Why play Tabletop Roleplaying Games?
Whether it’s Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, Call of Cthulhu or any of the myriad of other games, there is always one big question from the uninitiated, “why play a tabletop roleplaying game?”
With the popularity of tabletop gaming becoming more and more prevalent since the pandemic, there is a tonne of mainstream attention on the previously niche hobby. With the rise of popular tabletop live play streams like Critical Role and Dimension 20, the tabletop roleplaying hobby has seen a surge of new players unlike anything we’ve seen before.
To share all of the wondrous benefits of the hobby we have decided to list some of the incredible reasons that you should try tabletop roleplaying with your friends or a professional Games Master.
As we all know, maintaining regular contact with other people can be extremely difficult (especially when the entire world shuts down for a year). Gathering a group of people together can be extremely difficult without a draw. In comes TTRPGs.
With a shared hobby it becomes far more likely that you can make consistent plans with your friends!
Tabletop roleplaying games can also be a great way to meet new people! A controlled environment where you are all there for a common goal can be the spark that starts life-long friendships. Collaborating in a storytelling gaming exercise is a great way to have a clean ice-breaker, making meeting new people a lot easier and less awkward.
Studies have even found that partaking in tabletop roleplaying can reduce anxiety, social anxiety and improve social skills! 1
With research showing that playing tabletop roleplaying games can improve so many social aspects of your life, especially for those of us that are neurodivergent, the hobby can also be therapeutic, allowing you to safely put yourself out there and help to overcome the worst of your anxieties.
As you will be acting and engaging in a grand adventure together, communication is something that you will inevitably end up practising. Whether it’s in planning your upcoming strategy, being engrossed in a deep scene, or taking your actions in a combat, tabletop roleplaying games actively challenge you to communicate with a group clearly to collectively create a consistent and compelling story.
Something that is greatly missing in many parts of life is empathy. Studies have shown that playing roleplaying games allows you to, essentially, practise having empathy for others. By putting yourself in someone else’s shoes and experiencing the ups and downs of their experiences, though fictional, still allows you a lens through which you can come to understand and better place yourself in those positions with people that you know in real life.
Tabletop roleplaying games help to make the people who play them more compassionate, making the world a better place!
Another benefit of playing tabletop roleplaying games with younger players is that it helps to teach them how to effectively communicate their ideas, giving them an organised space that teaches them to also wait their turn and to speak their minds without drowning out the others at the table.
Through the plethora of encounters that you will inevitably come across, no matter which roleplaying game you choose to play, players learn to become proficient in ad-hoc problem solving. This is an invaluable skill that serves you not only in the game but in your professional and home life as it exercises your brain to analyse the situation and to come up with a creative solution.
Roleplaying games have been found to exercise the parts of the brain that are responsible for critical thinking and motor skills, engaging your brain to actively develop as you play!
Learning how to see cause and effect relationships in situations is a crucial skill that often goes underutilised in classic entertainment as you are a passive observer. Where playing differs is as an active mental exercise. As you are an active participant in the experience of playing the game, you take on the mental work of figuring out puzzles, engaging in social situations, putting together story elements and, ultimately, solving problems.
A secret benefit of tabletop roleplaying games traditionally is that they allow you to practise your mathematics skills. It is much more fun to add numbers together, multiply numbers and operate resource management, when those numbers are contextualised in a way that incentivises you. It is much more fun to add the results of rolling two d12s together as you critically strike a key foe in a combat to save your compatriots than to add up your monthly expenses.
Mental health is becoming an increasingly important thing in the modern era. With the advent of social media and internet based technologies, we have become so aware of what is happening in the world that it can oftentimes be daunting, and sometimes downright depressing. Tabletop roleplaying games may not seem like the place you expect to improve your mental health but it can offer a number of unique benefits.
The first of these is allowing you to experience failure in a safe environment with fictional stakes. Failure is a part of life that we have all come to learn to hate. Not succeeding at something can be crushing to your spirit, but it is an all too common occurrence for the majority of us. By failing in a tabletop roleplaying game, we learn to see the positives that come from failure: the opportunity to learn, the ability to creatively adapt.
Where failure can be a frustrating thing in real life, in a tabletop game things not going your way can be a great incentive to expand on your character’s experience. Learning to tolerate frustration for the sake of the group, the story and the characters is all part-in-parcel when it comes to these games. Failing forward becomes a mantra that allows you to reevaluate how you internalise things that get on your nerves.
Camaraderie. Friendship. These are things that can be cultivated at a gaming table!
Whether it’s just in character or it extends to real life friendships, the experiences that you have together at the table can be an eye-opening and deeply emotional experience. Your triumphs. Your losses. All these things, experienced together with those at the table. There is an element of community and support that you can find vastly improves your mental health, helping to battle feelings of isolation and misunderstanding.
Current studies being done by organisations across the world have been showing that tabletop roleplaying games can be a wonderful therapeutic tool in addition to a hobby!
With the advent of tabletop roleplaying research and development charities and organisations, there is more incentive than ever to find a group that is a safe space for your needs. Whether that is as a neurodivergent person, a member of the LGBTQIA+ or any other group, being able to engage with other people in your situation when you are struggling in a fun and supportive exercise like tabletop roleplaying can be a wonderful addition to your life schedule.
The final section here is to talk about the main draw of gaming in general: having fun!
Ultimately, the point of all gaming is to have fun. There are many different ways to have fun with tabletop roleplaying. Whether as a roleplayer, who is incredibly invested in the lore of the world and bringing their character and their experiences to life. Whether as a power gamer, who thrives on creating optimised play and strategy to be the most effective they can be. Whether as the passive player, who is there to spend time with their friends. There are many ways to enjoy tabletop roleplaying and you may even find that you find fun in ways you weren’t expecting.
It is worth giving tabletop roleplaying a go. It may not be for you, it is not everyone’s cup of tea. However, by not trying it, you may be missing out on a truly life altering, engaging, creative and fun experience.