We interviewed Aurelio Castro and Erika Mineo of the University of Padua about their research: are there correlations between RPGs, psychology and attitudes?

In recent years, role-playing has gained unparalleled notoriety in its history. Today, the population of male and female role-playing players has increased dramatically, as have events and projects that popularize role-playing games.

We have seen RPGs brought to hospitals to give a smile to sick children, as we have read about role-playing games created by professionals to deal with psychological trauma. Role-playing games conveyed fundraisers for beneficence and have been used in school to teach English.

Of course, there are notable exceptions in which the press, especially our local one (do you remember Libero's article on LARP? Thu!), cheerfully shot zero on RPGs. However, thankfully these miserable outings are now more the exception than the rule.

In fact, even the university world it is turning its gaze on us role-players, especially in the field of psychology. We have seen this recently with research conducted by Aurelio Castro and Erika Mineo. Erika Rosa Mineo is a Doctor of Applied Cognitive Psychology, while Aurelio Castro is a PhD student in Social Sciences.

Note that Aurelio, together with me, Roberto Lazzaroni and Claudia Pandolfi wrote the research on Role play and discrimination, of which we have spoken Thu and downloadable Thu.

Let's see better what it is, also interviewing the two researchers!

Research: Role play and attitudes in Italy

The research in question (fillable Thu!) is titled Role play and attitudes in Italy and was conceived by Aurelio Castro and Erika Mineo, affiliated to the University of Padua.

The questionnaire is addressed to both those who have never played a role, both a those who played role-playing games, as long as they fall within an age group ranging from 18 to 35 years. The study is based on responses to a online questionnaire, in which different types of questions are asked. Some of these questions are related to RPGs, the people with whom you play them and involvement in role playing. Other questions, however, relate to other aspects of the person's daily life, including his or her attitudes towards various political or cultural issues.

This research lasts about 20 minutes and, of course, all personal data collected in it will be anonymous and used only for research purposes. In addition, participating in the survey will be possible win a £ 25 Amazon voucher inserting, at the end of the questionnaire, an address.

Apparently, the range of research questions brings together topics that, according to some commentators, have very little to do with role-playing games. However, Aurelio and Erika are not naïve and they know what they are doing. To better understand their research and the reasons that led them to conduct it, we interviewed these two researchers for you!

What is the purpose of this research?


Without spoiling those who want to help us with the study, the research aims to explore two fundamental components of role playing:

a) Understanding the relationship of who plays with the role-playing game itself and identify with a character;

b) The to relate to other people who are playing or who might start playing.

In concrete terms, we are interested in understanding if and how the experience of role playing has an impact on these psychological processes. To do this we are trying to compare both those who play role-playing games, habitually or otherwise, and those who have never played a role-playing game.

In our opinion, the RPG has potential and through this correlational study we are exploring how some aspects related to role play are connected with various social variables generally investigated in psychology. Obviously those who participate, giving us a great help, will find the objectives in extended forms at the end of the questionnaire.

We are certainly aware, as sufficiently experienced roleplayers, that there are so many psychological processes at stake when playing a character at the table. For reasons of time and funds, we have not been able to develop a study to investigate the role-playing experience at 360 °, provided that it is possible.


We also want to remind you that our research is also open to people who have never played a role. Indeed, we want to investigate any differences between those who, through the RPG, get used to identifying with a character and those who do not use the RPG.

With this we do not want to give the absolutely wrong message that those who play are automatically "better" than non-players. Quite simply, perhaps the practice of role-playing and self-identification can contribute to personal identity and relationships with others. We will find out the "how".

This Geek & Sundry article cites research that roleplayers are more empathetic!
This article Geek & Sundry cites research that roleplayers are more empathetic!

Why can role play be of interest to academia?


We believe there may be a mutual interest between these two worlds, there have already been significant contributions on gaming experiences. Many people doing research have experienced and met the potential of role play as a tool for personal, educational and training development, relaxation, to form groups and also as a therapeutic tool for individual people and / or social groups.

We personally find ourselves at an intersection between these two worlds and try to contribute also doing research as role-playing people.


To give you some examples, the role-playing game can be one important tool also in education.

In fact, it helps to deal with important topics such assex education (Gilliam et al., 2016) or the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases. In a search it is done interpret an HIV test and the communication of seropositivity (Sechrist, 1997) to make people live this type of experience and reflect on the medical process.

In another study by Sileo and Gooden (2006) they widely use the idea ofinterpreting asking about safe sex with a partner who is opposed to using condoms. This role-playing situation helps develop communication and conflict resolution strategies beyond facilitating safe sex practices.

Other research (Enfield, 2006; Rosselet & Stauffer, 2013) shows how the RPG could be used to develop new social skills and as a tool for personal growth. The players, by interacting with others and with settings different from those of every day, have the possibility of ask yourself new questions and develop new perspectives on the world around them.

The RPG has all the potential, there are international researches to support these potentials abroad and they are increasing. We hope our exploratory investigation will be a good one starting point and a push for other research in Italy on the subject.

Did you happen to do any other academic research on the nerd world?


In the early months of 2017 I conducted one ethnographic research on groups and associations that share board and role playing games (defined as game sharing). That year and a half experience was relevant to enter the nerd world not only as a player, but as a full-fledged scholar.

The basic idea was of investigate how we talk about free time among nerds and what benefits it brings by sharing the passion, the spaces and, above all, the games with many people. In concrete terms, I was interested in understanding how a game network is created and what it means to play. Among the different things that came out I wanted to point out that playing is a valid form of leisure for people of all ages and not a childhood pastime. In short, a playful but serious activity.

Thanks to the people who supported me playing with me, as well as telling me their experiences, the research was enjoyed and these reflections will be published shortly on Anthropological Archives of the Mediterranean.

In this article, game designer Adam Dixon talks about the development of empathy in role-playing players
In this article, game designer Adam Dixon talks about developing empathy in role players

Why did some questions seem totally unrelated to the RPG and in reality what motivation do they have?


People who participated in the study were often amazed at the variety of questions asked in the research. We wanted to explore many themes in one go, except that it is very difficult if you propose a 20-25 minute questionnaire.

In research there is nothing worrying or wanting to make judgments (especially negative!) On role playing, because it is an activity with positive potential. We do not do research to judge what people think, but to understand the meanings of their actions and how they interact with society.

We believe that the RPG is connected to many psychological processes and social behaviors. So, we are ambitiously trying to explore as much as possible, and if they are related to role playing we will find out in the analyzes. To find out if two variables (e.g. number of RPG sessions played and personal tendency to reduce conflicts) are connected to each other we need to have different measurement scales filled in and see, through analyzes, how they interact. Maybe the more you play, the better your mediation skills in relationships.

Trying to understand what "happens" when you identify with your PC is not easy. For this reason we are exploring different game modes and what it means to "relate to other players".

What next steps will there be in this research?


We still know very little about the "psychological" world of the RPG and who plays role. Despite studies on role playing increase year after year, there is still much to do. It will be important to create different avenues of research and, in concrete terms, to find funds to do research on these issues. This concretely allows us to clarify if and how a social variable affects the RPG.

Thanks to international studies and national research, we know that role-playing game has gods positive effects on interpersonal relationships and on the personal growth of the player. We would like to focus on the educational aspects of role-playing, perhaps providing good research ideas for other psychologists and social scientists who want to get involved.

There is no shortage, occasionally, of studies on the negative effects of gaming in general that warn us from holding celebratory positions only. Surely the results of the study will guide us to understand what can be useful to the RPG community starting from our skills.

From basement sessions to university classrooms?
From basement sessions to university classrooms?

Some bibliographic sources

If you were curious about the studies that Aurelio and Erika mentioned, here is a short bibliography!

  • Enfield, G. (2007). Becoming the hero: The use of role-playing games in psychotherapy. Using superheroes in counseling and play therapy, 227-241.
  • Fein, E. (2015), Making meaningful worlds: role-playing subcultures and the autism spectrum, Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry, 39,2: 299-321.
  • Gilliam, M., Jagoda, P., Heathcock, S., Orzalli, S., Saper, C., Dudley, J., & Wilson, C. (2016). LifeChanger: A pilot study of a game-based curriculum for sexuality education. Journal of pediatric and adolescent gynecology, 29 (2), 148-153.
  • Rosselet, JG, & Stauffer, SD (2013). Using group role-playing games with gifted children and adolescents: A psychosocial intervention model. International Journal of Play Therapy, 22(4), 173.
  • Sechrist W. (1996), Personalizing HIV infection: Moving students closer to believing ... "this could actually happen to me!", Journal of HIV / AIDS Prevention & Education for Adolescents & Children, 1, 1: 105-107.
  • Sileo TW & Gooden MA (2006), HIV / AIDS prevention education: Considerations for American Indian / Alaska native youth, Journal of HIV / AIDS prevention in children & youth, 6, 2: 47-64.

Bringing role-playing to the academic world: let's make our contribution!

The fact that academia is interested in role-playing is an absolutely positive fact. In fact, it means that our favorite pastime is growing.

It is turning out that the group of little friends playing in the basement (by the way, you read the our review di Stranger Things?) is working on a positive pastime, which helps develop new skills. It is true that we live in a society in which it seems that the only pastimes allowed are those that, in some way, "produce" something. Thus, role-playing shouldn't be legitimized just because it turns out to be useful.

However, its social utility can be used in schools, in useful projects that involve students and literally put them on the line. Furthermore, it can reassure all parents who are worried that their children are wasting time or are “still playing with toy soldiers”.

So helping Aurelio and Erika in their search is very important for us players and role players. It is an opportunity to find out more about our hobby and to pave the way for its legitimacy outside the playful world.

Go to their questionnaire link and fill it out, whether you play role-playing or not!