The Champion of Social Skills with the Smile for Miles!
Mister Meeple is the shining paragon of the gaming world. With cape flowing he believes everyone is equal, treating everyone with fairness, justice and equality. Using super social skills, Mister Meeple wishes to make the world a better place. His super-hearing helps him listen to others, seeking to understand and empathize with them. His voice speaks with truth and compassion, recognizing the power of words. He is vigilant and pays attention to the world around him, creating a sense of community everywhere he goes. Mister Meeple is a role model of how we treat each other, both in the game and in life.
Gaming is a social activity. Whether it is a role playing game party of five, four friends sitting around a board game, or two people engaged in a card game, the tabletop hobby is first and foremost a way to engage with others. We learn to interact with others through playing the game itself. Something as simple as learning the rules together gives people a chance to talk and negotiate, learning more about the players. A lot of our culture is about sharing and creating stories. Going through an adventure at the table creates an experience that no one else can fully relate to, creating a bond between people. Dealing with different personality types help people learn to communicate effectively and work together to achieve a common goal. Even in a competitive game, everyone wants to have a good time playing the game.
So, if games are inherently social, why do we need “therapeutic” games when we can just play and get the same benefit? Consider the possibilities:
The person who loves all things pop culture, but is nervous speaking in large groups or engaging in small talk. A social game like Geek Out or a storytelling game like Once Upon a Time can offer a new way for that person to socialize in an area that they feel confident. The Bodhana Group helps facilitate those opportunities by offering social game programs built around compassion and inclusivity.
Now, let’s say that same person has more than a general anxiety about speaking up. Now they have a severe social anxiety or social skills deficiency that impacts their day-to-day life. This is where more focused, private game groups come into play. In form of group therapy, role playing games are especially useful for targeting specific behaviors or communication barriers. A group built around persons with severe social anxiety can begin online via chat, video conferencing, or virtual tabletop programs like Roll20. Working together towards the goal of meeting in person in a private environment, then a game store, then graduating to attending a convention together. That journey can change the way someone connects with the world, forever growing their community one interaction at a time.
Another social perk of gaming that we all benefit from is the chance to be someone else. You can be a Ghostbuster, Sherlock Holmes, or a Pretty, Pretty Princess in games that invite you to step into the shoes of your character and go along for the ride. Conversely, you can create your own characters bound only by your imagination and the roll of the dice. Characters that come to have meaning for you as you guide them through a world with different rules than your own, offering unique experiences that you wouldn’t otherwise encounter. These characters offer a vehicle for social rehearsal in a safe space. If your character gets rejected, it isn’t you, but you are invested enough to figure out why they were rejected and learn to adapt. This safe space leads to creating new patterns that may lead to more self-confidence, increased ability, and better communication. So the next time you’re feeling like a fish out of water, or just need an icebreaker to distract your nerves, break out a game and connect with your inner Mister Meeple!