Presenting at WSTRA Conference - Role-Playing Games as Therapeutic Intervention Modality from Therapeutic Recreation Perspective

by RPG Research Admin published 2015/03/09 02:40:00 GMT-7, last modified 2022-11-12T09:26:48-07:00
I will be presenting at the 16th Annual Washington State Therapeutic Recreation Association - WSTRA​ Conference, Saturday, April 11th.

I will be providing a 90 minute presentation with Q&A and audience participation at the 16th Annual Washington State Therapeutic Recreation Association - WSTRA Conference, Saturday, April 11th,

My Topic: "Therapeutic and educational uses of role-playing games (RPG) as intervention modalities for individuals and groups from the Therapeutic Recreation perspective."

This covers all forms of role-playing games, tabletop, live-action, computer-based, and choose-your-own-adventure.

This is my first TR-related presentation to the TR professionals.

Wish me luck!



Below is the text from my Presentation Proposal (that was accepted) outlining the topics that will be covered during the presentation:

WSTRA-Con XVI - Educational Session Proposal – WSTRA 2015 – W. A. Hawkes-Robinson

RPG and TR


Title of Session

Therapeutic and educational uses of role-playing games (RPG) as intervention modalities for individuals and groups from the Therapeutic Recreation perspective.


Session Description

This session will provide background and research information about the effects of role-playing gaming in all forms upon participants. It will address the many inculcated concepts in popular culture regarding role-playing games and gamers, and present the existing relevant research.

All formats of role-playing gaming will be discussed, including Choose Your Own Adventure (CYOA) books, offline and online computer-based role-playing games, live-action role-playing (LARP), and tabletop role-playing games. This will include the potential benefits, and deficits, from participating in these various recreational activities.

The session will initially provide examples of each game format in a typical recreation setting, then proceed with the existing research using RPG for various educational and therapeutic interventions from other disciplines (psychiatry, psychology, education, sociology, cognitive, behavioral, etc.), then illustrate how the application of TR methodologies are an excellent fit for these activities as an intervention modality for many populations in group and individual settings.


Speaker Qualifications

Currently a senior undergraduate student at Eastern Washington University, interdisciplinary degree including Recreation Therapy, Music Therapy, Neuroscience, and Research Psychology.

2014 to current – Washington State Recreational Therapist Registration, September 2014.

2014 to February 2015 – Volunteer at Saint Luke's Rehabilitation Institute (Traumatic Brain Injury and Spinal Cord Injury departments), Spokane, Washington.

2013 to current – WSTRA Student Member.

2013 to current – ATRA Student Member.

2004 to current – Founder of RPG Research,

1979 to current – Role-playing gamer, game master (GM) and role-playing game developer.

1986 to 1988, 2005 to 2014 – Role-playing gaming and related literature convention organizer.

1979 to 2011 – Software development, systems engineering, Information Technology, information security, computer science, technology executive (Chief Technology Officer and Chief Information Officer), and consultant including Fortune 500 companies.

2003 – Sans Institute Global Information Assurance Certified Incident Handler (GIAC GCIH).

1999 to 2000 – MCP+I & MCSE (Microsoft), CNA (Novell), SCSAp1 (Sun Microsystems).

1996 to 1998 – Associates in Computer Science, CCI.

1990 to 1991 – Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), Doxie-Hatch Medical Center, Salt Lake City, Utah.

1990 – Habilitation Therapist, Hillcrest Care Center, Sandy, Utah.


To focus on raising his three sons as a single parent, was fortunate enough to be able to retire from a successful career in computer science, information technology, and information security (SANS GIAC GCIH) as a technology executive (CIO, CTO, CEO), and a technology consultant for diverse companies in many industries from small organizations to large Fortune 500 international companies.

After completing the EWU undergraduate degree and requisite hours, planning to sit for the NCTRC, then work on an interdisciplinary graduate degree, and ongoing therapeutic and research projects.

Currently investigating the therapeutic and educational uses of role-playing games in all formats as an intervention modality for various populations from a therapeutic recreation approach. Have created program plans for Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) toddlers, youth, and adults, and proposed program plans for Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) clients, to assist in improving the neuroplasticity-related recovery process, beginning as early as Ranchos Los Amigos Stage II.

Have volunteered for local Deaf community organizations in Spokane, as well as other populations including ASD, ADD/ADHD, Parkinson’s, Cerebral Palsy, Down Syndrome, stroke, and other populations, also volunteered as youth activities organizer and camp counselor for Campfire USA Camp Dart-lo and Boy Scouts of America.

Involved with role-playing gaming since 1979, initially as a paper and dice tabletop role-playing game player, and later including computer-based and live-action RPG. Hosted a number of gaming conventions since 1986.

First began research on the psychological and sociological effects of role-playing gaming in 1985.

Founder of the annual Tolkien and role-playing gaming conventions in Spokane, WA, known as MerpCon and Tolkien Moot from 2005 through 2014.

Founder of the Tolkien-based role-playing gaming online periodical Other Minds Magazine, and founder of the official Spokane chapter (“Smial”) of the United Kingdom Tolkien Society.

Writer of RPG adventures, and creator of various game system offerings, modifying existing systems, and creating new systems from scratch. Published and self-published essays on the history and research of Role Playing Gaming, the works of J.R.R. Tolkien (strong connection to RPG), and Information Security (in this case relevant to computer-based RPG topics) include:

  • Microsoft PPTP VPN Vulnerabilities Exploits in Action. Sans Institute, 2003.i

  • Overview History And Therapeutic Value Of Role-Playing Gaming, RPG Research, 2004.ii

  • Potential Benefits and Deficits of Role-playing Gaming, RPG Research, 2007.iii

  • Role-playing Gaming for the Deaf Using American Sign Language, RPG Research, 2007.

  • The Battle Over Role-Playing Gaming, Other Minds Magazine Issue #1, 2007. iv

  • Role-playing Games Used as Educational and Therapeutic Tools for Youth and Adults, RPG Research, 2008.v

  • J.R.R. Tolkien's Love of Trees & The Environment, Other Minds Magazine, Issue #2,

  • Tolkien's Impact on Beowulf, Other Minds Magazine Issue #5, 2009.vii

  • Analysis on the Study of Personalities and Alienation of Dungeons and Dragons Game Players, RPG Research, 2011.viii

  • Gender bias in the Gaming Community and Industry, surveys performed in 2013, abstract accepted by WyrdCon Companion Book in 2014, potential publication pending 2015.ix


More detailed information at


Instructional Methods

Lecture, audience discussion participation, followed by Q&A discussion. Initial lecture with PowerPoint presentation and array of example RPG-related materials (dice, miniatures, maps, modules, books, etc.), interactive discussions and examples with audience participants, short interactive quiz (electronic and/or paper and pencil), followed by open audience Q&A.


Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of this session, participant will:

  • Identify and explain existing research indicating the benefits and risks of diversionary use of RPG in all major formats.

  • Identify and explain examples of specific areas that non-adapted RPG can directly achieve TR-related client outcomes.

  • Identify specific populations that can benefit from a TR-based RPG intervention program.

  • Identify and illustrate examples of specific areas that applying TR methodologies to adapted RPG can achieve specific client outcomes.

  • Specify areas still needing further research for future use of TR-based RPG.


Session Outline

Total 90 minutes session.

Segment (Minutes) - Description

1. (5) – Introduction.

2. (5) – Brief history of RPG.

3. (5) – Overview and explanation of key components of a role-playing game, and the differences in formats (tabletop, computer-based, LARP).

4. (5) - The myths about RPG.

5. (5) - Dispelling the inculcated myths with science.

6. (5) - Early correlative research regarding role-playing gamers, including published research from other disciplines using role-playing games for educational and therapeutic purposes. Some of the older research indicating strong correlations, but leaves questions of causality. Includes statistically significant aspects of regular role-playing gamers.

7. (5) - Findings of earlier research studies from other disciplines using RPG as intervention modality. Existing correlative and causal research.

8. (5) - Some current non-TR educational programs currently in place using RPG around the world.

9. (5) - Some current non-TR therapeutic programs currently in place using RPG around the world.

10. (10) – While none of the above approaches are currently using TR methodologies, this segment presents reason why TR seems an excellent match for adapted RPG for various interventions. This segment illustrates potential TR approaches to using adaptive RPG for specific clients, both individuals and/or groups.

11. (5) - “Show & Tell” examples of specific RPG-related materials

  • Dice and other randomizing items

  • Miniatures and related painting and assembly tools

  • Battlemats and terrain

  • Costumes for LARP

  • Wheelchair adaptations for LARP

  • Other related examples of RPG-related materials.

12. (10) - Examples of actual and proposed uses of RPG in a variety of TR settings.

  • Autism spectrum toddlers

  • Autism spectrum youth and adults

  • Traumatic Brain Injury - RPG program plan overviews for TBI neuro-plasticity recovery process.

  • At-risk teens cooperative social skills problem solving development

  • PTSD

14. (5) – Interactive quiz (electronic and/or paper & pencil).

15. (15) - Summary and audience question and answer.


NCTRC Job Analysis Areas

Foundational Knowledge (FKW)


Speaker Information

Name: W. A. Hawkes-Robinson (“Hawke” Robinson)


Title: Interdisciplinary TR student at Eastern Washington University, Founder of RPG Research, RPG Therapeutics LLC.


Agency: RPG Research, RPG Therapeutics LLC.

Mailing Address: 1312 N. Monroe, Suite #114

City, State & Zip: Spokane, WA, 99201

Daytime Phone (509) 252-0800 (voicemail)

Skill Level: Student

Resource/Reference List:



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