The Use of Role–Playing in Learning

The Use of Role–Playing in Learning

Marco Greco (University of Rome “Tor Vergata”, Italy)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-360-9.ch010
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The use of Role-Playing is becoming prominent in Serious Games due to its positive effects on learning. In this chapter the author will provide a comprehensive definition of role-playing games, drawing inspiration from the many different definitions provided in the existing literature. Then, will propose a five-dimension taxonomy for Serious Role Playing Games, applying it to a small selection of successful Serious Games in five different domains. An overview of the literature will help the reader understand when Role-Playing should be used, and when it might be useless or detrimental. Finally, a brief analysis will be performed on the reviewed games, in order to point out the correlations among the taxonomy dimensions and the domains of application.
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Definitions Of Role Playing Games

In a role–play, the participants play a “role” in a specific situation or scenario. They can play their own part or someone else’s in a safe environment where they can act, experiment, learn and teach with no risks of irreversible consequences (Ladousse, 1987). Since people won’t fear the personal consequences of their behaviour, they are less cautious, inhibited and risk averse. Such emotional states might encourage them to learn. Some scholars (Bolter & Grusin, 1999; King & Krzywinska, 2002, as cited in Apperley, 2006) state that RPGs simply re-mediate the writer Tolkien, assuming that they need to be considered closely tied to the literary genre of fantasy. Apperley (2006) considers their description an “oversight” (p. 17). He reckons the pencil-and-paper RPGs are the precursors of the genre, of which the most widely known is Dungeons & Dragons©. He is led to this conclusion because pencil-and-paper RPGs differ from fantasy literature in that they include a set of rules for interaction between players and the fantasy environment. Anyway, the origin of RPGs can be also found in Moreno’s “Psychodrama” (1946): a technique designed for the treatment of disturbed patients and used in the group therapy setting.

Greco (2007) suggests that, in spite of official formalization, role–play had already existed long before, in the genuine form of children’s games, where most of the times everyone plays a role (e.g. say a girl playing with a doll, pretending to be her mother). A similar concept had been expressed in (Graham & Gray, 1969, p. 18): “In one sense all gaming involves role playing since the individual participants are asked to assume the situation assigned”.

Since many different definitions have been proposed in the last forty years for “Role Playing”, I will cite those three which contribute best to provide a wide comprehension of the genre.

Aronson & Carlsmith (1968, p. 26) described “Role Playing Study” as “an as-if experiment in which the subject is asked to behave as if he [or she] were a particular person in a particular situation”. This definition clearly doesn’t consider the amusement, which is a formidable motivational lever: it is an interesting snapshot of the didactic approach in that historic period.

Recently, Tychsen et al. provided a clear definition of Role Playing Game, which is reported below:

Complete Chapter List

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Table of Contents
Kurt Squire
Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Liz Boyle
Chapter 1
Stephen Tang, Martin Hanneghan, Abdennour El Rhalibi
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Introduction to Games-Based Learning
Chapter 2
Nicola Whitton
This chapter examines the rationale for the use of computer games in learning, teaching, and assessment in Higher Education. It considers their... Sample PDF
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Chapter 3
Daniel Livingstone, Jeremy Kemp, Edmund Edgar, Chris Surridge, Peter Bloomfield
Alongside the growth of interest in Games-Based Learning, there has been a notable explosion of interest in the use of 3D graphical multi-user... Sample PDF
Multi-User Virtual Environments for Learning Meet Learning Management
Chapter 4
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Observation as a Requisite for Game-Based Learning Environments
Chapter 5
Marco A. Gómez-Martín, Pedro P. Gómez-Martín, Pedro A. González-Calero
A key challenge to move forward the state of the art in games-based learning systems is to facilitate instructional content creation by the domain... Sample PDF
Content Integration in Games-Based Learning Systems
Chapter 6
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Drawing Circles in the Sand: Integrating Content into Serious Games
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This chapter proposes a document-oriented instructional design model to inform the development of serious games. The model has key features in that... Sample PDF
The DODDEL Model: A Flexible Document-Oriented Model for the Design of Serious Games
Chapter 8
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Games-Based Learning, Destination Feedback and Adaptation: A Case Study of an Educational Planning Simulation
Chapter 9
Patrick Felicia, Ian Pitt
For a long time, users’ emotions and behaviours have been considered to obstruct rather than to help the cognitive process. Educational systems have... Sample PDF
Profiling Users in Educational Games
Chapter 10
Marco Greco
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The Use of Role–Playing in Learning
Chapter 11
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Telling Stories with Digital Board Games: Narrative Game Worlds in Literacies Learning
Chapter 12
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The Path between Pedagogy and Technology: Establishing a Theoretical Basis for the Development of Educational Game Environments
Chapter 13
Sara de Freitas, Steve Jarvis
This chapter reviews some of the key research supporting the use of serious games for training in work contexts. The review indicates why serious... Sample PDF
Towards a Development Approach to Serious Games
Chapter 14
Pieter Wouters, Erik D. van der Spek, Herre van Oostendorp
Despite scant empirical substantiation, serious games are in widespread use. The authors review 28 studies with empirical data from a learning... Sample PDF
Current Practices in Serious Game Research: A Review from a Learning Outcomes Perspective
Chapter 15
Thomas Connolly, Mark Stansfield, Thomas Hainey
The field of games-based learning (GBL) has a dearth of empirical evidence supporting the validity of the approach (Connolly, Stansfield, & Hainey... Sample PDF
Towards the Development of a Games-Based Learning Evaluation Framework
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Games for Learning: Does Gender Make a Difference?
Chapter 18
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Digital Games-Based Learning for Students with Intellectual Disability
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