Online Role-Playing Games as Group Therapy
Online Role-Playing Games as Group Therapy During the COVID-19 Pandemic
Role-playing games (RPGs) are being used in telehealth group therapy to facilitate individual growth in a group context. RPGs enlist players as adventurers, working together to overcome challenges and earn rewards. Facilitators, or "dungeon masters," narrate a story while players describe how their characters respond. For example, players may be faced with a decision of how to proceed after encountering a pirate's den. Will the adventures draw their swords and fight, or will they sneak past undetected? Every choice that players make affects the story. RPGs in therapeutic settings allow for structured social interaction where players can experiment with becoming someone else and develop connections to combat the social isolation and loneliness caused by COVID-19.
RPGs encourage teamwork as adventures must work together to survive and earn rewards. They can also help develop emotional regulation skills since team members won't always agree on courses of action, and every choice impacts the journey and final outcome of the game. Playing every week creates a routine that enables regular social interaction, allows for self-reflection between games, and inspires planning for upcoming sessions.