One of the things that I remember most from my childhood was people talking about how the Dungeons and Dragons game was a gateway to devil and demon worship. I can tell you that during my 20+ years of playing role playing games, I have not seen anyone that I know turn into a demon or begin worshipping the dark lord. True, the game is strongly influenced by good and evil, and many people play an evil character from time to time; however it has been my experience that playing an evil character gets boring rather quickly and most gamers tire of being the “bad guy” almost as soon as the excitement wears off. In my view, there are at least three major ways that role playing games can help your child develop academic and social skills that will be useful later in life.
For starters, one of the first things that people learn when they begin to play role playing games is that they can be very complicated as far as rules and game play are concerned. Most every portion of the game can be traced to a dice roll of some sort. This dice roll plus modifiers determines how successful the player is at performing an action. If a player is trying to influence a king to let him marry a princess, a die would be rolled and the modifier would consist of how skillful that character is influencing people. At it’s core, the entire game is a low level math quiz, but keep that on the down low lest your kids start to worry about whether they’ve memorize the Pythagorean Theorum, or mastered complex geometry. Without even realizing it, kids are continually adding and subtracting modifiers from base die rolls to determine results as they play the game and in the process honing their mathematical abilities.
Second, gamers learn problem solving skills as they play. The overarching goal of the game is rarely stab the bad guy and save the girl or guy. More often than not, the game master offers a situation with many possible methods of completing the goal. Gamers have to figure out the best method by which to achieve the goal. Usually, the players have to work together using a variety of skills to make it through a situation. For example, the charming guy talks the guard into letting the group in the door. Then the strong guy pushes the stone aside, and finally the wizard removed the spell that is keeping the victim in suspended animation. This sounds simple, however, the gamers don’t know what is ahead and must make decisions as they move through. Playing a role playing game teaches children about everything from problem solving to problem negotiation…and they get to stab the bad guy if he gets really bad or won’t open the door to the castle after you’ve said “pretty please.”
Finally, gamers interact with a world full of characters. The gamer assumes the role of his or her character and must talk to other people without the use of email or text message. This offers those gamers who might be a little bit shy to stretch their wings in a protected environment. The protection offered to the gamer sounds minimal as it is “the character talking, not the gamer,” but sometimes minimal protection is all that it takes to boost the confidence of the gamer just enough to bring him or her out of his or her shell. A controlled gaming environment can be a huge benefit for many people.
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