Tabletop Roleplaying Games, and Depression, and Social Anxiety
Author: Noelle B. Ott
Major: Political Science
Graduation Year: 2022
Thesis Advisor: Jordan P. LaBouff
Description of Publication: Tabletop roleplaying games are a form of in-person, multiplayer games structured around group interaction, set rules of gameplay, strategic group decision-making, and active character roleplaying. While such games have existed in some form for thousands of years, more recent and modern versions such as Dungeons & Dragons and Call of Cthulhu have increased attention not only to their use as a form of entertainment, but as a potential extension of play and drama therapies in a clinical setting (Henrich & Worthington, 2021). Research into therapeutic roleplaying, both with and without gameplay supervision, has shown a promising association with increased understanding of self-concept and connection to community (House, 1970; Winn, 1959) as well as a reduction in depression and anxiety (Burroughs, Wagner & Johnson, 1997; Wilde, 1994). However, historical investigations have primarily concentrated on younger age groups, where play and drama therapies are most frequently employed with a focus on individual development and social connections. Recent studies have only just begun to investigate tabletop roleplaying games as a form of therapy; most have involved case-studies that apply theoretical and anecdotal, rather than clinical, evidence of the game’s effective use as a mechanism of therapeutic treatment (Blackmon, 1994; Hughes, 1988). The current study aimed to extend tabletop roleplaying games research to a larger, more varied age group (N = 184, Average age = 19.2) through an online survey. We assessed participants’ experience with the game and reasons to participate in gameplay, and examined any correlations between levels of depression, anxiety, and amount of participation in tabletop roleplaying games. Results indicated that participants generally felt that tabletop roleplaying games supported their mental health and well-being, particularly in the context of roleplaying in their character’s mindset. We also found that frequency of play was negatively associated with symptoms of depression and anxiety, even when controlling for predictors on the Ten Item Personality Measure such as conscientiousness and emotional stability (Gosling et al., 2003). This may suggest that individuals experiencing depression or social anxiety turn to tabletop roleplaying games as a method to respond and cope with these symptoms. The implications of these results, as well as directions for further research in this burgeoning field are discussed.
Location of Publication:
URL to Thesis: https://digitalcommons.library.umaine.edu/honors/767