tiltfactor » THE LAB

We make games. We study how people play. We think games can change the world.  We think games are an art form. We believe games are capable of more.  We teach with games. We speak out with games. We help people through games. We brainstorm.  We research.  We play. We are Tiltfactor.  Game design for social change.

Can we make a more just and equitable world with games?

Tiltfactor, (http://www.tiltfactor.org), the interdisciplinary innovation studio dedicated to designing & studying games for social impact, was founded and is led by Dr. Mary Flanagan.

Tiltfactor uses its unique design methodology, Critical Play, to incorporate fundamental human values and psychological principles to promote learning, attitude change, and behavior change. Tiltfactor investigates the power of story, systems thinking, and empathy to craft powerful experiences that make a difference in people’s lives: by reducing stereotypes and biases, promoting wellness, harnessing new forms of knowledge, and increasing global awareness, Tiltfactor’s approach revolutionizes new technology design for a better world. We 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 our controlled empirical studies.

What is the mission?
There are social problems and public health challenges that can be best addressed by games. Tiltfactor’s mission is to change minds and behaviors for the better using fun and games. We think we can use games to change the world, and we’ve proven it through rigorous research.
Our interests meet core needs in three areas: fostering public health, influencing pro-social attitudes and behaviors, and creating engines for knowledge generation. We can do all of these through games.

What makes us unique?
Our reliance on psychological principles to help inform the design and content of the games. Our use of rigorous, systematic research methodologies to test and verify the proposed impact of games on players. Our desire for all of our games to change players’ hearts and minds and promote positive human values.

How do we accomplish this?
We are working with major national and international funders and organizations to craft real change. We think from a different perspective and integrate values and social responsibility alongside great gameplay. We are skilled at designing catchy games that teach people something or create new knowledge, and we follow up with rigorous research that proves our approach and creates tangible results. Tiltfactor has created unique game design methodologies that lead to innovation; these are shared as a resource at http://www.valuesatplay.org.

Where are we?
Tiltfactor is now at Dartmouth College. We occupy a beautiful new space in the Black Family Visual Arts Center. Since our origin as the first academic game lab in NYC, Tiltfactor is supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Science Foundation, and national research groups. We have been previously funded by Microsoft Research, the American Council of Learned Societies, and more.


Who is Tiltfactor?

Dr. Mary Flanagan, founding director of the lab, is an innovator focused on how people create and use technology. Her groundbreaking explorations across the arts, humanities, and sciences reflect a novel use of methods and tools that bind research with introspective cultural production. Known for her theories on playculture, activist design, and critical play, Flanagan has achieved international acclaim for her novel interdisciplinary games, artwork, and theoretical writing, her commitment to theory/practice research, and contributions to social justice design arenas. She is particularly interested in exploring issues of equity and authorship in technological environments and reworking commonly understood paradigms to provide collective strategies for social change. In 2003, Flanagan created Tiltfactor as a rigorous theory/practice laboratory devoted to the investigation and creation of games and play. At Tiltfactor, researchers study and make social games, urban games, and software that fosters a joyful commitment to humanistic principles, learning, and fun. She is also the creator of “The Adventures of Josie True,” the first web-based adventure game for girls. As a scholar interested in how human values, gender, and culture are in play across technologies and systems, Flanagan has written more than 20 critical essays and chapters on games, empathy, gender and digital representation, art and technology, and responsible design. Her three books in English include the recent Critical Play (2009) with MIT Press. As an artist, her internationally exhibited work ranges from game-inspired systems to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts. She is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. http://www.maryflanagan.com
Sukie Punjasthitkul is Tiltfactor’s project manager. Formerly a researcher at Dartmouth Medical School’s Interactive Media Lab, Sukie has a diverse background that includes video and audio editing, compositing, media encoding, web production, tech support and repair, Q&A, and system administration. Sukie has a MS in Evaluative Clinical Sciences from Dartmouth College. He thinks old technology is still useful.
Geoff Kaufman is Tiltfactor’s postdoctoral researcher in psychology. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in psychology from Ohio State University, and a B.A. in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on how the mental simulation of characters’ experiences in fictional narratives, virtual worlds, or games can change individuals’ self-concepts, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. He is particularly interested in how such experiences can build interpersonal understanding and empathy, reduce stereotypes and prejudice, and inspire higher levels of social consciousness. In his free time, Geoff enjoys watching Italian and Japanese horror films, following pro tennis, and playing the euphonium.
Max Seidman is a graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in engineering sciences and a focus on invention and design. He is acutely interested in all forms of games and game culture, including playing games, designing games, and thinking critically about games, with a particular fascination in nondigital games. As a student, Max designed The Source, among other games. As an intern with Tiltfactor, he helped design and produce POX: SAVE THE PEOPLE, Buffalo, and Metadata Games. As a full-time designer, Max has worked on RePlay Health, Stupid Robot, Gut Check, Bill of Health, and many more. Hailing from Cambridge, Massachusetts, Max stands a whopping 6′ 20″ and is made of pure radiation. In his spare time he enjoys medieval fencing and writing about himself in the third person.
Danielle Taylor is a graduate of Middlebury College with a B.A. in Studio Art and Anthropology/Sociology, as well as a graduate of the University of Iowa with a M.F.A. in Drawing and Painting. After working at the University of Pennsylvania in the Graduate School of Fine Arts and then putting forth a valiant effort to harness the dot.com craze with a company called theartbiz.com, she was lost in the wildness for several years and then one day found herself on the Tiltfactor doorstep. They kindly took her in and now she lives there.
Sarah Ettinger is the graphic designer for Tiltfactor. Raised by a band of roving hyenas on the African Veldt, Sarah quickly rose to prominence as the graphic artist to go to if you were tired by being bossed around by those tyrannical Lions imposing their circular logic from Pride Rock. Unabashedly virtuous, Sarah escaped to the lovely green hills of the American Northeast to set up her own Empire of down-to-earth farmhands, honing her skills at Adobe Creative Suite to the extent that now they are rivaled by only by the gods themselves. She is also extremely humble.
Tsomo Cuomaoji, Amaris De La Rosa-Moreno, John Lewis, Jaclyn Kimball, Jesus Moreno, Gareth Solbeck, Fritz Wallace, and Simone Wien are our 2014-2015 Student Team Members.
William Rossi is our 2014-2015 Presidential Scholar.


Ruth Catlow is an artist and co-director of furtherfield.org and Head of School of Design at Writtle College, UK.

Edward del Rosario is an artist and Illustrator. His work has appeared in many publications including The New Yorker, Harper’s, The New York Times and Le Monde.

Gonzalo Frasca is a games researcher and games maker and runs ludology.org. His writing on activist gaming is known internationally. Currently, he is based in Uruguay.

Noah Wardrip-Fruin is a digital media writer, artist, and scholar who is an Associate Professor at UC-Santa Cruz.

Tracy Fullerton M.F.A., is the chair of the Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinema-Television and Director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab at USC.

Chris Egert is Associate Professor, Interactive Games and Media at the Rochester Institute of Technology.

Helen Nissenbaum is Professor of Culture & Communication, Computer Science at New York University, and Senior Fellow, Information Law Institute, NYU School of Law.

Celia Pearce is an Associate Professor at Georgia Tech in the Department of Literature, Communication, and Culture.

Katie Salen is a game designer and nonprofit founder in the Games for Learning space, including Institute of Play and Quest 2 Learn.


Shaun Akhtar, Goyo Amaro, James Bachhuber, Jonathan Belman, Dorothy Bennett, Sebastian Bierman-Lytle, Sharang Biswas, Alice Bonvicini, Jack Bowman, Francisca Caporali, Jordan Carpenter, Joyce Cho, Matthew Cloyd, Sebastian DeLuca, Fabio Ernesto Corredor, Jim Diamond, Zara Downs, Michelle Earhart, Angela Ferraiolo, Ken Hullican, Jennifer Jacobs, Janet Kim, Yoon Ji Kim, Shloka Kini, Jasmine Kumalah, Dylan Leavitt, Si Jie Loo, Suyin Looui, Lesley Lopez, Anna Lotko, Katie Lukas, Brian Mayzak, Robert McAvinue, E McNeill, Jarah Moesch, Tina Moschella, Erika Murillo, Nicole Newman, Madeline Parker, Mehta Punjasthitkul, Ashlee Roberson, Brendan Scully, Sydney Thomashaw, Robinson Tryon, Dana Venerable, Linden Vongsathorn, and Cecile Williams. We’re so proud of you guys!
  • Tiltfactor invents new ways of thinking about important social issues through engaging games and play. Founded and directed by leading innovator Dr. Mary Flanagan, Tiltfactor is the award-winning design studio and research laboratory that takes on problem areas of national need and creates solutions through playful design.