September 10, 2008

Two Tiltfactor games launch this week

by Mary Flanagan · , 10:21 am

Two games from Tiltfactor launch this week– an urban game, Massively Multiplayer Soba, and a screen-based casual game, Profit Seed. Participants are still welcome for Massively Multiplayer Soba this weekend in NYC@Conflux!

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Diversity Urban Game Launch

Tiltfactor is proud to announce the release of
its new urban community-based game: Massively Multiplayer Soba. The game was
developed at the New Hampshire and New York City based group Tiltfactor
Laboratory for Social Change.

Massively Multiplayer Sobais a location-centric game in New York City that celebrates language and culture. It launches in NYC at the Conflux Festival this weekend. The event invites players to grab some friends and traverse New York City’s remarkable neighborhoods meeting strangers, finding clues, and fetching items for a neighborhood party!

MMS is thoughtfully designed to encourage unexpected, playful encounters between players and residents of the culturally mixed neighborhoods in the city. Rather than simply using these neighborhoods as host sites in which the game takes place, we have made these communities central to the focus of MMS, with long interactions and storytelling exchanges with community
members the main goal!

Massively Multiplayer Soba launches at the Conflux Festival in New York City on Saturday, Sept 13th, 2008. Join the team at the Center for Architecture, 536 LaGuardia Place, NYC. Meet from 2-4 pm for the game, and 4-6 pm for the party!
http://confluxfestival.org/conflux2008/massively-multiplayer-soba/

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Profit Seed
Values at Play (http://www.valuesatplay.org) is proud to announce the release of the casual computer game, Profit Seed. Values at Play is a collaborative research project led by Dr. Helen Nissenbaum of NYU, and Dr. Mary Flanagan of Tiltfactor, a game development laboratory for social change. You can play the game at http://www.tiltfactor.org/profitseed/.

Developed by members of the Tiltfactor Lab and the Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT) game degree program, Profit Seed is a critique of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in general and specifically the patenting of agricultural seeds. It is also an experiment with a novel game
mechanic. A player uses her mouse to control the wind, trying to plant heirloom seeds while preventing GMO seeds from blowing onto farmers’ plots. If enough GMO seeds land in the field and germinate, a lawyer from an agribusiness corporation may come to sue the farmer or even confiscate the crops. In between levels, the character of the farmer—designed by the team’s artist Grace Ching-Yun, Peng—presents the player with information about the GMO seed controversy.

Profit Seed was designed using the Values At Play curriculum materials, which can be used to design activist games or simply novel games with unusual mechanics. The key to the VAP project is a focus on human values in games. “The initial prototype came out of working with Tracy Fullerton [of USC] and Celia Pierce [of Georgia Tech] at the Digital Games Research Association conference during a board game modding workshop,” said Dr. Mary Flanagan, designer of the game and Director of the Tiltfactor Lab. “The idea was then further developed at Tiltfactor because of the lab members’ interest in the international controversy surrounding GMO crops.”

One of the principal challenges during game development was addressing a social issue team members felt strongly about without being didactic. Imagining a novel mechanic was one way to work around this challenge. “It’s interesting to think about the point of view,” says Flanagan. “Playing as ‘the wind’ in the game takes a player out of a human character-centric perspective.”

Profit Seed was designed by Flanagan with the assistance of Hunter College student Nicholas Pappas. The RIT team was supervised by Dr. Chris Egert and coded by students Brian Mayzak, Ben Dapkiewicz, and Greg Kohl. Grace Ching-Yun, Peng created the game art, and Hunter College students Raymond Blanco, John Licardi, and Ryan Krause developed the music.

Designer Flanagan is launching her own parallel project entitled [incredible ownership] as an artists’ response to the patenting of existing everyday practices, common knowledge, and life forms. She is filing several patents she believes are as “nescient as the opportunistic patenting by GMO corporations. My patent applications cover a range of innovations in religious ritual, sport, patriotism, and other processes where those involved speak of, or seek, a type of enlightenment.” These are under review over the next year.

The Tiltfactor Laboratory is active internationally, and is based at Dartmouth College and in NYC. Members are artists, designers, and theorists of new media and gaming. http:://www.tiltfactor.org.