Here are excerpts from a recent email from our program participants summarizing just a few of the many benefits of RPGs...


...Two sons of a mother, are in our regular RPG sessions (twice per month). We introduced them to RPGs, and the mother has remarked at how well her boys get along, communicate with each other, work cooperatively. Apparently that was not previously a common state for the teenage brothers. :-) Now the elder of the two boys is buying D&D 5e books to put together a group of his own!

I have recorded when he was a high school teenager that is on the Autism spectrum, talks in the unpublished video interview I did with him, about how much he attributes role-playing games to have helped him socially, making new friends, developing organizational and leadership skills, etc. He is now in his early 20s.


For empathy, we have observed significant improvements in empathy for those that play RPGs. We have had some pretty street hardened kids come in to some of these community programs. They had a lot of protective adaptations: body language, barely spoke, with ingrained frowns. They were pretty angry and insensitive to others. We have repeatedly, and consistently observed them rapidly thaw, begin smiling (sometimes in just 30-45 minutes), and begin showing behavior that indicated caring about the others. Usually those they they have never met before. They begin to quickly care about the fate of their characters, and the consequences of their decisions/actions.

I have a great recent anecdote about a player's character trying to save another character, that died only about an hour into their very first, and their very emotive reactions (in a good way).

Also some supporting research:


This is quite well documented from many sources. The nature of the game is that the participants need to learn to work cooperatively together, rather than competitively. This follows Avedon's Intragroup Interaction Patterns (1974), one of the few tabletop activities that does so, and the amazing results that occur from such complicated social interaction to cooperatively take risks and overcome challenges. Significant amount of supporting research:


There are many mechanisms built into RPGs to help trigger these experiences, especially the "in the trenches" relationships that build after overcoming challenging circumstances. Some games I have observed developing this even before making their characters and playing the actual game!


This is one of the more researched aspects of RPGs, there are copious studies on the effectiveness of this activity in building social skills for many different ages and populations.

We have repeatedly watched people come in with very poor social skills, and through a combination of supportive peers in the game, and skilled game masters helping coach those that struggle more, combined with the intrinsic motivations generated by the game, they willingly put in the effort to rapidly grow their interactive skills. Often changes begin that can be observed by even just laypersons, in just a single session!


We have had multiple people that were complete recluses. Would not leave their house/apartment. Had to have family/friends/deliveries for all their needs, due to panic disorders leading to overwhelming anxiety from social phobias, and agoraphobia. Through stepped exposure style programs, starting first with computer-based solo, then safe online multiplayer, then controlled in-office tabletop RPG, then public TRPG. We have watched them completely open up, and live open and freed lives. Some even run their own game sessions in public settings now.


This is a trickier variable to measure, but researchers are doing so, and we have observed it "in the wild" in general. Fortunately Japanese PhD researcher Kohei Kato, has found some effective assessment tools for measuring "Quality of Life" improvements when using tabletop RPGs with teens. His studies, and others related to this topic:


Immersion can be a useful tool for exploring and empowering (such as undoing learned helplessness). Professor Datillo of Penn State writes extensively about the power of explorations to enhance the learning process. In therapeutic recreation, much research supports the power of immersion and especially Flow State (as per Mihalhi Csikszentmihalyi), to greatly enhance an experience, the potential benefits from that experience of maximal efficacy, and the increase in intrinsic motivation to want to continue experiencing that state of immersion with loss of self-conscious ego, loss of time, that can be a powerful tool for those trying to overcome disabilities, chronic fatigue, and pain.

For an extreme example, one of our programs using TRPG and LARP with the 20+ campers that were 6 to 17 year old, for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, about half in wheelchairs. Our programs had one of the highest participation rates in the camp's entire week, and they kept coming back for more! Pushing through their disabilities and fatigue. It brought shy campers out of their shell too. For Muscular Dystrophy, the motto is "use it or lose it", so having them motivated to keep going is a huge win for them long term.


There is a fair amount of research about the benefits of properly-implemented RPGs for helping modify aggressive behavior. The skills for turn-taking, listening to others, not interrupting, reducing impulsive decisions and thinking before leaping (else bad things happen to the character/party), can then be generalized, with a few minutes of pre-and-post game "processing" discussion, that they begin to incorporate in their life outside of the game. The more cooperative nature, versus competitive of so many other recreational activities can be more supportive for those with ADHD, and help them work on their impulse control. The heavy immersion helps provide the stimulus to help them pay attention, and this practice-to-become-habit approach points toward better chances of developing improved neural pathways that can have life-long benefits.


Here are some resources enumerating the potential benefits of role-playing gaming:


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