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Tabletop Roleplaying Games are Good for You
Jan 14, 2022

blog by Anthony Joyce

Who knew gaming could bring so much good to one’s life? Seriously, the thought of doing something fun that also benefits your lifestyle is a rare thing indeed! Usually, you need to run ten miles or eat broccoli every day to have a healthy impact on your life. It’s odd to think that sitting around a table with friends, laughing, and rolling dice might bring you much good, but it’s true!

Let’s have a chat together and discuss the positive impacts TTRPGs like 5th Edition can have. Playing TTRPGs provide positive life benefits such as social interaction, cognitive behavior therapy, and personal growth. We’ll look at each of these three areas and dive into the ways they benefit players by enriching their lives.

 

Being Social With Your Gaming Group

Social interaction between players is a cornerstone of TTRPGs. Unlike video games or board games with strict programming regimens or concrete rules, TTRPGs by nature are flexible game systems constrained only by the limits of the human imagination. Therefore, these games are infinitely diverse and tailorable to the social needs of any group of players coming together to play.

When a group of players finds a TTRPG they all enjoy, the social value is nearly limitless. Campaigns can stretch for weeks, months, or even years, providing long-term social interactions among the same group of people. Players also play within a communal narrative that creates a shared experience for all involved.

Dnd party team work

Artist: Ana Fedina

In the psychological study, The Benefits of Playing Video Games, American psychologists Isabela Granic, Adam Lobel, and Rutger C. M. E. Engels found that gaming in general positively impacts players due to social connections they form during gameplay.

They theorized that while traditional board games increase social bonds, their short-term play periods limited the impacts of this positive social growth. This was compared to online video games that foster continual points of social interaction, building strong relationships between all players as they meet regularly over a period of time to play together.

TTRPGs bridge the gap between short-term traditional board games and long-term video games, because TTRPG campaigns require multiple sessions. Each session lasts several hours and a campaign takes place over many weeks or months. The potential amount of shared game time might total up to hundreds of hours of socializing between players who are working towards a common goal.

Following the COVID-19 global pandemic, social interaction is more needed than ever before. In February 2021, Harvard University released the study, Loneliness in America: How the Pandemic Has Deepened an Epidemic of Loneliness and What We Can Do About It. This study suggested that “36% of all Americans—including 61% of young adults and 51% of mothers with young children—feel serious loneliness.” Prior to the pandemic, only 25% of all Americans reported feelings of serious loneliness.

Playing TTRPGs and scheduling a regular game night for your campaign helps offset the social isolation many experience due to the pandemic and other factors. Additionally, the recent growth of virtual tabletop platforms allow players to easily connect with each other virtually, maintaining social contact with each other, even if they are physically separated and unable to game in person.

Playing on a regular basis allows players to build positive relationships with each other. Regularly occurring game sessions provide opportunities for players to routinely check in with each other to discuss their characters, in-game plans, or group goals. This fosters social interaction beyond game nights, reducing feelings of social isolation and loneliness.

Organizations, such as Take This, operate within the TTRPG community and offer a plethora of additional free resources for those struggling with social isolation or loneliness. Fostering these positive social impacts also leads to cognitive behavior therapy that enriches the lives of players who embrace this form of therapy during gameplay.

 

Experiencing Cognitive Behavior Therapy

It might be odd to consider TTRPGs as a viable form of cognitive behavior therapy, but players are finding this therapeutic benefit during gameplay.

The American Psychological Association   defines cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) as, “a form of psychological treatment that has been demonstrated to be effective for a range of problems including depression, anxiety disorders, alcohol and drug use problems, marital problems, eating disorders, and severe mental illness.” Psychologists use CBT treatments to address faulty ways of thinking, learned patterns of unhelpful behavior, and help individuals use strategies to cope with and relieve symptoms of anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Dnd Party Playing Games

Artist: Emanuel Silva

Trained CBT professionals find that the roleplaying aspect of TTRPGs offers a valuable means of incorporating CBT during gameplay. Roleplaying lets players experience a safe, contained environment to question and explore the world through their character’s senses. Through roleplay, players can use their characters as extensions of themselves to overcome or confront issues in a positive and safe manner.

This is especially true of children of ages 3-12 years in which CBT via gaming is especially useful for them to experience consequences of their actions, or the actions of others in a safe way. This helps teach empathy, kindness, collaboration, and other useful skills valuable for social interaction and teamwork.

Creating a fantasy world and roleplaying within it allows players to confront tough issues while the constraints of the game keep them safe and comforted to explore issues or topics they might be less likely to confront outside of a fictional setting.

As a military veteran, it’s clear that TTRPGs offer CBT to overcome symptoms of PTSD by providing strategies to cope with triggering events and learn how to identify and avoid potential triggers of PTSD. These benefits are clear as multiple studies and psychological experts advocate the positive impacts of CBT to improve the mental state of the individuals involved—TTRPGs certainly serve as a viable means of CBT through the use of roleplaying which is core to their mechanics and gameplay.

 

Allowing Yourself to Personally Grow

Playing TTRPGs leads to personal growth as you learn to empathize with and understand the experiences of the folks you play alongside, who come from a global community of players from a variety of life experiences and diverse backgrounds. Roleplaying at the table with other people offers unique insights into their lived experiences as their characters serve as extensions of themselves. Through these interactions, players can better understand their fellow TTRPG gamers and grow as individuals by connecting and appreciating the social bonds they form with them.

Beyond rolling dice together at a table, TTRPGs provide a multitude of creative opportunities for players. Players can become Game Masters, creating and sharing their own vivid worlds crafted out of the forge of their imaginations. Homebrew Game Masters might take the next step towards publishing their own unique creations, earning income from their hobby, turning it into a side hustle, or even a full-time profession!

Toy Maker Grim Hollow

Artist: Andreia Ugrai

A player can stream their games online, becoming a modern-day stage actor or collaborative playwright crafting stories with players for their audience. Social media savvy players of TTRPGs might post insightful game thoughts, memes, or contribute to TTRPG conversations online becoming an influencer within the community.

As you can see, there are a variety of ways a player can personally grow through TTRPGs and the paths are varied and plentiful to travel down, many of which result in content creation.

Content creation is an area of personal growth that has many positive aspects and is accessibly within TTRPGs due to the low barrier to entry when compared to other creative endeavors. Social media, self-publishing, and crowdfunding platforms continue to grow and innovate, allowing creators easy access to their platforms and audiences they otherwise wouldn’t have discovered even just a few years ago.

As the audience for TTRPGs grows, the need for new creatives grows with it. This allows individuals to get involved with their creative passions while also sharing them with others to enjoy.

I’ve been fortunate to work with artists, streamers, graphic designers, editors, writers, social media influencers, community managers, and well, the list goes on. One thing they all have in common is they got their start by playing TTRPGs before moving into these new fields they love, all of which foster personal growth .

In terms of personal growth, some TTRPG players go so far as to turn their love for these games into full-time careers, pursuing game design at TTRPG companies such as Ghostfire Gaming!

Just like in most TTRPGs when you as a player can select your class and level up over time, you can also choose your level of involvement and passion within the TTRPG community and experience personal growth in areas you never expected. Look at me, an active duty Army Strategist writing articles about TTRPGs and designing adventures. I’d never have grown and flexed my creative writing muscles if it weren’t for me discovering TTRPGs during my second deployment in 2015.

You’ll never know how you’ll grow, but if you seek it out in TTRPGs, you’ll be guaranteed to find opportunities that lead to your personal growth.

DnD Party Exploring

Artist: Victor Garcia

Getting the Most Out of Tabletop Roleplaying Games

We’ve discussed how TTRPGs provide positive social interactions, serve as a viable means of cognitive behavior therapy, and lead to personal growth. Sharing TTRPGs with others and experiencing them yourself helps foster and implement these positive impacts in your own life.

Unlike magical potions, TTRPGs don’t promise to cure all your woes, but they do provide many benefits that enhance your life and can contribute to your happiness. Understanding these potential positive impacts allows you to further research them and begin incorporating aspects of them into your game sessions.

Whether you’re just looking to roll some dice with friends or take your love of games like 5e to the next level and pursue content creation, know that the path you choose is valid. Following your path within TTRPGs can impart positive life impacts you might not ever expect.

Understanding these valuable impacts ensures gaming groups speak to each other and set boundaries regarding what they want out of their game sessions. This is done via a session 0 or another method in which the Game Master ensures all the players are on the same page before they begin a campaign.

Respecting the expectations and boundaries of all players at the table ensures everyone is safe, comfortable, and able to obtain the positive life impacts of playing. Players and Game Masters alike should act as stewards of these benefits, ensuring everyone at their table has equal and absolute access to the agreed-upon gaming experience to protect against harmful impacts that otherwise might occur.  Open and honest communication between players and Game Masters fosters respect and trust, allowing gaming groups to form close social bonds and work together towards mutual personal betterment.

Together, as TTRPG players, we can continue to ensure that these positive life impacts exist at our gaming tables. It is up to us to ensure those around us feel welcome, regardless of their backgrounds, so that through collaborative play and shared experiences we can promote positive growth. This way, the benefits of gaming become well known and sought after.

There is no better feeling than playing a TTRPG and seeing the impacts it has to help an individual overcome an obstacle in their life. Share your positive experiences with others and continue to promote the positive life impacts of TTRPGs so others can experience the benefits of playing games like 5e for themselves. Just like an adventuring party, we’re all in this fight together, and when the party succeeds, we all succeed!

3 Comments

  1. Allen

    This article is well formulated and really helps us to better understand the TTRPG gaming interest.
    It’s interesting how something that might seem complex to outsiders is made so much easier to understand through the author’s explanation.

    Reply
  2. Deathven

    Excellent article Anthony! I think TTRPGs I think have helped so many people have solid foundations and rocks to hold onto these last two chaotic years! I hope everyone has awesome campaigns and may the new year be good for everyone!

    Reply
  3. Jonathan Pettit

    Great article! I have actually played more D&D over the last two years thanks to Fantasy Grounds. I can see the impact of my three campaigns on players when we do have to cancel a game, as there is always a big disappointment. There is no doubt that TTRPGs are a positive impact on people.

    Reply

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