An image synonymous with nerd culture is a bunch of kids sitting around a table with paper in front of them while one of them sits behind a short screen. This is an image of a role-playing game, a type of game in which players create characters who they pretend to be and a game master creates a story for these characters to go through. It’s as close to entering a world of pure imagination as a game can get. This can be a nice escape from the daily drudgery that UC Berkeley can become.
I started playing role-playing games when I was 8 years old — Dungeons and Dragons to be precise. It was a game that allowed me to venture into strange fantasy worlds, even though I didn’t really understand the rules. The journey and battles were fun regardless. Since then, I’ve either run or played a game every year. Oftentimes when I run a game, I keep to the rules until they inhibit the fun. These sessions feel a lot less like a structured game than an improv comedy session, but it’s still uproarious fun. The game created the space for these fun narratives to manifest and have structure.
In college, Dungeons and Dragons is something I look forward to every week. I play a character who burns her way through her enemies. There is something cathartic about obliterating things I don’t like after a long week at UC Berkeley. To top it off, my Dungeon Master creates a wonderful story for us players to move through, which helps add to the escapism. Role-playing for me is a way to feel powerful and strong even when UC Berkeley has got me down.
So why should you play a role-playing game? It’s a cathartic experience that allows you to pretend to be someone else and ignore your own problems for a brief moment. Many open-world video games also allow for this possibility, but role-playing games have a few benefits that those games do not. Even though it’s supposedly an open world, there are still limits. However, a role-playing game lives in the players’ imaginations and therefore has no limit on what players can do. Another benefit to role-playing games is that they require you to play with others. This is an opportunity to get out of your cave of homework and studying and actually spend time with your friends in a way that is completely separate from the stresses of school.
Role-playing games can seem hard to get into. Often they are associated with many rules that would require large amounts of studying in order to fully understand. However, these are just stereotypes and are not indicative of all the actual games. Some role-playing games, such as Honey Heist, have rules that fit on one to two pages. Role-playing games are also associated with needing large collections of many-sided dice. While this is the case for some games, many just require six-sided dice, which are easy to pick up at a local game store or can be found in many standard board games. If you want to play a game with more complicated dice, game stores usually carry packs with all the dice you need.
There are role-playing games for any play style and any setting. If you want an epic fantasy adventure similar to “The Lord of the Rings,” then Dungeons and Dragons is probably what you want. If you want to experience being a character in a horror movie, then the game Dread is for you. If you want to play as a cat fighting unimaginable creatures, then Cats of Catthulhu sounds right up your alley. Just go out and find a game that fits the kind of adventure you want to go on and have fun!