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About The RPG Research Project

by admin last modified Sep 29, 2015 04:02 PM
Starting initially in 1985, and resumed since 2004, The RPG (Role-Playing Game) Research Project was founded by Hawke Robinson (W.A. Hawkes-Robinson) as an ongoing long-term series of projects that include studies on the therapeutic and educational aspects of role-playing games. Where viable, additional emphasis is placed on determining any causality related to participation in all forms of role-playing gaming: tabletop, choose your own adventure, computer-based, or live-action (LARP). This research includes tracking any other projects around the world that use role-playing games as an intervention modality to achieve educational or therapeutic goals. -- This site is undergoing a complete overhaul. Please check back in 24-72 hours. Thank you for your patience. --

Utilizing a multidisciplinary approach, including disciplines from recreation therapy, psychology, cognitive neuroscience, education, and many other perspectives. RPG Research is a project of RPG Therapeutics LLC founded, and is the umbrella name under which the projects, website, communities, and other resources are identified. To date, this is a non-profit project founded (and funded) by William Hawkes-Robinson, with the helpful support of many others. This website is dedicated to supporting role-playing game research in general, and any other individuals or organizations interested in sharing research information about the therapeutic or educational aspects of role playing gaming.


1) To clearly establish, through rigorous scientific testing, the therapeutic and educational effects of all forms of role-playing gaming (tabletop, live-action, & computer-based) on participants. In addition to determining the potential relevance of correlated factors, significant emphasis is focused contributing to the body of causal research information.

2) Based on established research, using relevant evidence-based and theory-based approaches, design, develop, and implement intervention programs using various forms of role-playing games as a therapeutic and/or educational modality through services provided by RPG Therapeutics LLC (

Currently this site is mostly working as a portal/aggregation/repository of information related to these topics.

Please read the important DISCLAIMERS page.


To date approximately 80 studies have been published related to participation in role playing games and their effects on participants. Most of these studies have relied solely on meta-research, correlative data, individual case studies, or very small sample groups, and do not clearly prove causality.

Most of the existing meta and correlative data currently accumulated appears to strongly indicate many possible therapeutic and educational benefits for participants, but this has not yet been clearly delineated through rigorous scientific experimental research, observation, clear metrics, controlled groups, large samples, and longitudinal tracking.

Role-playing gaming overlaps with a number of other domain benefits, specifically recreation, education, therapeutic, and socialization, as illustrated in the Venn diagram below.


RPG Venn Diagram 20111209a 



It is hoped through the efforts of RPG Research that it will be possible to clearly define the specific causal therapeutic and educational aspects of participation in role playing gaming with the eventual possibility of developing effective educational and therapeutic modalities using role playing
games. The therapeutic disciplines would likely map well to cognitive-behavioral, social, and therapeutic recreation methodologies. This would be a natural development combining some of the aspects of well-established role-playing therapy and game/recreation therapy together becoming role-playing game therapy.

 Role play therapy recreation therapy rpg therapy venn diagram 20111209b



The RPG Research Project is currently a self-funded, non-commercial brainchild of project founder Hawke Robinson. Though Hawke is currently the only full time researcher engaged in the project, he is networking, interacting, and acquiring information and resources from various psychologists, university professors, and other professionals in the development of this research project.

There are many sub-projects contained in the overall RPG Project, from demographics gathering and case studies, to small shorter term research projects, building towards a larger body of data planned over the years of research efforts
The overall project is dedicated to ascertaining by means of the use of various scientific methods the therapeutic and educational aspects of role playing gaming. Approaches include cognitive, behavioral, biological, neurological, humanistic, sociological, and other relevant perspectives. Based on the analysis of the data gathered, potential therapeutic and educational modalities may become apparent. Therapeutic  recreation techniques in conjunction with role playing gaming activities may be applicable in meeting client needs either as a standalone tool or to work in conjunction with other treatment modalities for various population groups.

The project is currently self-funded by the project founder. As the research progresses it is hoped that other private, but non-conflicting, funding will become available to continue increasing the personnel, facilities, and other  resources necessary to improve the breadth and depth of the research.


The first stages of this project began in 1985, with an active revival in 2004 through interaction with various universities and organizations.

The project has been advancing each year since. The project founder, Hawke Robinson, first began formally researching the educational and social impacts of role playing games in 1985 in response to the barrage of negative press and public misinformation about role playing games popular in the 1980's, especially Dungeons & Dragons. Further development in consideration of broader psychosocial impacts from role playing games resumed with a series of essays written for the Therapeutic Recreation and other departments at Eastern Washington University beginning in 2004, followed by a number of successive documents and publications continuing to develop more detailed hypotheses, theses and series of research projects.

There are scores of existing RPG-related research projects, but most have been just meta research or correlative data or a few individual case studies, with very narrow data-sets, very small in scale, and/or only over a very short time line.


(varies between tabletop, LARP, & computer-based)


  • Cooperation with diverse people/cultures/backgrounds
  • Leadership
  • Walking in others shoes/experiences
  • Exposure to other cultures, religions, histories, belief systems, etc.
  • Languages/Linguistics
  • Multicultural mythologies
  • Learning/following the rules but also “thinking outside of the box when needed”


  • Mathematics
  • Statistics
  • Researching
  • Problem solving (e.g. puzzles, riddles, mazes, etc.)
  • Reading/writing (technical)
  • History
  • Geography
  • Cartography
  • Geology
  • Economics
  • Government systems
  • Politics
  • Ecology
  • Metallurgy
  • Meteorology
  • Astronomy
  • Physics
  • Demographics
  • Warfare tactics and strategies
  • Technologies past and present
  • Architecture



  • Theatrics/acting
  • Improvisation
  • Reading/writing (creative)
  • Artwork (drawing, painting lead figures, etc.)
  • Music
  • Poetry



  • Eye-hand coordination
  • General coordination (LARP)
  • Fine motor skills
  • Gross motor skills (LARP)


Other Effects

  • Expanding interpersonal trust
  • Accessing playfulness
  • Experiencing spontaneity
  • Opening to creativity
  • Broadening sensory, emotive, and movement, expressiveness (even more so with LARP)
  • Co-creating new realities with others



Over many years, the long term intention of RPG Research is to implement a series of studies using many different population groups meeting the following goals:

  1. Attempt to verify or invalidate existing correlative and meta-research results. Much of the existing research is dated from the 1980's and 1990's. Attempt to bring the research up to date, and verify if there are any statistically significant differences found between role-playing gamers and the general populace, at difference age and other demographic levels. Topics to check/verify: levels of depression, social alienation, IQ, personality types, incidents of occultism, belief in paranormal, emotional stability, dissociation, suggestibility, incidents of substance abuse/addiction, suicide rates, antisocial personality traits, problem solving skills, math skills, verbal skills, writing skills, research skills, history skills, spacial relations, organizational skills, team coordination skills, leadership skills, strength of ethics, morality, convictions, religious  belief, feelings of social alienation or stigma, criminal behavior/history, propensity for violent thoughts or behaviors, adaptive versus rigid/maladaptive personality traits, aggressive/competitive versus cooperative, racial and gender stereotype attitudes, foreign language adoption levels, levels of empathy, deviancy, pathology, levels of mental illness and/or co-morbidity, and demographics statistics.

  2. Attempt to differentiate between correlative and causal data related to role-playing gamers. When possible, use blind, double blind, and triple blind study methodologies.

  3. Determine if the correlative tests indicating significant differences in role-playing gamers from the general populace, are a causal result of their participation in role-playing games? Or is it because they already had significant differences, and were attracted to role-playing games because of these differences? For example, are role-playing gamers better problem solvers because of engaging in the activity or role-playing gaming which helped them develop new or better problem solving skills? Or are are they drawn to the activity because they are already inherently adept problem solvers, and enjoy applying their aptitude to such an environment as role-playing games provide.

  4. Determine if there are any correlative demographic idiosyncrasies in variables found between intensely dedicated role-playing gamers, more casual but experienced role playing gamers, and the general population. For example, are there any noticeable differences in employment rates, income, household ownership, marriage status, children, ethnicity, religion, etc.

  5. Determine if there are any repeatable causal influences on those who participate regularly in role playing gaming recreational activities. Many possible variables could be evaluated, such as problem solving, mood, social skills, etc.

  6. If there are indicators that role-playing games have a causal impact on participants, attempt to determine if there are any differentiations in impact on test subjects between "heroic" and "evil" game campaign settings.

  7. Determine if any differentiation exists between participants of different role playing gaming forms such as classic paper and dice tabletop RPGs, compared to live action role playing games (LARP), or computer-based role playing games.

  8. Perform bio-feedback and neuro-feedback analysis on role-playing gamers before, during, and after gaming sessions to determine if any measurable effects are observable by these media.

  9. Apply neuro-imaging analysis between long-time gamers and non-gamers for comparison and any correlative differences.
  10. Apply neuro-imaging on participants before, during, and after participation in role-playing games using FMRI (Functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging) and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) to determine the measurable activity and/or if there are any longer term physiological changes of the brain.
  11. If data indicates potential causality, attempt to narrow and clarify the variables, looking for any differentiations in results.
  12. Determine optimal duration of game sessions for maximal benefit. Variables would include determining the ideal duration of each session, how frequently to repeat the sessions, and how many sessions are sufficient for long term impacts.
  13. Determine if any differences are indicated from participation in shorter single sessions versus longer "campaigns" over different durations.

  14. Determine if different game systems such as Dungeons & Dragons versus Lord of the Rings role-playing gaming, have any measurable differences in effect on the participants.

  15. Determine if different role-playing game genres have any measurable differences. Examples include comparing fantasy-based role-playing games to horror, science fiction, cowboy westerns, anime and comic book characters, historical or religious settings, etc.

  16. Within a specific genre, determine if different campaign settings have any measurable differences in specific therapeutic or educational influences on participants.
  17. Determine differences between various populations and cultures in response to participating in role-playing games. For example the claimed significant gender differential in participation with tabletop role-playing games, or any differences in the Deaf community, or differences from other countries and cultures, etc.

  18. Determine ideal environment settings for sessions. Variables would include temperature, seating arrangements, lighting, olfactory stimulus, auditory stimulus, and other related variables.

  19. Determine if there are any repeatable "positive" or "negative" statistically significant characteristics that can clearly be defined, and might be most useful as a therapeutic treatment or educational tool, either separately or in conjunction with other modalities.

  20. Experiment with creating “adventure modules” specifically designed to address targeted population needs such as socialization issues between different groups in the Deaf Community, people suffering from unipolar depression, bipolar, PTSD, Autism, Aspergher's, ADD/ADHD, Alzheimer's, traumatic brain injury recovery, schizophrenia, and other social, therapeutic, or educational needs. An example includes attempting to deliver measurable benefits over a typical 6-8 week course, comparable to some other treatment modalities.

  21. If indicated, define the requirements for a Game Master Therapist (GMT) or Game Master Instructor (GMI) in applying a role-playing game therapeutic or educational module.

  22. As research progresses, continue to adjust various hypotheses according to the data gathered, and update research goals accordingly.

  23. Establish industry standard practices and create Role-playing Gaming Therapy Handbook of Practice.


rpg therapy standards of practice handbook



As the body of knowledge grows, indicators may be found suggesting the development of a distinct treatment modality, potentially "role-playing game therapy",  may develop as an effective tool for the treatment of many population groups with varied needs. Potential issues that may be treated by role-playing game therapy could include clients diagnosed with PTSD, uni-polar depression, bi-polar, autism-spectrum disorders, and many others.

The potential for RPG therapy to develop as a distinct treatment modality is a reasonable possibility considering the strong partial overlap with many existing treatment domains, while still having unique characteristics that could potentially offer solutions the other domains may not have been as effective with. These domains include:

  • Cognitive therapy
  • Behavioral therapy
  • Recreation therapy
  • Game therapy
  • Role-play therapy
  • Drama therapy
  • Gestalt therapy
  • Humanistic therapy

rpg therapy domains



This project involves participation from individuals and organizations from around the world. The RPG Research website is intended to be a central repository where scientists, therapists, researchers and other professionals as well as media and laymen will be able to find all the information they need on this expansive topic.


If you are interested in participating in the RPG Research Project, you may fill out the online registration form.

Or you may download this PDF form, print it, fill it out, affix a postage stamp, and postal mail it to:
RPG Research Project
c/o RPG Therapeutics LLC
1312 North Monroe Suite #114
Spokane, WA, 99201

You may also contact us for information via email by using this contact page:

Or you may call by phone (USA): (509) 252-0800



 RPG Research Trailer MockupExternalView20150611c     

I already regularly run (for free) non-modified role-playing games that include players with Autism Spectrum, Cerebral Palsy, and at-risk youth in the Spokane area. I would like to be able to provide these games to a much broader geographic area, including rural areas, and groups that do not have their own facilities. The Role-playing Gaming trailer will make it possible to provide these sessions to many more people over a much wider area and populace.

Please help spread the word: - I am running group and one-on-one non-adapted role-playing games, and also design adapted role-playing games using recreation therapy methodologies, for various special-needs populations, all without charge to participants. For years I have been doing so throughout the greater Spokane & Cheney, Eastern Washington areas.

I am trying to further the reach of these efforts to special-needs populations beyond just this limited geographic area, including to rural areas and groups that do not have sufficient (or any) facilities or resources to experience the many benefits of participation in tabletop, live-action (LARP), or computer-based role-playing games.

I have been volunteering extensively for many years. I am registered with the Washington State Department of Health as a Recreation Therapist. I am also currently a student at Eastern Washington University (EWU) working on a degree in recreation therapy, music therapy, neuroscience, & research psychology, and planning to sit for the NCTRC CTRS (Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist) exam. I am a member of WSTRA & ATRA. The populations I have been working with include (but are not limited to): Autism spectrum (ASD) youth & adults, ASD toddlers at Eastern Washington University, ADD/ADHD, Cerebral Palsy (CP), brain injury (stroke, TBI, etc.) & Spinal Cord Injury (SCI) patients at Saint Luke's Rehabilitation, at-risk youth, the Eastern Washington Center for Deaf & Hard of Hearing (EWCDHH), the Deaf community in general, Parkinson's patients at Rockwood Clinic, Boy Scouts of America day camps, Campfire USA's Camp Dart-lo, HIV/AIDS patients at Doxie Hatch long-term care facility (Utah), developmentally delayed & intellectually disabled patients at Hillcrest Care Center (Utah), senior citizens at assisted living and long-term care facilities in Eastern Washington, Northern Idaho, Northern Utah, and others.

More about Hawke Robinson:

There are already many individuals and groups throughout Eastern Washington & Idaho, as well as Seattle, Tacoma, and other states, that have indicated they are just waiting for me to be able to provide these sessions as soon as I can find the means to do so. After significant research it is clear that the best way for this to be accomplished is by building a wheelchair friendly trailer as a mobile office gaming facility. This "RPG Trailer" will make it much easier to provide role-playing games to a much broader geographic area and to under-served locations and populations.

There is now have a fundraiser underway to help achieve this goal.

The funding goal is for the down payment and transportation costs of a portable office (trailer) that is fully wheelchair-accessible for participants. This trailer would completely replace the need for the expensive offices in different cities/towns as gaming rooms, or the various insufficient facilities (many gaming stores, schools, churches, community centers, etc.) that are inadequate/sweltering/uncomfortable/noisy and/or not wheelchair friendly, and make affordable for me to provide sessions in rural areas that are completely lacking any facilities. After the down payment, the monthly cost of the trailer is less than my monthly office costs.

Many years of research provides significant indicators that participation in role-playing games can inherently provide many benefits to participants, and can also be a very powerful tool to help with the development and rehabilitation of many individuals and groups from a wide variety of populations.

It has also become increasingly clear that role-playing games are an excellent modality for intervention using therapeutic recreation / recreational therapy methodologies to meet the needs of specific clients' development and rehabilitation goals.

For more information about the potential benefits of participation in RPG, you can view my 90 minute presentation video at Seattle Children's hospital from April 2015 for the Washington State Therapeutic Recreation Association from April 2015, with a comprehensive overview of role-playing games, and more information about how role-playing games can be very beneficial to participants.

Here is a video presentation (rough video) at WorldCon 73, from August 2015:

Here is video presentation (rough but with subtitles) at ZoeCon II in Seattle, November 2014:

Here is additional information on the concept (including simulated photos):
* The RPG Research Trailer -
* The Two Bards Podcast Mention The RPG Research Trailer -
* Early vision of the trailer -
* Additional Trailer information -

If people could please help spread the word (and consider donating even a just a few dollars), it would be very much appreciated and really help toward making the RPG Trailer a reality that will benefit many people in under-served populations & locations. Thank you so very much for taking the time to read this, helping spread the word, and donating!

Here is a link to some examples of my Recreation Therapy adapted RPGs to help Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) toddlers, youth, & adults, at-risk youth.
The RPG Trailer will make it much easier to provide role-playing games to a much broader geographic area and to under-served locations and populations. It will include a fully ADA compliant, wheelchair friendly bathroom (toilet, sink, & shower), an easy-access rear entrance ramp, an option for a lower ride-height to reduce the steepness of the angle of the ramp, flaps on each end of the ramp to smooth out rolling over it, easily removable table and flip-up couches (that can also double as flip-down beds),

This includes all forms of role-playing games: (tabletop, live-action (LARP), and computer-based)

For tabletop, the trailer will accommodate up to 6 participants in wheelchairs at a time, or up to 10 non-wheelchair players.

For LARPing, in addition to being able to haul a lot more LARP-related materials (they can quickly take up a lot of space), additional features can be added such as exterior lighting (for night sessions), exterior shower (cool off on the hot days), external awning to add extra space for setting up gear in the shade, and of course a toilet, shower, sink, fridge, etc. so that those lengthy LARP sessions at remote locations can still have "facilities" better than those nasty "honeybuckets" port-a-potties at some places.

For computer-based RPG, I have 4+ consoles (Wii, PS/2, etc), and several PCs that can allow for various targeted goals of guided video gaming for specific needs (TBI for example).
The funding goal is for the down payment and transportation costs of a portable office (trailer) that is fully wheelchair-accessible for participants. This trailer would completely replace the need for the office gaming rooms. After the down payment, the monthly cost of the trailer is less than my monthly office costs.

You can see photos of a mock-up of the proposed trailer design (rough approximation), and explanations about the features for wheelchair access and other requirements here:

I have RPG program plans designed, waiting to be implemented, for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) patients, and am also in the early stages working with others on developing program plans for people diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).  Some of these programs are on hold until the trailer is available.

I am registered in Washington State as a Recreation Therapist (though not yet a CTRS) with the Washington State Department of Health (Credential RE#  60526204 ), have acquired my Mental Health First Aid certification, and have established RPG Therapeutics as a Washington state LLC.

My Name is Hawke Robinson. I reside in Spokane, Washington. I am a student nearing completion of an  interdisciplinary undergraduate degree in Recreation Therapy, Music Therapy, Neuroscience, & Research Psychology at Eastern Washington University (EWU). I am a single parent of three teenage boys.

The total for this fund drive covers the down payment on the trailer. It also takes into account the 5% for gofundme's site charges, the additional fees for each donation, as well as gas to drive down and pick up and return with the trailer. The total cost of the portable office trailer is $25k for the stripped model that is still wheelchair friendly, and up to $40K for the features such as air conditioning, generator, stabilizers, etc. I can easily afford the monthly payments, it is just the initial down payment costs that are a challenge.

Once I have the down payment, it will take them 6 to 12 weeks to build the trailer (in Mesa, Arizona). The more money I can raise for this program, the more people I can continue to provide free RPG sessions to across a broader area.

Many thanks to everyone for their support and kindness!

-W.A. "Hawke" Robinson

trailer table combined 20150731c cropped for brochure


Donor Rewards

The following donor levels are to provide a rough guideline of ways to thank those that donate if we succeed in funding this effort and making The RPG Research Trailer a reality


Heartfelt thanks to you for your support, and a public thank you for your donation on the page.


Heartfelt thank you on the page and on the RPG Research Project's feed.


Public thank you as previous levels, plus a listing on the RPG Research Project website's List of Donors to say thank you for your generous help in turning this vision into reality.


Public thank you as previous levels, plus a public thank you on the RPG Research Blog at, and the RPG Research Facebook and other social network accounts (Google+, Tumblr, etc.).


As previous levels, plus  AND a verbal thank you from Hawke Robinson, founder of The RPG Research Project, in the next RPG Research Project status update video (roughly monthly) on the RPG Research Youtube Channel


As previous levels AND your name mentioned in a dedicated thank you video on the RPG Research Youtube Channel, AND if fully funded added to the "Thank You" Donor Placard that will be in clear view on the inside of the trailer.


If fully funded, all donations of $500 USD or more includes all of the options from the lower donor levels, PLUS your name listed on the outside of the trailer (with your permission) saying Thank you, (with other donor names of this donor size if applicable on a single 24x36  sign or painted on one side of the trailer directly) near the RPG Research Logo on one side of the trailer.


If fully funded, all donations of $1,000 USD or more includes all of the options from the previous donor levels, plus your name listed with a "Thank you", on all three sides of the trailer, AND if you are within 500 miles of Spokane, Washington, or anywhere within 500 miles of the route between Spokane and Mesa, Arizona (where the trailer is built), after I pick up the trailer, if scheduling permits, I can swing by on the way back to Spokane to show you the trailer that you helped make a reality, for a visit of up to two hours (if you wish).


If fully funded, all donations of $2,000 USD or more includes all of the options from the lower donor levels, PLUS (if you wish) if able to visit you within that 500 mile radius from the trailer pick up route,  I will personally run a tabletop role-playing game session for you and your friends (up to 6 players total) for up to 6 hours, as a huge thank you for making this a reality. If you are outside of the 500 mile reach of the route, if all funding costs are met and you wish to donate additional funds to cover the additional travel costs to your location, I would be happy for the opportunity to come to you, calculating roughly 10 miles per gallon for gasoline (roughly $3.50/gallon currently) for the distance round trip.

Any additional funds beyond the down payment and travel costs gial will be applied entirely toward paying down the principle on the loan balance for the rest of the cost of the trailer (up to $40,000 USD).




We are still moving content from the old servers to this new one, so some articles may be temporarily missing, and some links may not be working. If there is specific content, articles, or links you looking for, please contact Hawke to request those specific items be expedited: (cell/text: (509) 481-5437, rpgresearcher at gmail dot com ).

Content from the old server is still available here:












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