When I first moved to New Hampshire, my leading concern was: how am I going to survive the winter? For 27 years, I had lived south of the Mason-Dixon line in America’s “humid subtropical” clime. I was accustomed to breaking out my winter coat maybe three or four days a year. I knew I was soon going to convert those “days” to “months” and dreaded the idea of being stuck inside on dark winter evenings. So when I moved to Hanover in New Hampshire’s stunning Upper Valley region, I came armed with coats, fleeced-lined jeans, and a dozen board games.
I wasn’t alone. Most of my friends also arrived in Hanover with stashes of games. We have at least four copies of Cards Against Humanity circulating our group, as well as a few iterations of Carcassonne. Whenever we get bored with our existing library, we head out to one of two great game stores in the region – Black Moon in Lebanon or Triple Play in Claremont – or pop into the monthly “Boards N Brews” night at our local pub. The excitement of playing new games with my friends almost makes me look forward to the winter (almost).
Hanover is a great place for game lovers, and not just because of the winter months. Dartmouth College, located in the heart of Hanover, has alums on the teams behind Hasbro games, Dungeons and Dragons, X-Box, Pop Cap Games, Cranium, Grand Theft Auto, and World of Warcraft. These alums return to town once a year to speak at the annual “Dartmouth at Play” event and share the latest in gaming technologies. We get a sneak peek at the gaming world thanks to Tiltfactor, the local gaming laboratory that hosts the event.
This week, my friends and I had a chance to help Tiltfactor with some of their game research. We were invited to try out a new game while answering a few survey questions and enjoying adult beverages. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you much about the game we played. I’m sworn to secrecy. But I can tell you that it has to do with a social problem that Tiltfactor is trying to fix. Tiltfactor exclusively focuses on games which address social issues or try to enact social change. You may have already seen their games Buffalo and Awkward Moments on game store shelves. Entertaining and fast-paced, both games also try to highlight unconscious biases among their players. I’m sure the latest game that Tiltfactor is developing will be equally enjoyable and meaningful.
Life in Hanover has been full of good surprises, and Tiltfactor among them. I didn’t know of its impact or its national connections until I moved here. There are other gaming laboratories I’d like to visit in New York or Seattle or San Francisco, but I’m not sure any would welcome me the way Tiltfactor does. During business hours, its doors are open to town residents, who can drop by to visit with undergrad, graduate, and faculty researchers or chill on their red couches while playing new video games. It’s a big world opportunity wrapped in a small town package, and it’s a great home-away-from-home when those fierce winter months come to call. I’ve yet to totally fall in love with the New Hampshire snows, but for game-lovers like me, Hanover might be the perfect place to play.