Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool

Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games can be used as a teaching tool to promote storytelling and foster creativity and learning.

Every student has a different style of learning but an effective strategy to motivate all students is to focus on how students can create meaning in what they are learning. By incorporating the constructivist learning theory into the curriculum, educators can help students learn beyond the classroom experience and encourage creativity.

Storytelling is an important form of media that teaches critical thinking skills and helps people improve their communications skills. More importantly, it encourages students to be creative and gives them a chance to learn by doing something fun.

At the 2011 Gifted and Talented Symposium held in Austin, TX, Bonnie Cramond, a professor of Educational Psychology at the University of Georgia discussed how she used interactive fantasy games to teach mythology. Using a simplified version of Dungeons and Dragons (D&D), she gave her middle school students a chance to collaborate and learn material in a different way. She discovered that her students would read the myths (they weren’t assigned readings), thinking that they could gain an advantage in the game (Mewes, 2011).

There is a boarding school in Denmark that developed its curriculum around roleplaying. Østerskov Efterskole (Østerskov School) provides their students with an opportunity to learn and express their creativity. According to the school’s website, their goal is to use roleplaying as a teaching method for all academic subjects.

For many years, a friend of mine who is a high school science teacher organized an after school club to teach students how to play D&D and other roleplaying games. He believes that these games not alone provide students with educational benefits; they can change their lives. These games can be alternatives to less productive hobbies or activities, such as drugs, gangs, etc.

I know an individual who believes D&D saved his life and kept him out of prison. This individual once had a quick temper and would often let his anger dominate him. Instead of acting out his aggression, the game allowed him to focus his emotions on characters within the game. Creativity defines his identity. Ever since he was a child, he was a storyteller. He would make up fantastic stories about science and fantasy. His favorite part of these role-playing games is being able to create worlds, cities, and cultures.

There are other types of games that can be used to encourage storytelling and creativity. An example would be Rory’s Story Cubes, a game that uses dice to tell a story. With this game, nine six-sided dice are used and each side has a different image (54 different images) that can be used to inspire the storyteller.

Roleplaying and storytelling can be used to motivate students and encourage them to want to learn. Roleplaying games can teach students about vocabulary, math, public speaking, teamwork, and about dealing with loss and success. These games are effective because students engage in learning more when they are actively participating and it is important to work with their interests.

Roleplaying games also encourage students to work together and learn from one another. Together, they make these imaginary worlds come alive. It is often believed that only individuals can truly be considered creative. However, teamwork can be an important aspect of creativity. Berleson (1965) used a description about theatrical productions that seems rather appropriate to compare to. He explained that a group could not have created Shakespeare’s work, but it takes a team to perform them. In D&D, every person plays an important role. Without teamwork, these adventures do not happen.

“Without this playing with fantasy no creative work has ever yet come to birth. The debt we owe to the play of imagination is incalculable” (Jung,  [1921] 1971, p. 82).




Berelson, B. (1965). Creativity and the graduate school. In G. A. Steiner (Ed.), The Creative Organization (pp. 214-226). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Jung, C. ([1921] 1971). Psychological Types (Collected Works, Volume 6), Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.

Mewes, T. (2011, June 16). Foundation continues symposium support. Austin Daily Herald. Retrieved from





2 thoughts on “Interactive games and tabletop roleplaying games as a teaching tool

  1. There are some great ideas here. I’m a little overwhelmed by the thought of doing an entire school career in role-plays only–I’d be worried if those kids might lose touch with reality. But barring such extremes, role-playing certainly has a lot to offer. As I mentioned before, you gave me the idea that D&D-style tabletop games might be an ideal tool for social skills intervention with autistic kids. And guess what, there was a recent study that found boys with ADHD and Autism prefer video games over real-life social interaction, and many of them like–ta-dah–role playing games. What a great way to get them in touch with the social world–just bring their interests to the tabletop!

    • Thank you! I can understand your fear as there have been many cases of people being unable to escape from imaginary worlds and separate fantasy from reality. Yes, I recently saw a similar study and agree that roleplaying games are a great way to encourage and teach students social interaction skills, especially for kids with ADHD and Autism. That is one of the topics that I will be addressing in my research. There are other interactive games and storytelling techniques that are just as effective. Can you please send me the study that you found? Thanks!

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