Hey community

Hey community

Hey community,

I am interested in expanding on some psychological foundations and theories related to role playing. Are there any deeper philosophical or psychological topics that you would like to read more about.? I plan on taking a highly academic approach to the article, resulting in hard and fast tips for players to utilize that knowledge at the game table. (E.g. How to use cognitive dissonance as a tool as a GM; using the hierarchy of needs during prep; morality vs ethics, etc.)

I’m looking at you: Jason Cordova, Adam Koebel, Brandon Reinert, Joe Banner, Logan Howard, Aaron Griffin, Fraser Simons, Kate Bullock, John Aegard, John Aegard, Jeremy Strandberg, Tina Trillitzsch, Sophia Brandt, Ray Otus, Jason Lutes, Mark Tygart

31 thoughts on “Hey community”

  1. That’s an awful long list of nothing but dudes, there. You’re gonna want to diversify your sample group if you want to even start trying to represent the hobby. Might I suggest starting with Kate Bullock​​, who has run a roleplaying blog for a long time now and has done a series on common problematic character archetypes, including unpacking the psychology behind them?

  2. Yeah, I’ll second Kate Bullock (and not just because she’s my co-host on a podcast). She does a lot of deep and interesting exploration of these topics.

  3. Kate’s blog is a great read. I think you’ll find it’s a good inspiration for what you’re trying to do. She handles big, tough topics. I don’t always agree with what she writes, but I’m definitely always engaged and intrigued. It’s bluestockings.ca

  4. How about barriers to play. It seems there are a ton of factors that keep potential players away from the table. Not only social barriers built up around who the games feel “made by” and “made for” but also things like performance anxiety and being intimidated by rules that require entire books to understand.

  5. Hey Michael Prescott,

    I primarily play Dungeon world, which naturally implements some dissonance or twists through GM moves like show signs of an approaching threat, turn their move back on them, show a downside of their class, and put someone on the spot. These moves mechanize dissonance on a smaller scale. But on a larger scale, dissonance can be a great tool for DM’s as long as there is meaningful ways for players to reconcile the problem and/or it leads to more story. If done in a way that is too harshly to players, it may make the PC’s feel that the GM is arbitrarily being a Dungeon Bastard.

    I deliberately implement dissonance in my games. I find that it fits well with story structure and assessing which of the 4 reconciliations my players use lets me drive the next act in a 3 or 5 act story structure type game.

    Thanks for the inquiry. Those are evocative questions, Michael.

  6. Logan Howard Great idea. I will do some research into the psychology behind starting a new habit, social psychology, group dynamics, and within-in group bias. Thanks for the idea.

    Any other ideas?

  7. This sounds more of a tidbit regarding a much larger topic, but- forfeiting classical storytelling, and social (ethical and moral) standards as a tool to add realism.

  8. Camilo Suñer well said. Well said. Though, I would say classical story structure typically has some level of dissonance or there is no story. A child that grows up and has a mediocre life until death, isn’t much of a story. Not until the dissonance, at least.

  9. Andrew Huffaker No quite. It is more like being told you’re a child molester by a group of idiots and thirty years they try to forget about it. Ooops!

  10. Mark Tygart, do you feel the Satanic Panic is where present day internal gamer guilt comes from? Or at least a significant portion of gamer guilt comes from? I can only speak anecdotally, but I have run a gamer group for students with disabilities in a rural farming town. I had to do a lot of explaining and reassuring to parents that I wasn’t trying to brain wash children. I definitely still feel the shock waves of it, so for me, I have to fight my own feelings of animosity, too.

    Though, in a larger sense, I would say that the last 30-40 years of gamer shunning comes from communities failing to understand what their sons and daughters are actually doing to entertain themselves. Relating it back the article I wrote, if a parent or church member was focusing on the point in a game when their son beat up a shop keeper and stole their money, I think it is fair that a parent would want to investigate. Dnd and RPG’s are convoluted things that are easy to misunderstand. There are volatile variables at play (Parent/child relationship, religious affiliation, teen/maturity development, surrounding community, etc.).

    What are your thoughts?

  11. Mark Tygart I don’t think it’s fair to sweep psychology into a “them” category on this. I remember the nervous parents and tabloid response but I never thought there was a unified psychological stance on the effects of Dungeons and Dragons. You can always find scientists who will back a story. That doesn’t mean there is no merit to the research. It just means there are stupid (or greedy) people to be found in any field.

    Nearly every branch of science has discovered things within the last couple decades that have forced minds to change. That’s a good thing. It’s how you know there are scientists brave enough to do the job. I suspect that Andrew Huffaker has always been supportive of the hobby and would welcome challenges to his work.

  12. Logan Howard There was something like a unified response at the time and it was a witch hunt. It wasn’t tabloid journalism it was a hit piece by 60 Minutes. It was television movies starring Tom Hanks that equated role playing with mental issues. It was what social historians now refer to as a “moral panic” and the psych community was largely silent or supported the witch burning. A few voices like Dr. Eric Holmes did speak out; but the “therapy” community on the lower levels has a terrible historical record of supporting fads and sloppy research when media coverage comes calling. This gamer remembers!

  13. Logan Howard Of course the irony is geek culture won and therapists often use RPGs to help therapy, particularly with children.I promise you Gygax had an FBI file and had hire a bodyguard due to these idiots. They just moved on to trying to ban Halloween and Harry Potter novels…

  14. Andrew Huffaker In answer to your question to what extent “gamer guilt” still exists it largely relates to the media memes that were formed at the time and still resurface. In television programs directed at older true crime viewers the trope of the “satanic rpg wacko murderer” still dies hard and resurfaces constantly. It is also still believed in by the extreme religious right, and their views still surface on movies made recently and being offered by Netflix; although the therapy community and the general culture would now favor the mostly positive view served up by the popular recent sitcoms “Community” or “Big Bang Theory”.

  15. Mark Tygart, if you get a chance to read the articles I have written on my website, I am hoping that my intentions of using psychologist principals to support our community are positive. My goal is to take theories and empirical evidence to make tools to help GM’s and players at the table.

  16. Andrew Huffaker I will be happy to do so, and I am doubly happy if RPGs can offer anything beyond the simple enjoyment of playing them, but given history I find the therapy community’s current love affair with them welcome but deeply ironic…

  17. Mark Tygart I read the first page of this article, but didn’t sign up for membership, so I couldn’t read the remaining 3 or so pages. Although, social psychology is really fascinating. SRA kind of reminds me of repressed memories, mental defense mechanisms, and even the Mandela Effect.

  18. Andrew Huffaker implicit bias at work? def a topic you could look in to. we become behavioralized into these subtle social constructions that we respond to without being aware that we carry them (wrt the comment above addressing your list of mens names)

  19. additionally, wrt the types of game behavior that may seem problematic such as murder or any other normally negatively socially sanctioned behavior, perhaps viewing this from the perspective of the carnivalesque, or the collective (but temporary) subversion of societal values that simultaneously reinforces hegemonic structures, will help to explain why this behavior manifests

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