Why Tabletop Roleplaying Games Are Good For You
Berin Kinsman is a writer and game designer. He’s the boss at Asparagus Jumpsuit, and blogs about creativity in its various forms at Berinkinsman.com.
There is a perception among non-gamers that tabletop roleplaying is merely another form of escapism. It’s something geeks do to avoid reality, like going to the movies, becoming obsessed with television shows, living inside of novels, or getting sucked into video games. There are marked difference between roleplaying games and other forms of escapism, though. Here are four reasons why roleplaying is actually good for you.
Tabletop is social
While some people now play online via Skype, Google Hangouts, and dedicated “virtual tabletops”, the majority of roleplayers still meet face-to-face to play. That means putting down the electronics, getting off the internet, and interacting with live people. The game is played largely through conversation, with periodic pauses to roll dice, flip cards, or move counters. Players don’t only have to know the rules of the game; they need to possess some level of interpersonal skills, and for young people it is a way to develop them. There is a greater level of positive social interaction than in many non-geek activities.
Tabletop is literate
Roleplaying is reliant upon the written word. From thick core books to short PDF documents, everything from the rules to the details of the setting requires you to read. It leads to other reading, too, from fantasy, science fiction, or horror novels to history, biography, and all sorts of topics directly or indirectly related to your preferred genre. Anything that gets people to read is a good thing. It also requires some level of writing, whether it’s filling out a character sheet, writing a background story for your character, or creating your own game material.
Tabletop is creative
Roleplaying requires problem-solving and decision making. You aren’t given a limited set of options to choose from, as in a video game, and the choices you’re able to make for your character are wide open. You get to affect the fictional setting in ways that reading and watching don’t allow. Many people paint miniatures or draw pictures of their characters, but even if they don’t, they’re collaborating with other players on shaping a story and building a world. You don’t just get to imagine possibilities, you get to shape them and act upon them by exercising your imagination.
Tabletop is active
Other forms of escapism involve sitting still while entertainment is presented to you. Roleplaying, as shown above, involves active engagement on several levels. In my high school it was used as an effective tool for special education students to help them develop social skills, get enthusiastic about reading, and express themselves constructively. It’s my preferred form of escapism, because I’d much rather sit around talking with friends and collaborating on something than drinking, watching football, or playing a video game where my choices and options have already been defined for me.