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RPG Research

Research on the therapeutic and educational aspects of role-playing gaming and potential uses as a therapeutic modality using cognitive-behavioral and therapeutic recreation methodologies.

Project Website: http://www.rpgr.org

 

About Hawke explains in more detail why he is currently enrolled at Eastern Washington University working towards a degree in Recreation & Music Therapies with emphases on research psychology and role-playing game therapy.

MISSION

Clearly establish through rigorous scientific testing the causal therapeutic and educational impact of role playing gaming on participants.

OVERVIEW

To date approximately 80 studies have been published related to participation in role playing games and their effects on participants. Most of these studies have relied solely on meta-research, correlative data, individual case studies, or very small sample groups, and do not clearly prove causality.

Most of the existing meta and correlative data currently accumulated appears to strongly indicate many possible therapeutic and educational benefits for participants, but this has not yet been clearly delineated through rigorous scientific experimental research, observation, clear metrics, controlled groups, large samples, and longitudinal tracking.

Role-playing gaming overlaps with a number of other domain benefits, specifically recreation, education, therapeutic, and socialization, as illustrated in the Venn diagram below.



 

VISION

It is hoped through the efforts of RPG Research that it will be possible to clearly define the specific causal therapeutic and educational aspects of participation in role playing gaming with the eventual possibility of developing effective educational and therapeutic modalities using role playing
games. The therapeutic disciplines would likely map well to cognitive-behavioral, social, and therapeutic recreation methodologies. This would be a natural development combining some of the aspects of well-established role-playing therapy and game/recreation therapy together becoming role-playing game therapy.

 

PROJECT

There are many sub-projects contained in the overall RPG Project, from demographics gathering and case studies, to small shorter term research projects, building towards a larger body of data planned over the years of research efforts
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The overall project is dedicated to ascertaining by means of the use of various scientific methods the therapeutic and educational aspects of role playing gaming. Approaches include cognitive, behavioral, biological, neurological, humanistic, sociological, and other relevant perspectives. Based on the analysis of the data gathered, potential therapeutic and educational modalities may become apparent. Therapeutic  recreation techniques in conjunction with role playing gaming activities may be applicable in meeting client needs either as a standalone tool or to work in conjunction with other treatment modalities for various population groups.

The project is currently self-funded by the project founder. As the research progresses it is hoped that other private, but non-conflicting, funding will become available to continue increasing the personnel, facilities, and other  resources necessary to improve the breadth and depth of the research.

HISTORY

The first stages of this project began in 1985, with an active revival in 2004 through interaction with various universities and organizations.

The project has been advancing each year since. The project project founder, Hawke Robinson, first began formally researching the educational and social impacts of role playing games in 1985 in response to the barrage of negative press and public misinformation about role playing games popular in the 1980's, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Further development in consideration of broader psychosocial impacts from role playing games resumed with a series of essays written for the Therapeutic Recreation and other departments at Eastern Washington University beginning in 2004, followed by a number of successive documents and publications continuing to develop more detailed hypotheses, theses and series of research projects.


There are scores of existing RPG-related research projects, but most have been just meta research or correlative data or a few individual case studies, with very narrow data-sets, very small in scale, and/or only over a very short time line.

 

GOALS

The intention of RPG Research is to implement a series of studies using many different population groups meeting the following goals:

  • Determine if there are any correlative demographic idiosyncrasies in variables found between experienced role playing gamers and the general population.
  • Determine if any differentiation exists between participants of different role playing gaming forms such as classic paper and dice tabletop RPGs, live action role playing games (LARP), and computer-based role playing games.
  • Determine if there are any repeatable causal influences on those who participate regularly in role playing gaming recreational activities.
  • If data indicates potential causality, clarify the variables and look for any differentiations in results between the different formats (paper & dice, LARP,  Computer-based, etc.).
  • Attempt to determine if there are any differentiations in impact on test subjects between "heroic" and "evil" gaming from participation in single sessions or longer "campaigns" over shorter and longer time periods.
  • Determine differences between various populations and cultures in response to participating in RPGs. For example the significant gender differential in participation with tabletop RPGs, any differences in the Deaf community, differences from other countries, etc.
  • Determine optimal duration of game sessions for maximal benefit, how many hours per session, how frequently to repeat the session, and how many sessions for optimal benefits.
  • Determine if there are any repeatable "positive" or "negative" statistically significant characteristics that can clearly be defined and might be most useful as a therapeutic treatment or educational tool either separately or in conjunction with other modalities.
  • Experiment with creating “modules” specifically designed to address specific population needs such as depression, PTSD, Aspergher's, Autism, schizophrenia, traumatic brain injury recovery, social, or educational needs, that provide measurable benefits over a typical 6-8 week course, compared to other modalities. 8. Define the requirements for a GMT (Game Master Therapist) or GMI (Game Master Instructor) in applying a role playing game therapeutic or educational module.
  • Adjust various hypotheses and theories according to the data gathered, and update research goals accordingly.