Because of their immersive nature, TTRPGs have gained a bit of a repuation as working as type of therapy for people. Safe places for them to deal with emotions and feelings that they might not be able to get elsewhere. And that is likely a fair reputation, provided you're playing in a group where you feel safe and welcome.
What are the Benefits?
Social Connection and Support: Mental health specialists emphasize the importance of social connections in promoting emotional well-being. TTRPGs foster a sense of community and social support as players work together to overcome challenges, share experiences, and build lasting friendships. At least, when everything goes well. :P
Creative Expression: Engaging in creative activities is a recommended coping mechanism for managing mental health. TTRPGs provide a platform for creative expression through character development, storytelling, and world-building. This is something we've been exploring in previous weeks, so you should check back on our older blog posts for more on this.
Problem-Solving and Decision-Making: TTRPGs encourage critical thinking, problem-solving, and decision-making, skills that are valuable in managing mental health challenges. These skills can be applied in both the game and real-life situations. Now, I say critical thinking, but we obviously all have that one player who always makes a bad decision or makes everything into a pun or a joke, but looking aside from that, there is some truth to this. Just planning out when you get together for a game can be a right pain, and herding players around for a GM, well, that definitely takes some skills.
Incorporating Mental Health Strategies into your game:
Open Communication: Mental health specialists emphasize the importance of open and non-judgmental communication in managing mental health. In a TTRPG campaign, create a safe and welcoming space where players can discuss their thoughts and feelings, both in and out of character. Again, see some of our other blogs for examples of how to do this.
Character Development: Character creation in a TTRPG offers an opportunity to explore and reflect on personal experiences and emotions. Encourage players to create characters that resonate with them or that reflect aspects of themselves, helping them process their feelings in a supportive environment.
Inclusivity and Sensitivity: Mental health awareness extends to promoting inclusivity and sensitivity in gaming spaces. Be aware of the potential triggers or sensitive topics that may arise in your campaign, and establish clear boundaries and content warnings to ensure everyone's comfort.
Creating an Inclusive Campaign:
Accessibility: Consider the accessibility needs of your players. Ensure that all players can participate comfortably, whether through accommodating physical disabilities or providing alternative ways to access game materials.
Diversity and Representation: Mental health specialists stress the importance of representation in promoting inclusivity. TTRPG campaigns can incorporate diverse characters and cultures, helping players from various backgrounds feel seen and valued. Just beware that sometimes it's easy to accidentally fall into a trope with an NPC. This can be forgiven in some groups and situations, but in others, it should be avoided.
Safe and Welcoming Environment: Prioritize creating a safe and welcoming environment where players can be themselves without fear of judgment. Implement a code of conduct to maintain a respectful atmosphere.
Supportive Game Master: As the Game Master, you play a crucial role in fostering inclusivity. Be attuned to the needs and boundaries of your players, intervene if any issues arise, and provide guidance and support when needed.
By incorporating mental health strategies into your TTRPG campaign and creating an inclusive gaming environment, you can harness the therapeutic benefits of the game. Remember that games are not just about rolling dice and defeating monsters; it's about fostering meaningful connections, embracing diversity, and providing a safe space where everyone can find healing, support, and personal growth.
See you back next week.