As we head into the summer months, I wanted to take the time to share the benefits of roleplaying games as a fantastically fun and accessible way to continue your student’s social-emotional learning during the break!
Games are a phenomenal teaching tool in general, but roleplaying games offer a particularly customizable and rewarding experience for kids and adults alike. Players practice complex social interactions, empathy skills, necessary collaboration, and so much more while creating lasting memories of an adventure entirely unique to them and their friends!
I’m getting ahead of myself however, so let’s start at the beginning:
What are roleplaying games?
In any roleplaying game, players create fictional characters to roleplay as throughout a narrative series of adventures. A game writer and rules master creates these adventures, which require players to describe their characters’ actions. The game master, in turn, describes the results of those actions. Games may also use dice to simulate chance, variance, etc., so that success and failure aren’t arbitrary.
The oldest and most well known RPG (roleplaying game) rules system is Dungeons and Dragons, a classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy style, but if you can think of a fiction genre, there is a roleplaying system for it.
Looking for something geared towards kids? No Thank You, Evil is here for you. Want to run a superhero game? Masks can help you with that! Want to run a game of villagers who work together to solve entirely pedantic domestic issues like fishing the farmer’s hat out of a well? Golden Sky Stories might be your jam!
Savvy educators can use game mastering to create stories catered to each specific player’s interests. This makes for a uniquely engaging adventure filled with personal growth and a series of learning opportunities.
Here are just a few examples of the kinds of growth roleplaying games can foster:
Benefits of roleplaying
Social Skills Practice: In every RPG, kids get the chance to interact with a wide range of characters, from goblin kings to human shopkeepers. An astute game master with educational intent can create characters and scenarios that allow children to practice lagging social skills in a safe environment. This way, kids can see the natural outcomes of their actions without facing potentially dangerous and traumatic real-world consequences.
Conversation Equity: Game masters can break game interactions into turns and explain the value of every player getting “equal screen time.” Through this, children with a habit of talking over others get to practice patience, and more timid and passive children get a structured way to participate in conversation and storytelling, building self-confidence.
Learned Empathy: Much in the same way that exposing kids to literature expands their world views, leading kids through rich and dynamic RPGs gives them a wider range of experiences to draw from when seeking to empathize with others.
Incentive to Write & Create: RPGs often serve as creative inspiration for writers and artists—it’s only natural that players want to write detailed and fascinating character backstories and create artwork that represents their characters. This inspiration can be channeled into a more formal writing practice, and game masters with learning in mind can even provide in-game benefits to children who write or draw outside of the story to encourage continued creative growth.
Teamwork Skills: Talented game masters create problems that players must solve collaboratively, utilizing each of their unique skill sets. This encourages kids to work together and celebrate each other’s triumphs. There are several anecdotal success stories I can share that showcase this concept in action; one of my personal favorites comes from a timed single-session “escape the room or the bad things happen” encounter I ran for a group of preteens. The players were all strangers at the start, but by the game’s end, they high fived one another like old friends, celebrating each one’s unique and clever contributions.
coming soon: a simple roleplaying system to try at home!
I’ll be running several gaming sessions throughout EPIC’s summer program, so please sign up if you’d like your child to have a curated RPG experience. That being said, there’s nothing stopping you from creating a game for your child at home! While it’s true that some roleplaying game rules can be exceptionally complicated, you need not have a PhD in Dragon Adventure Rules to create an engaging social-emotional learning experience for kids. Stay tuned for a future blog post, where I will share some simplistic roleplaying game rules and guidelines to help you create a fun and educational adventure!