. Mary Flanagan, director of Tiltfactor Laboratory and Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, will deliver several talks this summer and fall on such topics as critical play, games as an art form, and games as a medium for social change. Scheduled venues include the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York, the Games for Change Festival, and the IndieCade Conference.
At MoMA, Dr. Flanagan, along with other artists, critics, curators, and scholars, will take part in the Contemporary Art Forum regarding Critical Play. Panelists will take on “The Game as an Art Form,” discussing how games influence art practice, and how they have changed the way audiences engage with and learn from art. The forum will take place on May 17th.
Dr. Flanagan will also deliver a lecture at the Games for Learning Institute Day at the ninth annual Games for Change Festival, the largest games gathering in New York City. Games for Change aims to “catalyze social impact through digital games.” The festival will run from June 18th to June 20th.
In fall, Dr. Flanagan will deliver the keynote address at the IndieCade Conference in Los Angeles. The conference aims to bring together the “freshest, most innovative and creative minds and works in independent game design.” It runs parallel with the IndieCade Festival, the nation’s only stand-alone, independent-focused game event, described as “the videogame industry’s Sundance” by the Los Angeles Times. The conference will take place from the 5th to the 7th of October.
Follow Dr. Flanagan @criticalplay
301 North Fairbanks
Hanover, NH 03755
(603) 443 2725
A couple of months back, Microsoft and the Games for Learning Institute(G4LI) challenged the public with the educational holy grail:
“Can you make learning fun?”
Tiltfactor, as the team of intrepid explorers that we are, rose to the challenge, and birthed Flagellla. Flagella was Tiltfactor’s response to Microsoft and G4LI’s task: To create games that can be introduced into schools that address certain curriculum points. Flagella is a flash game that not only addresses the concept of estimation but bundles in a mini-lesson on mutation as a bonus. In that sense it reminded me of the EA game Spore that I thoroughly enjoyed a while ago, but that’s a completely different ballgame.
Last week Mary went to Microsoft to speak on Flagella (among other things) and not to brag, but Flagella was looking mighty fine in the eyes of the Microsoft staff and 300+ faculty attending the Microsoft Faculty Summit.
More to come on Flagella as it mutates before coming into the public eye.
~ Sgt. Erika
Tiltfactor is going to Gen Con this year! Held in Indianapolis, Indiana August 4-7, 2011, Gen Con is “the original, longest running, best attended, gaming convention in the world.”
We will have an exhibit booth, demoing our latest game, the 2nd Edition of POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE, as well as a couple of other surprises. More details to come as we get nearer to Gen Con.
Tiltfactor continues to represent and engage at PAX East this weekend!
First off, a panel discussion on Friday with lab director Mary Flanagan on Getting the Most Out of Your Game Education.
Pictured here, playtest sessions for our nearly-released game POX: Save the People with folks in the long lines by lab researcher Sukimon. A great way to pass the time, save lives, etc!
At the 2011 Game Developer’s Conference, esteemed designer Chris Trottier assembled advice from her astounding career as a game designer on famed games such as Farmville, The Sims, and others we all know and love. Trottier says there is now, through Facebook, a new portal for a whole slew of players not before accessible. Experiencing the breakthrough new market with The Sims was a precursor to the sea change we are experiencing now with social games.
Designers are finding all kinds of people who didn’t think of themselves as being into games. Trottier calls these “accidental gamers.” Game designers are not used to this challenge– most designers have traditionally designed for those already, at least somewhat, into games. Accidental gamers are different kinds of players and don’t arrive to games “preloaded” to play games.
Trottier then discussed the state of mothers and their own resource management games. As little NPCs with a range of AI states, children themselves play a significant role in the life of some players. When kids melt down, parents deplete resources. (Parental Players might be very angry at the way in which the design of the parental game was tuned!) To Trottier, Moms game during those in between times, such as naptime, often when they are tapped out of energy. Designers could think of games that might pour a proverbial glass of wine at the end of the day, or be charming, or be a friend. She articulated “The Art of Woo,” that is, the way in which a game might in fact court the player with fun, charm, and value.
Trottier articulated the top 10 deal breakers for this demographic in gaming:
–Work to play. Make day one in the play experience very easy and charming — friction free.
–Quick play; the “always lose” Donkey Kong games don’t get people to return.
–Orcs, Dungeons, Castles etc are not necessarily interesting to this demographic
–Pinky Pink is also out. Players are quick to call thing “babyish”
–Rigid timing. Players need to leave and return. “my free time is not predictable.” No tournaments, live events, raid schedules. Rather, appointments one makes with oneself are ok – there is a big buffer. Think maturity of various crops in Farmville.
–Stuck Points. A strategic choice to make a large challenge is often a hemmorage point with these games.
–Strangers. Strangers are “a little freaky.” Best of Breed designers, thought, have thought in interesting ways about this. Strangers can act weird and talk like they are in secret clubs. For 40 year old accidental gamers, its off-putting.
–Gagetry – multiple button stuff isn’t all that interesting. For interfaces, each piece of information adds a reason not to engage.
–The mere scent of a right/wrong choice is a problem. That might be something very simple, such as “Would you like to be an Elf or an Orc.” That kind of decision feels like a big deal to those not really into games. In Farmville, there were three types of goods to make. Bakery, Spa, or Winery. This feels like a heavy decision. When faced with a possibly large-seeming choice. players become stuck. If designers, however, post “how many of your friends have chosen that specialty” etc., the roadblock is cleared.
–3D camera. 3D navigation. These are not a priority way to spend time.
Trottier’s Top “Turn-Ons”
–Draw people into social-style games by thinking about their real world value to the player. To many adults and especially a “mom’ demographic, time spent for yourself is a guilty pleasure… What are the things you can do in the game to make a player say “I was really glad I spent my time here.” Fun is not enough. ‘Relaxes me’ is a clearer value. If it is good for me (Wii Fit or BrainAge). Farmville players felt really good about contributing to Haiti relief. Players report feeling more connected to their friends, family, and colleagues in a survey of players in 2010.
Creative outlet–keep connected–good for others — good for me — relaxes me — fun.
–It is hard to beat a satisfying deco (decoration, design) play.
–Keep evolving. Dev people need to keep pace with player curiosity. Things that keep surprising the player, and help them feel like anything is possible. When your first Sim dies and they come back as a ghost – these kind of pleasant surprises go a long way. Make existing mechanics new, or engage with a different aspect. Same core, different twist.
–Deeper Mechanics. Players put themselves into the game. There is real opportunity for growth - how to add features over time that are fresh, that are more than the sum of their parts. Deeper mechanics: when, and how much. Grow the experience for players.
–Real World Fantasy. The classic gamer fantasy is other worldly, armageddon, outer space, etc. For the mass market… well, as players, our own world is infinitely large, fantastic and relevant. Avatars can look like a cuter version of the player because that’s what is relevant. Fantasy is real life and a costume party. Make use of attractive stylistic outfits.
–Allow players to express their desires: to host a Beauty Pageant, or Over the top Christmas Decorations in Farmville
–The game should reflect ‘my people.’ The people we know in real life are more interesting to us than other characters we are going to come up with. Has amazing potential to really hit a nerve. Social network people are free aspects of the game.
–Leader boards never meant anything to Trottier until she saw Leader boards with personal information with friends.
–Big Deal Milestones. Fictionally, such as first dates, first kiss, weddings, having babies, getting promoted.
–Wanting, getting, having. Wanting it for a while. Working hard and getting it. It means a lot. Sometimes, soial games don’t let Trottier want long enough. In early days of Farmville, she was very motivated by the simple act of unlocking the crops. She really wanted to see what the next crop is like. Once she got the Corn, it was totally worth it; it was really beautiful. The reward has to be something she can actually want. Should be tied to game, not the trophy route vs vintage roadside signs. Collecting the signs is DEEPLY motivating, give a new crop sign offered for a limited time. To her, it is all about the content.
–Core Action. What is the endeavour? How satisfying is it. Quests work so well in Farmville because life can be governed by checklists and it is a natural way of tracking progress.
__Simple pleasures- when your game is clever, charming, adorable. Where play is irresistible. In her talk, Trottier confessed a love for the little forklift in Social City. “When the Sim pees on the floor. When the Sims slap someone.” If these actions could happen, what else might happen?
__Yummy on the eyes – being attractive does not hurt. The kinds of games people are drawn to are stylized, with humor or a point of view. Chuzzle from Popcap is charming, and it is easy to know what to do, and witty. Gorgeous, juicy, happy. Beautiful crops is a huge huge part of the success of Farmville.
__Make game feel good to click. Juicy moments. Pleasurable clicks. Response.
Goal Adjectives: satisfying, relaxing, expressive, intriguing, unstressed, intuitive, rewarding, useful, charming rewarding and worthwhile over time, feel good about it.
This year’s Game Development Conference in San Francisco promises to be enjoyable and informative. We are doing a soft-launch of our new beloved tiltfactor.org site (uber exciting!), as well as following lab director Mary Flanagan as she’s speaking at the GDC Education Summit: Monday 10:00-11:00 Room 301, South Hall: http://schedule.gdconf.com/session/12198.
(and, just for GDC, we’re donning our new sneak-preview Tiltfactor bling, soon available on our web site!)
We are also bringing student designer E McNeill, winner of the 2009 Imagine Cup game design second place, as he launches his first indie game Auralux. Tiltfactor is also participating in the Game Education Rant at the GDC on Tuesday 4:15- 5:15 Room 301, South Hall.
This is a time every year when the game industry, indie gamers, and some academics get together to look at, investigate, analyze, and celebrate games — as well as become inspired to invent new ones. In past years, we have brought research from the Values at Play project to folks at the conference, sharing our Grow-a-Game cards to those interested in novel brainstorming approaches, or talking about values in games. Since we’re finishing up a book on Values at Play for MIT Press, we’d love to engage you on thinking about the sometimes contradictory values that enter into play when engaged in a game. While at the conference, if you see one of us, we’d also love to chat about our project with the Games for Learning Institute on how designers view learning in games. While at the conference, we’ll hopefully get to check in with the work of Kim Swift, mastermind behind the game Portal, and Erin Robinson, inventor of Puzzle Bots! Instigators of awesomeness indeed!
Ubermorgen’s Clickistan is a wild ride. Designed as a web art extravaganza, and in part serving to fund raise for the Whitney Museum of American Art (a pretty credible cause, as causes go) Clickistan is a conceptual work that locates its work somewhere “between the 7th and 8th bit of every byte.” In other words, Clickistan is a nation surfing the hinterlands of the on and off of binary logic. This makes us very excited at Tiltfactor!