About + Team

Technology has the power to transform human behavior, shift culture, and shape institutions. Video games are an increasingly important medium with global relevance and wide-ranging cultural influence. Since 2005 Values at Play has helped designers create better games by integrating human values into the design process.

The “Values at Play” (VAP) research project assists and encourages designers to be mindful of what values their computer games promote. We would like to see a diversification of video game values to include positive principles like equity, creativity, diversity, and negotiation, along with the traditional tropes of violence and machismo. Many designers have already begun work in this area by creating “activist games” that teach and inspire social activism, empathy, and other values. With support from the National Science Foundation and a diverse advisory board of game designers and academics, VAP is an important force in this movement.

Research Team

Principal Investigators

Dr. Mary Flanagan, founding director of the lab, is an innovator focused on how people create and use technology. Her groundbreaking explorations across the arts, humanities, and sciences reflect a novel use of methods and tools that bind research with introspective cultural production. Known for her theories on playculture, activist design, and critical play, Flanagan has achieved international acclaim for her novel interdisciplinary games, artwork, and theoretical writing, her commitment to theory/practice research, and contributions to social justice design arenas. She is particularly interested in exploring issues of equity and authorship in technological environments and reworking commonly understood paradigms to provide collective strategies for social change. In 2003, Flanagan created Tiltfactor as a rigorous theory/practice laboratory devoted to the investigation and creation of games and play. At Tiltfactor, researchers study and make social games, urban games, and software that fosters a joyful commitment to humanistic principles, learning, and fun. She is also the creator of “The Adventures of Josie True,” the first web-based adventure game for girls. As a scholar interested in how human values, gender, and culture are in play across technologies and systems, Flanagan has written more than 20 critical essays and chapters on games, empathy, gender and digital representation, art and technology, and responsible design. Her three books in English include the recent Critical Play (2009) with MIT Press. As an artist, her internationally exhibited work ranges from game-inspired systems to computer viruses, embodied interfaces to interactive texts. She is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. http://www.maryflanagan.com

Dr. Helen Nissenbaum, Professor, Department of Culture and Communication and Faculty Fellow, Information Law Institute, New York University, conducts research in the social, ethical, and political dimensions of information and communications technology. Her scholarly publications span the topics of privacy, property rights, electronic publication, accountability, the use of computers in education, and values in the design of computer and information systems. Her research on values in design, security, and privacy have been supported through grants from the National Science Foundation and the Ford Foundation. Nissenbaum’s books include Emotion and Focus, Computers, Ethics and Social Values (coedited with D.J. Johnson), and Academy and the Internet (co-edited with Monroe Prince) and she is a co-founding editor of the journal, Ethics and Information Technology. At Princeton University, she served as Associate Director of the University Center for Human Values and before that held a postdoctoral fellowship at the Center for the Study of Language and Information at Stanford University. She holds a B.A. with honors from the University of Witwatersand, Johannesburg, an M.A. in Education, and a Ph.D. in philosophy from Stanford University.

Geoff Kaufman is a postdoctoral researcher for Values at Play and other Tiltfactor projects. He holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in psychology from Ohio State University, and a B.A. in psychology from Carnegie Mellon University. His research focuses on how the mental simulation of characters’ experiences in fictional narratives, virtual worlds, or games can change individuals’ self-concepts, attitudes, behaviors, and emotions. He is particularly interested in how such experiences can build interpersonal understanding and empathy, reduce stereotypes and prejudice, and inspire higher levels of social consciousness.

Advisory Board

Katie Salen is co-author of Rules of Play and the Director of the Institute of Play.

Frank Lantz is the Creative Director of Zynga New York.

Dr. Celia Pearce has 20 years of experience design including theme parks and games, and is a professor at Georgia Tech, where she directs the Experimental Game Lab and the Emergent Game Group.

Tracy Fullerton is a veteran game designer and chair of the USC Interactive Media Division of the USC School of Cinematic Arts and Director of the Electronic Arts Game Innovation Lab.

Philip Brey is associate professor of philosophy of technology and vice chair of the department of philosophy, University of Twente, the Netherlands and director of the Centre for Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Science (CEPTES).

Affiliated Institutions

Dartmouth College
The International Game Developers Association
Rochester Institute of Technology
University of Southern California
Georgia Institute of Technology
New York University
Hunter College
UC-Santa Cruz


Friends and Alumni

Jonathan Belman is a finishing doctoral student in the Educational Communication and Technology program at NYU’s Steinhardt School of Education on Empathy in Video Games. He holds an M.A. from McGill University in English Literature, and an Ed.M. from Harvard University in Human Development and Psychology.

Jim Diamond, recently finished his dissertation at NYU on empathy in video games. His research interests include educational video games, K–12 technology integration, and technologies as tools to promote social justice and individual achievement. He works in New York at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT), part of EDC.

Suyin Looui graduated with an MFA  in the Integrated Media Arts program at Hunter College and was a Tiltfactor Research Fellow. She is currently in London.

Jay Bachhuber is a researcher interested in creating serious games that are more dynamic than didactic. He works in New York at the Center for Children and Technology (CCT), part of EDC.

Also celebrated alum: Alice Bonvicini, Nicholas Pappas, Daniel Howe, Brian Mayzak, Greg Kohl, Ben Dapkiewicz, Fabio Ernesto Corredor, Francisca Caporali, Jarah Moesch, Andy Lemke.