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Game Design for Change: A Psychological Approach

February 15, 2013

Mary Flanagan, PhD
Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities
Professor, Department of Film and Media Studies, Dartmouth College
Director, Tiltfactor Laboratory

About the Presentation: In this talk, Professor Flanagan will address the design of games of social change, and in particular, the design of games for psychological change and change in public health. She will discuss recent NSF sponsored experimental research conducted with her Dartmouth team to combat biases and stereotypes against women in science. She will also discuss Tiltfactor games that change hearts and minds about public health issues such as immunization.

About the Presenter: Mary Flanagan, the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College, is a leading innovator, artist, educator and designer, whose works have included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift people’s thinking about biases and stereotypes. Her interest in play and culture led to her acclaimed book, Critical Play, with MIT Press (2009). Her fifth academic book, Values at Play in Digital Games (with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, MIT 2014), demonstrates that thinking about values is a key to innovation. Flanagan established the internationally recognized game research laboratory Tiltfactor ( in 2003 to invent “humanist” games and take on social through games. At Tiltfactor, designers create and research catchy games that teach or transform “under the radar” using psychological principles.

Flanagan has been an American Council of Learned Societies fellow, a Brown Foundation Fellow, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow. Flanagan’s digitally driven artworks and installations have been shown internationally at venues including the Laboral Art Center, the Whitney Museum of American Art, SIGGRAPH, Beall Center, Steirischer Herbst, Ars Electronica, Artist’s Space, The Guggenheim New York, Gigantic Art Space, and others. Her many essays and articles on digital culture have appeared in periodicals and books ranging in fields from game studies to cultural studies to computer science.

In 2016 Flanagan was awarded the Vanguard award from Games for Change. Flanagan holds an honorary doctorate in design from the Illinois Institute of Technology. In 2015 Flanagan was awarded the Higher Education Video Games Alliance award for “advancing theory & research” in the field of game studies. Flanagan has a PhD from Central St Martins, University of the Arts in London and in 2016 was awarded an honorary doctorate in design from The Illinois Institute of Technology. She has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and her work has been supported by commissions and grants including The British Arts Council, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Justice, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (with Digital Mill), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and more.

Flanagan is known as a lively public speaker who gives several keynote talks a year and travels for many invited lectures at events such as TEDx; Business Innovation Factory; Games, Learning and Society; IndieCade, Vienna Games Conference; Women in Games; and the Museum of Modern Art in New York. She has given invited talks at MIT, the Game Developer’s Conference, Microsoft Research, USC, NYU, Georgia Tech, University of Toronto, Games for Change, SIGGRAPH, the Smithsonian, and many international venues.