Skip to main content
Research project

DemoPlay Project

Project overview

The DemoPlay project will provide the University of Southampton with an innovative hybrid role-playing game for research and capacity building. The project activities are supported by the SIAH-HEIF Research Stimulus Fund pursuing a two-fold objective: to deliver an experiment on participatory decision-making applying a game-based research method; and to equip the University with a gameful tool to build students’ civic skills related to environmental issues.

The DemoPlay game adaptation is based on a Creative Commons license product (by-nc-sa, see, named Empaville, initially developed by the H2020 project EMPATIA (, and then updated by the ongoing H2020 project PHOENIX (, which includes the University of Southampton in its consortium. The DemoPlay project is leveraging this product in academic environments. With this purpose, the project team is working on retrofitting the game for pedagogic and research purposes, improving graphic design and usability, and organising the laboratory experiment with students. Dr. Spada, Dr. Ryan, and Dr. Meloni (Faculty of Social Sciences), Dr. Wanick (Winchester School of Art), and Dr. Gomer (Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science) are members of the team.

The dissemination of the game will be targeted to UK city councils, firms, organisations, and stakeholders, in synergistic coordination with other SOTON projects and activities.


Lead researcher

Dr Paolo Spada


Research interests

  • Diffusion and impact of governance and social innovations (Democratic Innovations).
  • Combining large surveys, field experiments, quantitative and qualitative analysis 
Connect with Paolo
Other researchers

Dr Marco Meloni

Research Fellow

Research interests

  • Democratic Innovations
  • Intra-Party democracy
  • Digital participation
Connect with Marco

Dr Matt Ryan

Associate Professor

Research interests

  • Democracy
  • Social Research Methods
  • Web Science
Connect with Matt

Dr Vanissa Wanick FHEA

Senior Lecturer in Interaction Design

Research interests

  • Games for change, social good and wellbeing
  • Games Design, Gamification and player experience (e.g., player agency, emerging storytelling)
  • Human behaviour and Interface Design (e.g. rituals, gestures, mental models, values)
Connect with Vanissa

Dr Richard Gomer BSc(Hons) MSc PhD (he/him)

Lecturer in Computer Science

Research interests

  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Agency-oriented Design
  • Data Institutions
Connect with Richard

Collaborating research institutes, centres and groups

Research outputs