Tiltfactor 2017 Year in Review


It’s the end of a great 2017 here at the Tiltfactor lab at Dartmouth College! It is our tradition to take a moment this time of year to give thanks for everyone’s contributions and debrief a little on studio happenings.

As always, Tiltfactor is abuzz with research projects on games, stories, and play. Our overall research aims this year have been to use stories, games, and interactive simulations to improve the culture of STEM for women, and increase bystander intervention in situations leading to sexual assault. We’ve finished two games to promote bystander intervention and combat sexual assault on college campuses with our collaborators at the University of New Hampshire Prevention Innovations Research Center, and we have compelling new prototypes and research as part of our National Science Foundation funded project to make interactive narratives for students in introductory college science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) courses.

We also continue to hone our effective design methodology using embedded design, and shared this thinking nationally and internationally in talks… Read on for information on these projects and more!

We here at Tiltfactor send our collective gratitude to our fans, friends, collaborators, players, supporters and sympathizers out there… In these contentious political times, we hope our work–games that combat biases and stereotypes, research that explores equity and health, games that empower women and help communities rise–ultimately brings people together. In our view, this work is needed now more than ever. Many thanks for being a part of it!

~Mary Flanagan, Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities, Professor of Film and Media Studies, and Tiltfactor’s founder / director, located at Dartmouth College



Based on our work with our collaborators at the University at Buffalo (Melanie Green) and Carnegie Mellon (Geoff Kaufman) on the impact of using stories to improve the culture of STEM for women, we published a paper that describes the way people respond to the experience of writing about their encounters with biases. It turns out that people with higher levels of public self-consciousness feel more negative emotions after writing about bias than individuals with lower levels of public self-consciousness.

We are publishing paper that describes how to use Twine, open source software for creating interactive fiction, to create interactive “vignette-based” experiments. Using Twine, researchers can create experiments in which participants’ decisions matter for the plot and details of the narrative. Soon you will be able to read:

  • Freedman, G., Seidman, M., Flanagan, M., Kaufman, G., & Green, M. C. (in press). Updating a classic: A new generation of vignette experiments involving iterative decision-making. Advances in Methods and Practices in Psychological Science.

We are also publishing a paper on the importance of using game methods in psychological science. Our game methods paper also includes a primer on how to create games for psychology studies with advice about resources for digital game-making. Soon you will be able to read:

  • Freedman, G., & Flanagan, M. (in press). From dictators to avatars: Furthering social and personality psychology through game methods. Social and Personality Psychology Compass.

Studying Barriers to Women Entering STEM Fields

We created a paper-based mystery game in which players have to determine which suspect in a set of characters stole a biohazardous sample from a lab. Currently, we have run two studies to examine the impact of this game on attitudes toward women in science. Stay tuned for results!

Also as part of this project, we created a digital puzzle and point-and-click adventure game in which you play the role of Gertie, a village enchanter and potion-maker who must brew potions and overcomes obstacles to her career path. We ran a longitudinal study testing the effect of playing the game on positive and negative emotions. We plan to run a more extended study on a new version of the game.

Studying “Big Picture” Thinking

We are also in the middle of research supported by Dartmouth’s Neukom Institute CompX grant  regarding technology integration in the classroom. In prior construal research, funded by the Neukom Institute, we found that reading the same passage on an iPad versus on paper is associated with lower levels of abstract thinking.

Perhaps as a testament to the current concerns about iPads in the classroom, the resulting publication at the 2016 CHI Proceedings received an overwhelming amount of press coverage. We are continuing investigation into “big picture” thinking using tech tools.

Studying Bystander Intervention

We’ve been working with Sharyn Potter and researchers at the University of New Hampshire Prevention Innovations Research Center to make games to promote bystander intervention in sexual assault on college campuses. Papers are forthcoming, but you can read about the games below!


Ship Happens

Made in collaboration with the University of New Hampshire Prevention Innovations Research Center, Ship Happens is an interactive comic book that provides players with the opportunity to practice safely intervening in situations where sexual and relationship violence, and stalking, are occurring, or have the potential to occur, and provide support in the aftermath of violence. The game depicts a fantastical world that is different enough from our own to be engaging and immersive, but similar enough to our own world to allow transfer from the skills practiced in-game to real-world intervention.

Stayed tuned for a release!


Also made with UNH, Mindflock is designed to be a content delivery method for impactful trivia questions in an effort to teach college and university students to be active bystanders: to recognize, and safely intervene in, dangerous situations or situations that have the potential to result in a bad outcome.

The game was created to be played as an intramural trivia competition on college and university campuses. A subset of the questions in the game are written to target and overcome particular barriers to bystander intervention in sexual and relationship violence and stalking (for example by sharing real-life data about how many current students intend to intervene, thus setting an institution-wide norm of intervention).

VISITOR in Blackwood Grove

Designed at Tiltfactor, VISITOR in Blackwood Grove was Kickstarted by Mary in the summer and will be published by Resonym next year. It’s a board game about an alien who crashes to earth, the Kid who’s trying to save the alien, and the Agents who are trying to dissect the alien. The game is intended to promote inductive reasoning among players and is designed to attract female as wells male players.

Crowded Dungeon

A combination of the work we’re doing studying narrative and our work with crowdsourcing, Crowded Dungeon is a game in which players teach an AI how to act as a game master to tell stories— in other words, the design of the game crowdsources the intelligence of the game. Explore the dungeon: collect items, solve puzzles, and encounter monstrous Gatekeepers who bar your path. But instead of fighting, you’ll have to talk your way past them with bribery, flattery, and sometimes threats. The players design the game as they play, deciding what kinds of sweet-talking will win the Gatekeepers over for future sessions, and what kinds of messages will simply not work for the hero…

Crowded Dungeon was chosen for the Boston Festival of Indie Games digital showcase this year!


We’re working on a bunch of prototypes that we are excited to continue developing!

In 2018, look forward to: our unofficial Cards Against Humanity expansion about climate change, a virtual reality tour of Dartmouth that highlights the campus’s dark secrets, our puzzle game about making potions, and several games to combat loneliness in rural elderly populations.


Special visits for Mary this year included a keynote at Games for Change Festival, New York; “Games for Global Justice” in Tipperary Ireland;  “Making Play Matter: Games for Social Good” at Intelligent Games and Game Intelligence Symposium (IGGI) in York;  “Evidence Based Design” at the Games for Change Festival in New York City;  “VIVE la Révolution” at the 48th International Simulation and Gaming Association (ISAGA) Conference in Delft, The Netherlands; “Special Address: Playing Colonialism” at the Board Game Studies Colloquium, University of Copenhagen, Denmark ; “Othering Algorithms” at Cornell University’; “Working Interventions” at UCLA Art|Sci Leonardo Art Science Rendezvous (LASER). She spoke at “Arguing on the Holodeck: Designing Immersive Interactive Entertainment with Persuasive Intent, a CHI PLAY Workshop”, the The Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, USC, and The Getty Museum.  Mary was also on the panel “20 Years of Game Studies: Panel,” at the College Art Association. She was the first invited game designer at the Getty Museum, and while there, she began the forthcoming manuscript, Playful Oppression. She was also a Senior Scholar in Residence, Cornell Society for the Humanities. Mary just launched her book Ghost Sentence on the 27th of November at the KGB Red Room, New York.

Gili presented a poster at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference!

  • Green, M. C., Freedman, G., Kaufman, G., Fitzgerald, K., & Flanagan, M. (2017, January). Interpretations of a science bias narrative vary by gender. Poster presented at the Society for Personality and Social Psychology annual conference. San Antonio, TX.

Gili spoke at a Science Pub at the Salt Hill Pub in Lebanon on The Games People Play – And How They Transform Our Lives. She was joined by Luke Stark, a postdoc in the Department of Sociology at Dartmouth College and Marilyn Lord, a history teacher at Kimball Union Academy.

Gili also had the opportunity to be a special guest at the Montshire Museum’s “Montshire Unleashed” night on Mazes and Games in November.

We hosted 6 meetings of the Upper Valley Game Designers—and Max plans to continue hosting them monthly! If you’re a game designer (or game player!) in our area, we’d love to see you. Find our events on Facebook.

Max also hosted Jeffrey Ruoff’s class at Dartmouth at the lab to speak with them about making games for social change.

The Tilt team had the opportunity to present our findings on how men and women differentially attribute women’s negative emotions related to bias in STEM contexts at the annual Society for Personality and Social Psychology conference. In this work, we found that women are more likely to attribute a female character’s anxiety in a physics class to awareness of negative stereotypes and men are more likely to attribute the female character’s anxiety to lack of preparation.

The Tilt team also showcased games at the Boston Festival of Indie Games, and the Resonym team presented games to Gen Con, IndieCade, Carnage Con and PAX Unplugged.


This year Mary was a John Paul Getty Museum Scholar with colleagues the former directors of the National Portrait Gallery and The National Trust in the UK. She was named one of 30 inaugural fellows of the Higher Education Video Game Alliance.

Mindflock was chosen as the 2017 Games for Change Best Overall Pitch at Games For Change 2017.

Crowded Dungeon was selected for the Boston Festival of Indie Games (BFIG) digital showcase.

VISITOR in Blackwood Grove was an IndieCade official selection, was selected for the BFIG tabletop showcase, and won the BFIG Tabletop Audience Choice Award!



Thanks again from our awesome team! Beyond the core staff of Mary, Max Seidman, Danielle Taylor, Sukie Punjasthitkul, and Gili Freedman, we welcomed Gareth Solbeck to the group this autumn! And of course our amazing student team:

Our Collaborators and Friends

Naomi Clark

Geoff Kaufman

Melanie Green

Sharyn Potter

Jane Stapleton

Ross Virginia

Manish Mishra

Rachel Thompson

Heather Fairweather

Mike Mastanduno

Barbara Will

Elizabeth Smith

Dan Rockmore

Matt Catlow

Nate Wooters

Evgeny Prozorov

Jared Segal

Nick O’Leary

Daouna Jeong

Alannah Linkhorn

Charlie Laud

Kane Lynch


Resonym’s Supporters & Partners

Pub Services Inc

Grand Prix International


Maggie Chiang

Jack Hagley

Matt Catlow

Luke Crane

Jack Scheurich


The Uncommons


ACD Distribution


Boston Festival of Indie Games

Black Moon Games

Play Digital Games

Want to play some games now? Head over to the Tiltfactor site and play games like Smorball!

The 2017 Student Team

Jaki Kimball

Joe Macisco

Amanda Herz

Spring Yu

Ruba Iqbal

Lindsay Kusnarowis

Bineshii Hermes-Roach

Jiachen Jiang

Julia Holgado

Andrea Sedlacek

Nick Feffer

Rachel Hand

Zuff Idries

Khevna Joshi

Nicole Sellew

Sunny Drescher

Alexis Wallace

Sollana Brown-Irvin


Partners, Liaisons, and Supporters:

The National Science Foundation

The Sloan Foundation

The Institute of Museum and Library Services

The National Endowment for the Humanities

The National Institute for Justice

The Neukom Institute

Dartmouth College Arts & Sciences

Dartmouth Office of Institutional Diversity & Equity



If we failed to name you specifically in this missive, we hope you know that you have our gratitude!!!!

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Looking for a good gift for family that will reduce their biases? Or are you just itching to play MONARCH? Find the games on Amazon.com!

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