Engagement through Role-Playing Games

Guest Post by Emily Nguyen-Hoai

A member of the Advisory Council for the Game Academy

Tabletop and live-action role-playing games are an effective form of experiential learning that can be practiced from the comfort of your own home.

There are quite a few reasons to consider incorporating tabletop and live-action role-play gaming into your teaching methods.

1. Tabletop and live-action role-play gaming helps with social-emotional development.

Storytelling role-play games help put children in an environment that they imagine,

but one in which they aren’t actually physically present. This personal abstraction from environments and situations that may be dangerous (either physically, emotionally, or both) is a strong benefit for engagement and learning. As the student/player creates a character that they will inhabit and control for the duration of the collaborative storytelling sessions, their shared imaginary world provides social parameters for exploring identity and interaction.

Roleplaying creates a magic circle of trust within the group, with a mutual understanding

that everyone is participating in a game. All actions taken by characters in the

game are valid and safe. Because each participant creates their own character from whose perspective they interact, but who is distinct from the player controlling the character, the participant is practicing thoughts and actions in an explicitly declared safe space for experimentation.

A student who may be at odds with awkward or uncomfortable traits they may find in

themselves, has an opportunity to situate those same traits in a character. From that

vantage point, they may play out a version of themselves who is distinct from, but related

to their inner sense of who they may (or may not) want to be. They can, for a time that is

marked with boundaries of safety and trust, inhabit a form of themselves without fear of

being judged or rejected.

As the participants play the game, they are engaged in a world with social parameters that parallel, but are distinct from the player’s "real" life. This parallel, but distinct environment allows the participant to explore through their thoughts and actions. This protected mode of being and doing aids the participants in learning

about failure and consequences in ways that don't endanger the student.