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Research on RPGs Primer & Don't Split the Party

by Hawke Robinson published Jun 13, 2018 10:40 PM, last modified Jun 14, 2018 12:41 AM
In response to someone at the Ph.D. level, who recently released a podcast and shockingly made the completely erroneous claims that there is not _any_ existing legtimate, peer-reviewed, research on tabletop RPG, RPGer traits, any correlative data on RPGers, any publications in respected journals, any studies from psychologists or psychiatrists, or any research on the effects of RPGs, I have whipped up this page in order to help. Working together and sharing will help float all boats. Pulling apart and isolating will continue to founder the ship.

I know this person is aware of RPG Research, but must apparently not be willing to wade through the extensive archives in university libraries (an onerous task) or on the RPG Research site for a comprehensive literature review that would quickly adjust their stance.

So, in the interests of trying to be helpful, I am quickly whipping up this page in the middle of a very busy research schedule, to try to help folks wanting to research rpgs, get started on the right path, to help save you a lot of unnecessary work that has already been performed my so many others, so you don't have to start from scratch, and can build on the body of works available. Also, you know what bad things happen when you split up the group. :-) Instead of reinventing the wheel and spinning up separate journals and repository, how about working with the existing community and helping them improve through your wonderful contributions?

I was just so stunned by what I heard, it seemed important to address ASAP, though my schedule is slammed with research and other projects right now (20+ hour days, 7 days a week for the past 10 weeks (with relief just over the horizon thankfully)).

The person claimed there were zero peer-reviewed, published studies. I am sorry, but that is a completely mistaken analysis, and completely lacking literature review. I hope this page helps get things on track for you and any others with that misperception.

Is there a huge abundance? No. We need far more research, but there is a considerable baseline to start with, and should be read through comprehensively, before reinventing the wheel, and not effectively furthering the body of knowledge. With this baseline of reference, you will be able to develop much better, and progressing works that we can all help each other benefit from.

Also, instead of spinning up separate, redundant repositories and journal, how about instead working together with the community, rather than fracturing it further. For example, more contributions to the International Journal of Role-playing (for all RPG formats), or sharing in the RPG Research public repositories, rather than creating further fracturing with even more separate repositories and journals that is completely redundant.

I was even more floored when this person, PhD level, claimed there wasn't any good research on using tabletop RPGs in educational settings!  That is a well researched area, as you can see from this lengthy list of education keyword results, or this slightly more curated list. Personally I have been involved with implementing RPGs in educational settings since 1985, and there are many published articles on the successful use, and research comparisons, in using RPGs in various academic settings. Though that being said, they were usually either elementary/high-school, or specialty education, or adjuntcs to educational programs, and not usually the core teaching method in a university setting. That is something I am currently researching as updated here. I do not have the ego to for a moment think I come up with anything utternly original or unique. Alas others apparently do. I see plenty of relevant research out there, and I am still searching for something that is close to what I'm trying to answer with that research project,  lurking somewhere (I am trying to find it), that I hope to build from in developing this project through the university.

The claim was also made that there are no studies from the disciplines/perspectives of psychology,and more psychology studies, psychiatry, or social sciences, and more, and even more. Those links should clearly illustrate that falacy.

While there is a great need to significantly grow the body, and many of the studies need further testing, there is far from zero.

Please, do not start all over in another silo, lets build on existing bodies of research to grow the body for the benefit of all. Please don't work in silos and further fracture the community. Please work together and share data, and build and grow the community for the benefit of all. Here is a short list to help you get started.

RPG Research as a website was founded in 2004 due to the dearth of research on the effects of RPGs, especially causal data. In 2004 I wrote a paper about how there were only around 40-60 or so studies worth noting, and most were correlative, case studies, or small in sample (n) size. However, it was useful information on existing traits of RPGers, and great for starting some good research questions. As I started to spread the word online, and build the online repository, many Masters and PhD students started using the RPG Research repository to help them in creating their theses based on RPGs. In 2006 I began seeing a slow increase in relevant research. By 2012 a number of books started to be published, and many research studies increasingly being published. Now in 2018, I almost weekly receive emails from researchers asking questions and informing me about their RPG related projects, and at least 1+ per month another study on the effects of RPGs is published. There are alot of studies _not_ published in journals that are available through universities, that have been through peer-review, some with better controls and research design than others, but well worth looking into (as we try to include in the RPG Research repositories).

The repositories are extensive, but we created that landing page to help people search by keywords, collections, etc. For a quick view of the ebb and flow of research over the decades since 1979, just take a quick look at the chronologically ordered page to get an idea.

There are now hundreds of studies available (see the repositories), but here are some highlights worth noting. There is far, far, far more research in the archives, these are just a small sample to make the point, and to help people get started...

Considerable amount of Table RPG player personalities/traits/etc research

1977 - Role playing in social simulation games: A study of the effects of several gaming techniques upon attitudes toward racial and ethnic minority groups. (broadly relevant)

1978 - Involvement in role-playing simulations: A demonstration with studies on obedience.  (not RPG, but some relevance)

1982 - Activity Structure as Scaffolding for Children's Second Language Learning. Sociolinguistic (broadly relevant)

1986 - Fantasy Role-Playing for Mutual Aid in Children's Groups: A Case Illustration

1987 - Emotional Stability Pertaining to the Game of Dungeons & Dragons.

1988 - Therapy is fantasy: role-playing, healing, and the construction of symbolic order.

1989 - Relationship between game playing and personality

1993 - The personality of fantasy game players

1995 - Personality, belief in paranormal, and involvement with satanic practices among young adult males: dabblers versus gamers

1995 - Role Playing Games and the Gifted Student.

1995 - Foreign language education and role-playing games

1998 - Role-play games and National Guardsmen compared.

1998 - Personalities of players of Dungeons & Dragons

1999 - Through The Looking Glass: An Exploration of the Interplay between Player and Character Selves in Role-Playing Games

1999 - New texts and new media in global youth culture: the fantasy roleplaying games.

2004 - Role-Playing and Playing Roles: The Person, Player, and Persona in Fantasy Role-Playing

2007 - An exploratory study on the players of "Dungeons and Dragons"


2014 - Experiences of Hobby Game Players: Motivations Behind Playing Digital and Non Digital Games | GrogHeads

2016 - Empathic Features and Absorption in Fantasy Role-Playing


Is there plenty of room for much more research? Definitely!  But please oh please, do not tell people there isn't anything out there already.

When I have time, I will put together a longer list by categoy. But you can do this yourself using the search box on the site, or clicking the links on the research repository page.

Let's all work together as a community, sharing all our efforts, and that will have a powerful multiplicity effect. Please do not silo off behind permanent paywalls, or overpriced books. Help improve the overall human experience!










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