Dartmouth’s Tiltfactor Researches and Designs Social Games

I’ve been conversing via e-mail with Dr. Mary Flanagan, the founder of Tiltfactor at Dartmouth, where she is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities. Dr. Flanagan and Tiltfactor are doing exciting work in educational gaming. One of the key areas many researchers think it’s strongest is the social arena. This is where “fuzzy” concepts that are so difficult to teach through reading and lecturing can be more effectively transmitted via gaming. Consequently, Tiltfactor focuses on social games, including health and educational initiatives. Here’s a paragraph from their website explaining the organization’s purpose:

Tiltfactor is the first academic center to focus on critical play–a method of using games and play to investigate issues and ideas. Our mission is to research and develop software and playful art that creates rewarding, compelling, and socially responsible interactions, with a focus on innovative game design for social change. We are interested in the processes through which designers imbue their games with moral, social, and political values, whether intentionally or inadvertently, and the corollary processes through which these values are interpreted by players. Our approach involves extensive cross-disciplinary work among the Humanities, Social Sciences, the Arts, and the Sciences.

The academic gaming lab is funded in part by the NEH, NSF, and Microsoft. The center has researched and developed a remarkable list of educational titles. These include, among many others:

It’s exciting to see strong academic centers involved in educational gaming efforts like Tiltfactor is, and I encourage other educators and researchers to examine their work. As with most government funded initiatives, such as Josie True, the end product is freely available to schools and teachers. The research potential from their many efforts is considerable, and a list of selected books and articles Dr. Flanagan has written is here. Last but not least, Tiltfactor blog posts can be found at grandtextauto.

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