Roleplaying is another one of those skills that really had to shake off a negative reputation. After years of being what nerds in basements did while hyped up on Mountain Dew (or in my favorite gaming group’s case, green Kool-Aid), roleplaying is finally finding some traction within the education community. Roleplaying has become a hands-on tool for teaching because it offers a number of benefits.
More often than not, being able to learn about a situation without being right in the middle of it is preferable because it allows time to think and time to reflect on what’s going on and how best to handle it. A roleplaying simulation allows for that. Because it’s not the actual situation itself, time can slow down, the situation can be analyzed and options can be discussed. It also allows the learners to explore a situation from various angles, giving them a better feel for the material and concepts. This is especially useful when training for high stakes or high tension situations.
Because simulations model the situation being studied or prepared for, they can be edited to work through a variety of scenarios in a short period of time. This is more useful than waiting for those long-shot-but-still-happen-occasionally moments to occur naturally. Being able to create these models also allows learners to experiment with approaches and solutions and see what provides the most desirable outcome – all without affecting the real situation.
This is one example of how a game mechanic can be applied to a learning situation usefully without going overboard.