Practice makes perfect
There are two great adages around practice and pretending – “practice makes perfect” and “fake it ‘till you make it”. There is an idea from the psychologist, psychotherapist Alfred Adler, that revolves around the concept of “As-If” (based on writings by Hans Vahiniger). The concepts, in short, are fundamentally that through pretending to be as-if, you are what you desire to be, and that ultimately through (positive) reinforcement you achieve that desire.
In essence, if you are in a (safe) environment that allows you to practice what you wish to be, you will eventually be that version. Now you may think, well if you role-play a famous Film Producer or an ax-wielding dwarf, the likelihood of either is fairly low (if not metaphysically impossible). The notion with the “as-if” is more around the persona rather than the “character”. Is the famous Film Producer role one where you practice self-assurance, directness, being brash and pushing through until you achieve your goal? Well, that may be something you want to be more like in your everyday life.
Alternatively is the ax-wielding dwarf a courageous and kind-hearted individual that always lends a helping hand no matter the situation and without expecting any reciprocation? Again those that wish to be outgoing and work as volunteers may want to practice that persona.
Empathy & Pretending
When stepping into the make-believe worlds of ARG’s and RPG’s, it is not only inhabiting a persona that you aspire to be, it is also about stepping in to personas with different points of view, and with possibly different life experiences. The ability to pretend offers and creates insight, which is possibly why social play is something that comes so naturally to us at such a young age.
Practicing a type of character in an environment of social play brings to the surface the various social skills you need to continue within that space. And beyond that when you take on a different point of view from a persona that you inhabit, you practice empathy and tolerance. As so strikingly said in this Ted Talks video from Ethan Gilsdorf, role-play, if done right, is the space where the self and the ‘other’ intersect, creating a bridge of understanding between these two entities.
And with the insight that you gain from this intersecting-bridge point, players can start to model certain types of behavior – how they should behave if they find themselves in a given situation, and also learn what the implications are of that behavior. As children in social play, we learn that teasing is negative behavior and has negative consequences. And through the play we learn and model behavior that has more positive outcomes, yet somewhere along the way to adulthood, some of us either forget and/or have lost the opportunities to practice more positive behavior models during their daily social interactions.
In the professional world of adults, many of these daily social interactions are about collaboration and teamwork. In a previous post, I discussed how to accelerate collaboration through the use of ARG’s and RPG’s. Even though some people may be disadvantaged when it comes to social interactions, these games allow for quick, easy and effective environments for people to practice those skills safely. And as anyone who has played ARG’s and RPG’s knows, the people and teams that appear in them are incredibly diverse. Not just the players, but the persona’s that the players create. The amount of diversity ‘training’ that comes from make-believe scenarios is brought to the extreme, and for these teams to be successful, they need to learn to work together. And the dominant outcome from a social exercise/experience such as this is the promotion of reliance and trust among players.
Of joy & socializing
We are communal creatures, we seek and crave positive connections and interactions. And learning to be better at social interactions through enjoyable games such as those provided by the ARG and RPG genre’s is the best of both worlds.
If you enjoy an experience, it better cements the learning and practice even better, then more ‘traditional’ methods. Combining elements of storytelling, low consequence environments and relaxing (low stress) experiences all lead to conducive learning environments where we can all practice to better understand each other and build a better place to live with each other.