History & Theory

Critical Play

History & Theory
17 Mar, 2016

Critical Play


Read our Revisited post of this event.

Read Game Design Research Group's Revisited post of this event.

Original Post

Games are older than most contemporary media forms, and artists have been using them for centuries as a form of criticality and reflection. In this talk, Flanagan will explore this rich history and point to the theoretical concerns that arise when playing critically. As both an artist and a award winning software and game designer, Flanagan has created social disruptions, artwork, and games to trigger relational conversations. Flanagan will discuss the productive parallels between spheres of design and art, gesturing toward playful new media as the foundation for a new generation of both art and social innovation.

Mary Flanagan is a well-known Ivy-league game researcher and director of the Tiltfactor game lab at Dartmouth College ( to invent "humanist" games and take on social issues through games. Her work has included everything from game-inspired art, to commercial games that shift people’s thinking about biases and stereotypes. Flanagan's acclaimed book, Critical Play (MIT 2009) revealed the incredible art history of games, and Values at Play in Digital Games (with philosopher Helen Nissenbaum, MIT 2014), demonstrates that thinking about values is a key to innovation.

Flanagan’s research was recently showcased The Atlantic, Fast Company, and NPR, and her work is regularly featured in popular game blogs such as Kotaku and Polygon. She is widely known as an expert on matters related to digital culture, publishing in venues such as USA Today, The Huffington Post, The San Francisco Chronicle, Inside Higher Education, The Daily Beast, and more.

Flanagan has served on the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) Academic Consortium on Games for Impact, and has been an American Council of Learned Societies fellow, a Brown Foundation Fellow, and a MacDowell Colony Fellow. 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, and the Institute of Museum and Library Services. Flanagan has a PhD from Central St Martins, University of the Arts in London and is the Sherman Fairchild Distinguished Professor in Digital Humanities at Dartmouth College. @criticalplay;

The History and Theory of New Media Lecture Series brings to campus leading humanities scholars working on issues of media transition and technological emergence. The series promotes new, interdisciplinary approaches to questions about the uses, meanings, causes, and effects of rapid or dramatic shifts in techno-infrastructure, information management, and forms of mediated expression. Presented by the Berkeley Center for New Media, these events are free and open to the public. For more information, visit:

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