(Editor’s Note: Due to an overdose on cold medicine, the author attribution for this article was screwed up. This insightful post is actually written by Billy, aka Barsha D. Barsha)
This should be easy for roleplayers: pretend your friends and you are stuck on a desert island. You all have plenty of food and water, and you’ve found a delightful cave that is a steady 75 degrees no matter what. For now, you’ve taken care of the most basic survival needs. You can eat, drink, and sleep comfortably. Now, though, it’s time to worry about some of the other things. For one, entertainment.
When I ask people this question, they tend to give me answers such as bringing their favorite book or comic book. Some even mention bringing journals so they can continue writing. However, I think the best answer I’ve ever heard was someone stating they’d bring a randomizing element (dice, cards, spinning wheel of doom). Why? Because with some form of randomizing element, they knew they’d be able to run a roleplaying game.
Roleplaying has been considered a nerdy activity for some time – or in the case of adults using the term, a sexy one. But I believe that this stifles the power of such an amazing tool. With roleplaying, you have the ability to create different stories and adventures at a very minimal cost. No crazy expensive instruments are needed nor does it take a lot of money. All it requires is a randomizing element, perhaps something to take notes on, and a group of friends willing to trust in their imagination.
Sadly, I think that last part causes people to think of roleplaying as “hippie talk.”
I remember reading this study about a group of volunteers who were willing to sit in a room for (I believe) two years. It was to see how the human body reacts to being confined. Space agencies were very interested in the results and were dismayed when the test had to be shut down the first time when one of the occupants snapped and tried to sexually assault another. They tried the experiment again, this time only allowing men to be in the experiment, and they were able to succeed – though, as the volunteers stated, it wasn’t easy.
I can’t help but wonder how volunteers would be able to handle the stress of confinement if roleplaying was added to the experiment. I’m not saying it would suddenly make this intense volunteer simulation an easy thing, but I think it would help.
As we all know, roleplaying allows our minds to escape our current situation. It allows you to snap out of your daily routine, indulge the adventuring spirit, and it allows for a group to bond.
And once again, it’s easy, cheap, and doesn’t require anything but a group of people willing to give it a try.
Now I’m not saying that storytelling and roleplaying is a way to keep people in isolation sane – I wish I could. I wish I was a doctor who could run these sorts of tests! However, I do believe it is worth looking into. Humans don’t like being confined. Maybe the best way to help the mental stress of this situation is by taking up something we used as children: Our imagination.
Right now, we’re not ready to have a holodeck on a ship. Nor do we have a computer game that is even close enough to compare to an experienced storyteller. So why not go low-tech instead of high-tech when trying to figure out how to battle isolation in space and in other places?
Deep down, maybe all we all truly want in these situations is a storyteller to help us escape monotony. And I think that’s just fine… as long as your storyteller isn’t a volleyball called Wilson.
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