About RPG Research
The long term goal is to clearly establish through rigorous scientific testing the causal therapeutic and educational impact of role-playing gaming on participants.
Currently this site is mostly working as a portal/aggregation/repository of information related to these topics.
Please read the important DISCLAIMERS page.
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.
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.
The RPG Research Project is currently a self-funded, non-commercial brainchild of project founder Hawke Robinson. Though Hawke is currently the only full time researcher engaged in the project, he is networking, interacting, and acquiring information and resources from various psychologists, university professors, and other professionals in the development of this research 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
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.
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 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.
Over many years, the long term intention of RPG Research is to implement a series of studies using many different population groups meeting the following goals:
Attempt to verify or invalidate existing correlative and meta-research results. Much of the existing research is dated from the 1980's and 1990's. Attempt to bring the research up to date, and verify if there are any statistically significant differences found between role-playing gamers and the general populace, at difference age and other demographic levels. Topics to check/verify: levels of depression, social alienation, IQ, personality types, incidents of occultism, belief in paranormal, emotional stability, dissociation, suggestibility, incidents of substance abuse/addiction, suicide rates, antisocial personality traits, problem solving skills, math skills, verbal skills, writing skills, research skills, history skills, spacial relations, organizational skills, team coordination skills, leadership skills, strength of ethics, morality, convictions, religious belief, feelings of social alienation or stigma, criminal behavior/history, propensity for violent thoughts or behaviors, adaptive versus rigid/maladaptive personality traits, aggressive/competitive versus cooperative, racial and gender stereotype attitudes, foreign language adoption levels, levels of empathy, deviancy, pathology, levels of mental illness and/or co-morbidity, and demographics statistics.
Attempt to differentiate between correlative and causal data related to role-playing gamers. When possible, use blind, double blind, and triple blind study methodologies.
Determine if the correlative tests indicating significant differences in role-playing gamers from the general populace, are a causal result of their participation in role-playing games? Or is it because they already had significant differences, and were attracted to role-playing games because of these differences? For example, are role-playing gamers better problem solvers because of engaging in the activity or role-playing gaming which helped them develop new or better problem solving skills? Or are are they drawn to the activity because they are already inherently adept problem solvers, and enjoy applying their aptitude to such an environment as role-playing games provide.
Determine if there are any correlative demographic idiosyncrasies in variables found between intensely dedicated role-playing gamers, more casual but experienced role playing gamers, and the general population. For example, are there any noticeable differences in employment rates, income, household ownership, marriage status, children, ethnicity, religion, etc.
Determine if there are any repeatable causal influences on those who participate regularly in role playing gaming recreational activities. Many possible variables could be evaluated, such as problem solving, mood, social skills, etc.
If there are indicators that role-playing games have a causal impact on participants, attempt to determine if there are any differentiations in impact on test subjects between "heroic" and "evil" game campaign settings.
Determine if any differentiation exists between participants of different role playing gaming forms such as classic paper and dice tabletop RPGs, compared to live action role playing games (LARP), or computer-based role playing games.
Perform bio-feedback and neuro-feedback analysis on role-playing gamers before, during, and after gaming sessions to determine if any measurable effects are observable by these media.
- Apply neuro-imaging analysis between long-time gamers and non-gamers for comparison and any correlative differences.
- Apply neuro-imaging on participants before, during, and after participation in role-playing games using FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) to determine the measurable activity and/or if there are any longer term physiological changes of the brain.
- If data indicates potential causality, attempt to narrow and clarify the variables, looking for any differentiations in results.
- Determine optimal duration of game sessions for maximal benefit. Variables would include determining the ideal duration of each session, how frequently to repeat the sessions, and how many sessions are sufficient for long term impacts.
Determine if any differences are indicated from participation in shorter single sessions versus longer "campaigns" over different durations.
Determine if different game systems such as Dungeons & Dragons versus Lord of the Rings role-playing gaming, have any measurable differences in effect on the participants.
Determine if different role-playing game genres have any measurable differences. Examples include comparing fantasy-based role-playing games to horror, science fiction, cowboy westerns, anime and comic book characters, historical or religious settings, etc.
- Within a specific genre, determine if different campaign settings have any measurable differences in specific therapeutic or educational influences on participants.
Determine differences between various populations and cultures in response to participating in role-playing games. For example the claimed significant gender differential in participation with tabletop role-playing games, or any differences in the Deaf community, or differences from other countries and cultures, etc.
Determine ideal environment settings for sessions. Variables would include temperature, seating arrangements, lighting, olfactory stimulus, auditory stimulus, and other related variables.
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 “adventure modules” specifically designed to address targeted population needs such as socialization issues between different groups in the Deaf Community, people suffering from unipolar depression, bipolar, PTSD, Autism, Aspergher's, ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury recovery, schizophrenia, and other social, therapeutic, or educational needs. An example includes attempting to deliver measurable benefits over a typical 6-8 week course, comparable to some other treatment modalities.
If indicated, define the requirements for a Game Master Therapist (GMT) or Game Master Instructor (GMI) in applying a role-playing game therapeutic or educational module.
As research progresses, continue to adjust various hypotheses according to the data gathered, and update research goals accordingly.
- Establish industry standard practices and create Role-playing Gaming Therapy Handbook of Practice.
ROLE-PLAYING GAME THERAPY
As the body of knowledge grows, indicators may be found suggesting the development of a distinct treatment modality, potentially "role-playing game therapy", may develop as an effective tool for the treatment of many population groups with varied needs. Potential issues that may be treated by role-playing game therapy could include clients diagnosed with PTSD, uni-polar depression, bi-polar, autism-spectrum disorders, and many others.
The potential for RPG therapy to develop as a distinct treatment modality is a reasonable possibility considering the strong partial overlap with many existing treatment domains, while still having unique characteristics that could potentially offer solutions the other domains may not have been as effective with. These domains include:
- Cognitive therapy
- Behavioral therapy
- Recreation therapy
- Game therapy
- Role-play therapy
- Drama therapy
- Gestalt therapy
- Humanistic therapy
This project involves participation from individuals and organizations from around the world. The RPG Research website is intended to be a central repository where scientists, therapists, researchers and other professionals as well as media and laymen will be able to find all the information they need on this expansive topic.
If you are interested in participating in the RPG Research Project, you may fill out the online registration form.
Or you may download this PDF form, print it, fill it out, affix a postage stamp, and postal mail it to:
1312 North Monroe Suite #114
Spokane, WA, 99201
You may also contact us for information via email by using this contact page: http://rpgr.org/contact
Or you may call by phone (USA): (509) 252-0800