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Benefits of Roleplay

A short essay on the impact of roleplaying games, and our need to play them. We discuss their benefits for marginalised communities, their use as teaching aids, and their mainstream relevancy to a market hungry for personal stories.

Roleplaying games have been proven time and time again to be a force for good in our world. They can help:

  • Develop social skills and confidence

  • Allow you explore new ideas, identities and perspectives

  • Foster new friendships

  • Stimulate creativity, critical thinking and problem solving

I started playing role playing games when I was 10 and haven’t stopped since. I consider them to be a major part of what made me who I am today, and I wish more people could enjoy their benefits.

Roleplaying Games aren't just a fun, but provide many benefits and social opportunities to its players.

Games like Dungeons & Dragons offers enough agency to the Game Master and Players that they can explore their characters and the world they play in without paralyzing them with the infinite choices or complex rules (Heller, 2018). Players believe that merely playing in a historical [setting] increases their knowledge of history and custom (Hughes, 1988). Games of D&D can “fulfil genuine human needs, engage learners, and unite people in unprecedented ways” (McGonigal, 2011). D&D allows for members of minority communities, such as BAME or LGBT+, to explore their voices (Johnson, 2018). Furthermore, it is shown that Role Play “[teaches] children [about] the self-concept, behavioural changes, cognitive abilities, social skills, and anxiety management” (Bratton & Ray, 2000).

Roleplaying Games are becoming a prevalent teaching tool including for those with learning disabilities.
The Girl Scouts organisation in the USA created a TRPG badge to encourage its members to play RPGs such as D&D, as inspired by a scout troops in South California (Astleford, 2014). Scottish high schools are introducing D&D into their curriculum with strong revelations for both teachers and pupils; "You see a zombie like that, he's obviously going to come up and kill you. But I can make him a Defender and I can change his strength and all these other things. [...] You can take the worst nightmare creature and make him a good guy" said one student (Blane, 2008). Dr Gina Gomez completed her PhD research in play therapy techniques for children on the autism spectrum under Simon Baron-Cohen (a leading psychologist at Cambridge university). Gina noted that “the division of labour with a common purpose inherently requires children to practice joint attention, turn taking, sharing, joint problem solving, listening, and general social communication skills.” (Gomez, 2008). Roleplaying Games have grown from its underground following to mainstream market.
Roleplaying Games have grown from its underground following to mainstream market.

D&D has gained legions of followers stepping away from digital gaming (Brodeur, 2018) Local businesses such as Brewdog pubs are investing in attracting groups of roleplayers (Barnes, 2018). ‘Dorky’ and ‘uncool’ stigma around the game is at an all time low, following support of counter-type celebrities such as Joe Manganiello (Abramovitch, 2017) and Vin Diesel (Shepherd, 2015). Shows like Stranger Things from Netflix, and Critical Role have created a wide public interest in the hobby (Armstrong, 2019). However, the amount of content to take in can be overwhelming, (Schreier, 2018 a), and GMs find that a lot of preparation is needed to run a game of D&D, (Schreier, 2018 b). 

Extra Resources

This essay is only an introduction; there are many well read and respected researchers exploring this subject.

We recommend Rachel Kowert a PhD Psychologist, researcher and overall very talented individual. On her website is a fantastic resource full of academic research into the benefits of gaming. Many of the papers listed here cover one (or more) of the following: videogames, roleplaying games, and tabletop games.

https://www.rkowert.com/resources/ludodemia

Help us help your communities

The Community Box

Here at Stout Stoat, we believe in the radical changes a good game can bring to a community.

As part of our Carved in Stone crowd-funding campaign, we promised to set up a Community Box where non-profit groups (such as schools, libraries and social clubs) could access our games for free.

Are you from or know someone from a group like this? We're looking to test-run processes for receiving applications to and fulfilling requests from our Community Box.

You can apply to our first round through the Google Forms linked here!

Our Community Box will open soon!