The Engagement Game Lab (EGL) is an applied research lab at Emerson College focusing on the development and study of games, technology, and new media to enhance civic life.

The EGL works directly with its partner communities to design and facilitate civic engagement processes, augment stakeholder deliberation, and broaden the diversity of participants in local decision-making. The EGL is also the home of DARG, a project in collaboration with the Mayor's office of New Urban Mechanics for researching and evaluating civic innovation tools created in cooperation with the city.

Eric Gordon, PhD

Executive Director

Eric studies civic media, mediated cities and playful engagement. He is a fellow at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University and he is an associate professor in the department of Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College where he focuses on the design and research of digital games and social software that foster local civic engagement. He is the co-author of a new book about location-based media called Net Locality: Why Location Matters in a Networked World (Blackwell Publishing, 2011) and the author of The Urban Spectator: American Concept Cities From Kodak to Google (Dartmouth, 2010).

Stephen Walter

Managing Director

Stephen is a person who makes and studies media that aim to foster experiences of complexity, difference, and play. He's worked at Boston EMS, the Boston Public Health Commission, the Boston Center for the Arts, the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and the PBS television shows Frontline and Nova. At the EGL, he's helped lead the development of civic media projects in Detroit, Boston, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, South Africa, Sweden, Moldova, and Zambia. Here is a cv.

Russell Goldenberg


Russell is an interactive developer. When not coding, you can find him cooking up something fierce or playing basketball, fiercely. He has a longstanding relationship with Processing, but lately has been flirting with Node, JavaScript, and real-time web apps. He studied computer science at Union College and became a Master of Fine Arts a Emerson College. He makes games, data visualizations, interactive documentaries, and experimental code projects.

Jesse Baldwin-Philippi, PhD

Researcher & Visiting Professor

Jesse is a visiting faculty member in Emerson's Department of Visual and Media Arts, and studies civic engagement, citizenship, and digital media. Her work is fundamentally concerned with how engagement with new technologies can restructure forms of political participation and ideas about citizenship, and has covered a variety of topics from political campaigns to games to government innovation. Visit her work or contact her at Jessica_Philippi [at] Download latest cv here.

Sam Liberty

Lead Game Writer

Sam is lead writer for EGL's projects, including Community PlanIt and Civic Seed, and one half of the Spoiled Flush Games design studio. His designs took top prize at Game Chef 2011, as well as at the 2010 Rio Grande game design competition. Games include Forsooth, Gladiators (Rio Grande), and Cosmic Pizza (Cambridge Games Factory). Sam has been featured in the Ideas section of the Boston Globe ("Inside the Board Game Renaissance"), and spoke on the topic of board game design at TEDxBoston 2012.

Aidan O'Donohue

Art Director

Aidan graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design with a degree in painting, and has also studied design and architecture. In addition to her work at the lab, she works as an illustrator and teaches art to children with special needs. She splits her time between Boston and NYC and still loves to draw.

Jedd Cohen

Curriculum Developer

Jedd is working to adapt Community PlanIt for use in schools and other community and advocacy organizations. He earned his EdM at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has worked throughout the education sector as a policy researcher, community organizer, and teacher. He's interested in the ways that people and organizations learn. Contact: jedd [at]

Christina Wilson

Project Manager

Christina's abiding interests in open access to a participatory democracy, ethics, and the role of technology in shaping human experiences drew her to the Engagement Game Lab. With degrees from the University of Chicago (A.B., English Language & Literature) and University of Southern California (M.A., English: Film, Literature & Culture), she brings a love of language, philosophy and the visual arts to bear on her work at the lab, thinking through and spreading the word about the possibilities opened up by meaningful play in public deliberation, broaching reasonable solutions to complex problems. Email at christina [at]

Rob McKenzie

Lab Coordinator

Rob helps the lab function on a daily basis and coordinates lab events, student outreach, and impromptu Nerf Gun battles. He graduated in 2013 from Emerson College with a degree in Writing for Film and Television and has previously worked for Antiques Roadshow and Good Universe Productions. His interests include theater, internet culture, and of course, whitewater kayaking.


Lab Assistants

Graduate Students
Wade Kimbrough- Research (games and climate change)
Brandon Sichling- Research (games and identity)
Hanhah Engleson- Video production
Xia Sheng- Animation
Jordan Pailthorpe- Game writing

Undergraduate Students
Alexandra Eby- Graphics
Sean Vaccaro- Production Assistant

Featured Press

Emerson Game Lab Aims to Fix Local, Global Problems
in The Boston Globe, August 12, 2013

Detailed coverage of the lab, its goals, design philosophy, and projects, especially our flagship game, Community PlanIt.

Connecting Citizens to Their Government By Turning It Into a Game
in Fast Company, March 29, 2013

"Community PlanIt is a game about the issues that face local government, designed to get people (especially young people) more involved and understanding of what goes in to managing their communities."

Is School Enough?
on PBS, September 3, 2013

Community PlanIt is featured in this PBS special about how new technologies are breaking new ground in education.

Games Grow Up: Colleges Recognize the Power of Gamification
on EdTech, March 28, 2013

"At Boston's Emerson College, the Engagement Game Lab focuses on crafting complete game experiences that lower barriers to civic involvement."

Interactive Game Helps With Urban Panning
on NBC 10 Philadelphia Nightly News, January 29, 2013 (Video)

NBC10 reports on Philly 2035: The Game on Community PlanIt.

24/7 Detroit and the Future
on NPR's Craig Fahle Show on WDET (Detroit), June 6, 2012

Eric Gordon joins Craig Fahle of WDET in-studio to discuss the Community PlanIt game, Detroit 24/7.


The UNDP blogs about lessons learned from our game in Moldova by United Nations Development Programme, June 2014

PLAN TO PLAY, PLAY TO PLAN Insight Labs, March 07, 2014

Connecting Citizens to Their Government By Turning It Into a Game in Fast Company, March 29, 2013

Games Grow Up: Colleges Recognize the Power of Gamification on EdTech, March 28, 2013

Researchers Say Turning Community Planning Into a Game Actually Works in TechPresident, March 1, 2013

Philly 2035: Game On on PlanPhilly, January 29, 2013

Interactive Game Helps With Urban Panning on NBC 10 Philadelphia Nightly News , January 29, 2013 (Video)

Whats "The Point?" Video Game, Planning Project Focused on Salem Neighborhood on Salem News , January 29, 2013

"24/7 Detroit and the Future" on NPRs Craig Fahle Show on WDET (Detroit), June 6, 2012

"New Digital Game, Social Network to Help Detroiters Map Citys Future" in Xconomy, May 4, 2012

"Game to Allow Quincy Residents to "PlanIt" in Patriot Ledger, May 4, 2012

"Knight Foundation merging media, minds and money" in The Boston Globe, November 22, 2011

"Community PlanIt turns civic engagement into a game" in Nieman Journalism Lab, September 15, 2011.

"[Interview] Networked digital communities" on ABC National Radios By Design, June 25, 2011.

"Weigh in on planning process online" in Lowell Sun, June 25, 2011.

"In Boston, City Hall Pursues Innovation In-House" in TechPresident, April 21, 2011.

"Video game hopes to spur civic involvement among Quincys Asians" in The Boston Globe, November 14, 2010.

"Saving the World, One Game at a Time" in, May 14, 2010.

"Using Games To Increase Civic Engagement" in Next American City, September 24, 2010.


"Can Violent Games Promote Peace?" in Huffington Post, July 5 , 2011.

"Games for Change 2011: The Best New Green Apps & Video Games" in Treehugger, June 22, 2011.

"Quand la conception des espaces publics devient un jeu" in La Fabrique de la Cite, April 14, 2011.

"Participatory Chinatown" in Creative Thailand, February 7, 2011.

"Susana Ruiz and her take on our top games of 2010" in Games for Change, January 7 , 2011.

"Your top 5 social impact games of the year!" in Games for Change, December 12, 2010.

"Participatory Research as Path to Equitable Transportation" in The City Fix, September 23, 2010.

"Bostons Chinatown Goes Sim City" in The Architects Newspaper, June 14, 2010.

"Serious Games Engaging Next Gen in Community Planning" in Serious Games Market, May 30, 2010.

"Using a video game to help chart Chinatowns future," in Mass. Market, May 16, 2010.

"A 3-D approach to community meetings" in Sampan, May 14, 2010.

"Chinatown, the video game" in The Boston Globe, May 6, 2010.

"Participatory Chinatown" in Shareable, May 4, 2010

"Shaping the Future of Chinatown with a Game" in Game Politics, May 4, 2010.

"Chinatown planners hope game pulls crowd" in The Boston Globe, May 3, 2010.


"A Second Act for Second LIfe, as an Urban Planning Tool" in Fast Company, June 11, 2009.

"Q&A: Eric Gordon on Community Planning with Second Life" in Metropolis POV, June 8, 2009.

"Virtual Business, For Real?" in The Boston Globe, November 10, 2008.

"Virtual Tool Puts Residents in the Planning Process" in Boston Business Journal, March 28, 2008.

"Bostons Public Spaces are Getting a Second Life" in The Weekly Dig, December 21, 2007.

"Hub of the Online Universe: City Plans a Virtual Boston" in The Boston Globe, July 21, 2007.


Major Funders