Benefits of D&D
A lot of folks are studying the effects of role-playing games like Dungeons and Dragons (D&D). I’ve compiled a list from some great researchers and mental health professionals for your convenience and enjoyment.
12 Inherent Benefits of Role-Playing Games like D&D:
1. D&D is a Fun Activity Enjoyed with Others
Firstly, everyone needs a healthy work-play balance in their lives. D&D provides fun stimulation and a space to be yourself. Together, your party engages in imaginative play where you co-create adventures. The possibilities of different fantasy settings, what you want your game to focus on (roleplay; combat; exploration), and more are completely customizable!
2. Role-Playing Allows Folks to Explore Self
You use your imagination to create a character that fits a different heroic archetype: the strong warrior, the caring healer, or the mysterious rogue! Each decision the player makes could meet a real life need. For example, wanting to play a highly charismatic character to improve confidence. (1)
3. D&D Brings People Together
When a group of friends (or strangers) has a shared activity like D&D it bonds them together. Centering your hangout time around an activity like a role-playing game can make it easier to stay connected and therefore develop long-term relationships. (2) Exploration with trusted others has the added benefit of strengthening identity and our personal narratives.
4. See Through Another’s Eyes
Perspective building happens on two main levels in D&D: creating your own character; and interacting with other characters. Firstly, acting as your character who certainly has differences than you being in a fantasy setting can challenge what normally comes easy to you. Secondly, being self-aware of how we impact others comes naturally when interacting with NPCs and PCs. (3)
5. In D&D Theory of Mind is Strengthened
Theory of mind is the understanding that our thoughts, beliefs, and desires are different from others. In D&D you play with different alignments (good; neutral; evil). This means group decision making can sometimes cause conflict. The lesson also extends to NPCs having different feelings about the same events that have taken place. (3)
6. Playing D&D Improves Frustration Tolerance
D&D involves a random element (dice) that determine successes and failures in various skill checks and combat maneuvers. It’s natural to feel frustrated, disappointed, or even helpless when you’ve prepped a sweet move and then you fail to hit. We practice moving through this frustration, failing forward, and re-entering a regulated social state to continue gameplay naturally. (3)
7. D&D Develops Resilience
Larger than just frustration tolerance, role playing games allow us to find emotional regulation with all kinds of emotions. We learn to continue to enter challenging situations and overcome the odds. This may translate to job interviews, goals, dating, or any other events where there is a chance of failure. (3)
D&D calls for thinking quickly to find different solutions to seemingly unsolvable problems. Creativity goes beyond just sparking creative writing, designing character art, etc. Players often use deductive reasoning, strategy, puzzle and mystery solving to get through encounters. This builds self-trust and can translate to creative problem solving in other areas of life. (3)
9. D&D Cultivates Teamwork
The teamwork skills starts from the early stages of the “Session 0” in how they want to set up the game and party composition. Understanding other player’s strengths, where folks are needed, and allowing space for true collaboration are crucial adult skills. Working towards a common goal, and finding a purpose greater than individual needs is inherent in D&D play. (3)
10. Build Knowledge
Apart from the bonus of learning a game system that you can then use to meet new people, you learn a few things playing. Using the mechanics of gameplay involves basic math skills, understanding of complex rules, resource management, and strategy. (4)
11. Practice Emotional Expression
Practicing expressing how you feel is a part of the role-play aspect of the game. Apart from bleed into your personal reactions to a given encounter, understanding what your character may be feeling and how they express it is a skill to practice. D&D is ripe with opportunities to disagree, become emotionally invested in the story, and practice acting out forgiveness. (4)
12. Practice Social Skills
Respectful turn taking is explicit during the combat phase of D&D. Reading other player’s non-verbal communication is also helpful. Picking up on social cues, responding appropriately, and practicing negotiation and diplomacy will well you accomplish your goals in the game. It’s a good place to practice risk taking and practicing here! (4)
There you have it! Although these benefits can be cultivated with the help of a mental health professional, you don’t need one in order to reap the rewards from playing RPGs.
If you’re a Texas resident, and interested in joining a D&D Therapy Group, please see this page for more info.
References (In Order of Appearance)
3- Game to Grow
Julia Stamman, LPC
Hi, I’m Julia! I’m an LPC (licensed professional counselor) practicing in South Austin. I understand the personal importance of a therapist groking my lifestyle, so I started helping others who identify as geeks, gamers, and/or misfits. Over time, I realized that I’m passionate about attachment-related trauma, social anxiety, and neurodiversity. On this blog, I write on topics like the overlap of alternative culture and mental health, and how to find services catered to these lifestyles.