New Routes into the Gaming Industry: PhD action research project with marginalised communities

Existing routes into education and employment are currently organized in ways that exacerbate existing social inequalities and limit opportunities for social mobility over the life-course. 

An increasing number of organizations– including universities and employers – are committed to developing new models for education and employment to disrupt this status quo and increase opportunities for social mobility.

Such interventions are understood not only as ‘the right thing’ to do but also as good for business and the wider economy.

This fully-funded PhD studentship seeks to explore these issues in the gaming industry and contribute to changing opportunities for those from black and minority ethnic communities. This will include participatory action research with local communities and in collaboration with the funder, Supermassive Games.  The studentship is open to black students, who have an undergraduate degree in the social sciences.

Eligible applicants will have 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 of one or more relevant research areas (e.g. race and ethnicity, employment, gaming) and some training in social research methods. Whilst the broad aspirations of the project have been determined, as above, we are looking for applicants to respond to the opportunity with their own ideas and formulate a research proposal that captures their research methods, workplan and intended outcomes.

The successful candidate will benefit from:

Access to and support from the independent gaming industry via the project sponsor – Supermassive Games

Full annual stipend (£15,609), fees, and annual research fund in line with UKRI provision.

Membership of the ESRC South West Doctoral Training Partnership, providing access to free training, cohort building, and networks across the DTPs academics and partners.

Membership of the Bristol Digital Futures Institute (BDFI) – an interdisciplinary research institute which aims to transform the way we create digital technologies for inclusive, prosperous and sustainable societies.

How do I apply?

Applying for a PhD can seem daunting. This guide hopes to break down the application process (and  what you need to do!) in easy-to-follow steps:

  1. You’ll apply for the PhD using the following web link by midnight 1 August.
  • You will also be asked to upload:
    • A ‘Studentship Application Form’ (see notes on this below)
    • Your transcript or marks from your undergraduate degree/ master’s degree
    • If relevant, any letters of support from partners you intend to collaborate with on your project
    • References
  • Important: To ensure your application is routed correctly, please ensure you do the following:
    • Under ‘programme choice’: When asked to select a faculty, choose ‘Faculty of Social Sciences and Law’.
    • When asked to choose a programme, choose ‘Sociology (PhD)’.
    • When asked when to start, select ‘Sept 21’.
    • Under ‘Funding’: When asked how you intend to fund your studies, please tick ‘other’ and write ‘Supermassive studentship’ in the free text box
  1. Your main supervisor (Susan Halford) will then review your application alongside a Sociology lead (Jo Haynes)
  2. The top 4-5 candidates will be invited to an interview with Susan, Jo, and one community organization actively working in the field of diversity and inclusion.
  3. You’ll hear the results shortly after the interview, and successful candidates will start at the end of September.

How to write the best application

This PhD had been framed in its broadest terms. We know the overarching issue – that diversity in the gaming sector is poor, and we know the broad research approach that we’d like to adopt – an ‘action research’ methodology that trials interventions throughout the project.

However, it’s up to you to define the exact focus, questions and interventions. This is a real opportunity to take forward your ideas and passions, to make a difference in the gaming industry, and to contribute novel research to the field.

Here’s how we suggest you start:

  1. Think about your ‘angle’

What is the question or issue you’d like to explore? Why? What part of the gaming industry might you focus on? What kind of evidence or knowledge would be helpful to understand or resolve the issue? What kind of interventions might you want to test

2. Do some reading

Has anyone tackled this issue before? How could your work be different? What’s missing? What methods or approaches seem robust?

3. Jot down your PhD in a paragraph!

Once you’ve started reading, jot down the basis of your idea to get it clear in your mind what your interests are.

4. Contact your supervisor

It’s a good idea to test your ideas at a reasonably early stage with an academic supervisor. Professor Susan Halford, Co-Director of BDFI, will be one of your supervisors, and is a great starting point. It can feel daunting getting in touch with a professor to share your ideas  but be assured that we always love to hear great ideas from enthusiastic people! It’s also really important for you to feel like you could work well with the supervisor – you’ll have a close working relationship for the next 3 years, so we really advise scheduling a short call! You can reach out at

5. Refine your idea and seek out a second supervisor

Based on your discussion with Susan, start working up your research proposal in your application form. All PhD students at Bristol have two supervisors, so start thinking about who else does relevant research, and approach them to see if they’d be interested in co-supervising your project.

6. Get advice!

The SWDTP are a hub for advice and student support. The SWDTP Deputy Director is happy to offer application advice to anyone considering this opportunity. Get in touch with Angeline here.

7. Make sure your supervisors have the opportunity to comment on your proposal before you submit it.

Send your supervisor a draft of your research proposal before you submit. It’s a great opportunity to gain any final advice and secure buy-in before it’s reviewed by a panel.