Emma and Gil welcome Dr. Mary Flanagan, designer of Monarch, Visitor in Blackwood Grove, Buffalo, Awkward Moment, and plethora of other games in a myriad of styles and platforms, from party to strategy on digital in tabletop. Dr. Flanagan is also an artist, having exhibited works (many game-related) all around the world, and teaches game design at Dartmouth, who also hosts her game design and research lab, Tiltfactor.
We discuss designing games from the perspectives of fun and meaningful change. How does one make a transformative game that players actually enjoy, but that is still effective at building empathy and fighting prejudice?
CONTENT WARNING: There is a brief mention of racial prejudice, and sexual assault in literary works towards the end of the episode.
0m21s: “Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo” is a grammatically correct sentence. This video explains it, and other lexically ambiguous sentences.
1m21s: Tiltfactor, Dr. Flanagan’s game design and research lab at Dartmouth
1m57s: If you’re reading this, congratulations, you’re reading the show notes!
3m58s: Professor Scott Rogers covered The Game of The Goose in Biography of a Board Game 221.5.
4m27s: For more information on these French Revolution-themed versions of Game of the Goose (Jeu de la Revolution Francaise), check out page 17 of this PDF. It’s also interesting to note that Robespierre attempted to install a new state religion for France during the Revolution, the Cult of the Supreme Being (Culte de l’Être suprême); it’s entirely possible that its dogma was reinforced through things like board games. Perhaps it also helped with the bizarre decimal-time-based calendar that Robespierre couldn’t get to stick, but that still frustrates historians to this day.
5m30s: More information about Dr. Flanagan’s book, Critical Play.
7m51s: September 12: A Toy World is a game where a player is trying to kill terrorists by firing missiles at a village. But every terrorist you kill creates more terrorists, as the locals get angrier at your actions. Soon, the village is gone and you are surrounded by terrorists. There is no way to win the game through shooting.
8m13s: More info on Profit Seed.
8m33s: More info on Layoff.
9m40s: More info on Pox: Save the Puppies.
10m32s: “Designing Games to Foster Empathy,” the paper Dr. Flanagan wrote with Jonathan Belman.
15m04s: More info about psychological distance.
16m16s: Gil is referring to Ludology 213.5 – The Incan Gold Experiment, run by Dr. Stephen Blessing and research assistant Elena Sakosky. (Gil refers to the game from the original European release’s name, Diamant, but it was released in English as Incan Gold.)
19m51s: For a longer discussion on what “fun” means in a game, and on a deeper level, how games create meaning, check out Ludology 201 – Are We Having Fun Yet?
21m20s: More info on the party game Buffalo.
24m14s: More info on social identity complexity
26m13s: More info on the party game Awkward Moment.
31m10s: For more discussion on board games and colonialism, check out Ludology Episode 197 – Empires Up in Arms. For more information about the effects of “terra nullius” in board games, check out this article from Nancy Foasberg.
32m26s: “Failed Games: Lessons Learned from Promising but Problematic Game Prototypes in Designing for Diversity,” by Dr. Flanagan, Max Seidman, and Geoff Kaufman.
34m15s: Dr. Lawrence Summers, president of Harvard University, has suggested that biological differences could explain why there were fewer women in science.
36m18s: More info about Blokus.
39m39s: More info on the strategy game Monarch.
40m04s: Dr. Flanagan’s book (with co-author Helen Nissenbaum) Values at Play.
50m40s: Gabriel Orozco’s Horses Running Endlessly.
51m48s: Dr. Flanagan’s paper, with Sukdith Punjasthitkul and Geoff Kaufman, on “Social Loafing.”
54m53s: The article in question is “The Mechanical Muse,” published in The New Yorker on January 7, 2020.
56m28s: Here’s an article in Wired on the paper in question, in which large collections of photos used to train image-recognition software – including one used by Google and Microsoft – were found to amplify exisiting biases.
57m15s: In 2015, Google apologized for their facial recognition software mislabeling Black people as “gorillas.”
57m42s: More info about Reload: Rethinking Women and Cyberculture.
58m49s: The story here is “No Woman Born,” by C.L. Moore.
1h03m31s: The show will be called “Gameplay: Video Game Culture,” at the CCCB in Barcelona, Spain.
1h04m07s: “Max” is Max Seidman, game designer at Resonym and frequent collaborator with Dr. Flanagan.