Research on the Benefits of Roleplaying Games
Scientific American magazine (December 2011, Dr. Kieth Oatley) reports the findings that fictional storytelling increases a person’s capacity to understand and empathize with the characters in the story, and by extension, with people in their lives. “The process of entering imagined worlds of fiction builds empathy and improves your ability to take another person’s point of view. Fiction facilitates the development of social skills because it provides experience thinking about other people.”
In her book, Role Play Made Easy, training expert Susan El-Shamy observes that “the benefits of role playing [include] showing the strengths, weaknesses, and consequences of certain behaviors and attitudes… a participant in a role play can immediately test new information and try out new behaviors, see how things feel, make adjustments, and try again.”
Critical thinking and reasoning skills are developed and practiced within our programs, within the experiential framework of a live-action roleplaying game that emphasizes a very well-rounded set of challenges. Many studies have demonstrated that children who lack strong reasoning and critical thinking skills are less likely to succeed in the more “practical” fields of physics and mathematics. See “Developing Thinking and Problem Solving Skills” in the Introductory Mechanics textbook, and the references therein (V.P. Colletta & J.A. Phillips, PERC Proceedings, 2010).
In an article titled “Fantasy Role-playing for Mutual Aid in Children’s Groups” (Drs. Zayas & Lewis, Social Work with Groups, Volume 9, Issue 1), the researchers illustrate how three boys with ADHD were presented with a scenario in a fantasy roleplaying game that required them to work together. The children began the scenario by doing what they always did—rush into the challenging situation without a thought to the best way to overcome it. After an initial failure (a failure that was both physically and emotionally safe), the boys thought ahead to overcome challenges with more patient collaboration.