Fully funded PhD opportunity for Black students: Gaming and Digital Futures

This studentship is available to a UK Black student (see below for details on eligible categories of ethnicity) in order to redress the lack of representation in Higher Education and the gaming industry.

The PhD opportunity

We are delighted to offer this fully-funded studentship in partnership with Supermassive Games, a BAFTA award-winning independent gaming company. This is an open opportunity aligned with the newly funded ESRC Centre for Sociodigital Futures. The new centre is a flagship Economic and Social Research Council investment to establish an international centre of excellence for sociodigital futures research and collaboration and examine sociodigital futures in-the-making.

The PhD proposal could focus either

  • on games, gaming and/or gamification as a key aspect of sociodigital futures
  • on any aspect of sociodigital futures linked to the ESRC Centre

We welcome your ideas! If you have an original proposal that fits this broad remit, please register your interest.

The studentship is open to Black students (see below for full details of eligible categories of ethnicity) with a relevant undergraduate degree.

The ESRC Centre for Social Digital Futures

The Centre will conduct a systematic programme of research across five domains of social life (caring, consuming, learning, moving and organizing) and four key technical fields (AI, AR/VR/XR, high performance networks and robotics) to explore the interplay between the ‘big’ futures claimed by technology companies and governments and the ‘little’ futures that are emerging in everyday practice. Working with strategic partners in industry, government and civil society (BT, Defra, Locality, Maybe, the National Cyber Security Centre and UNESCO), the Centre will build theoretical, methodological, collaborative and design-based capacities to explore what might be done to drive sociodigital futures towards fair and sustainable ways of life.

Potential projects

Digital and video gaming has become thoroughly embedded societies around the world and appears set to play a significant role in emerging digital futures. Not least, current claims about the ‘metaverse’ place gaming at its heart, linking the ambitions of some of the world’s major technology companies with the future of gaming, through the everyday activities of billions of gamers around the world. Already, in the UK alone, games are played in 7 out of 10 households and this only looks set to rise. 

Gaming is one of the UK’s most valuable entertainment media (over £4.4 billion videogame sales in 2020) – well ahead of other entertainment video (£3.28 billion) and music (£1.55 billion) (Entertainment Retailer’s Association, 2021). However, there remains significant work to do in unpicking the social and cultural futures for the gaming industry, in terms of production, consumption and organization.

Digital games offer opportunities to inspire, connect and learn, many of which have not yet been widely developed. The industry also offers major employment opportunities but there have been concerns about the narrow demographics of employees and the consequences of this for inclusion and (relatedly) content. Further, the place of gaming activity in the data economy raises ethical and political questions yet to be addressed.

Example projects on gaming linked into the ESRC Centre for Sociodigital Futures might include:

1)      Gaming and the futures of work: how is the industry developing, gig economy, zero hours, skills

2)      Gaming communities: interactions, relationships and effects on existing ways caring, consuming, learning, moving and organizing.

3)      Gaming in the home: how/do 24/7 online communities impact on face-to-face household relationships?

4)      Gaming and learning: how is (and might) gaming harnessed for education and learning?

5)      Gaming for the elderly; for mental health care; for other forms of care.

6)      Ethical/ purposeful gaming: how/might games enhance understandings of the climate emergency, global inequalities, migration and mobilities (of people and/or goods and/or ideas), for example.

7)      Game design as method/practice for imagining, experiencing and making alternative futures.

These are indicative examples. We are open to other suggestions, including proposal that address wider questions linked to the ESRC Centre for Sociodigital Futures that may not have a specific gaming focus.


The successful candidate will benefit from:

  • A full annual stipend to help with living costs (£15,609 per year), your tuition fees paid for by the funder (at UK rates –£4,475), and annual research fund to spend on personal development, attending conferences, or research costs (currently £1,500 p.a).
  • The opportunity to work closely with Supermassive Games (who are funding the PhD), and their wider network, to develop the research and drive its impact in the gaming industry
  • Membership of the ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership, providing access to free training, cohort building, and networks across the DTPs academics and partners.
  • Working as part of the Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI) – a £100m interdisciplinary research institute which aims to transform the way we create digital technologies for inclusive, prosperous and sustainable societies. With over 27 partners and researchers across every faculty, you’ll be at the cutting edge of digital futures research, and have opportunities to interact in our new home and world-first facilities (launching in 2022) at the heart of Bristol’s Enterprise Campus.  


Eligible applicants will identify with one of the following categories of ethnicity:

  • Black African
  • Black Caribbean
  • Black Other
  • Mixed – White and Black Caribbean
  • Mixed – White and Black African
  • Other mixed background (to include Black African, Black Caribbean or Black Other)

You will have knowledge, interest, and/or practical experience in one or more areas of the research you propose and some training in social research methods.

Please note: You will be a Home/UK student and resident in the United Kingdom.

Find out more about how to apply and read tips for writing the best possible application.

Key dates

Closing date: 5pm, Monday 28 February 2022
Interviews: tbc
Proposed start date: September 2022

Supermassive Games and BDFI logos
Sponsored by Supermassive Games in partnership with BDFI
Edit this page