Role Playing Game (RPG)

Role Playing Game - ToolsHero

This article describes the concept of the Role Playing Game (RPG) in a practical way. After reading you will understand the basics of this powerful training and development tool.

What is a Role Playing Game (RPG)?

A Role Playing Game (RPG) is an improvised situation in which two or more players imitate another person. A role play can be used for educational purposes, but also for entertainment. When it concerns a recreational game, it is also called a role play.

In a Role Playing Game (RPG), the players take on a role or a task to help them learn or improve on their skills. Participating in a Role Playing Game (RPG) requires some imagination because often a tricky situation is mimicked from the real world. Because the game has a dynamic setting it is possible to respond in many ways to the fellow player while all players may have different interests. This stimulates creativity and makes it possible to identify problems which were previously unclear. A Role Playing Game (RPG) can also stimulate self-confidence and improve skills by applying different techniques and theories. For these reasons, participating in role play turns out to be extremely effective for both children and professionals.

Functionalities and advantages of a Role Playing Game (RPG)

Role Playing Games are used for different purposes. When it is not used for entertainment, the role play is often part of a psychological test to test or improve the social and verbal skills of a candidate. Some general benefits of using a Role Playing Game (RPG) are:

  • Clarification/ improvement of communication
  • Practising new behaviour
  • Testing adaptability
  • Trying out different options
  • Understanding the consequences of certain behaviours

Role Playing Games as part of application procedure

When applying for a new position that requires verbal and social skills, role play is often a fixed part of the assessment. A practical situation that can occur in the future job will then be simulated as closely as possible to reality. For example, it looks at how people react to different approach techniques and whether the candidate is suitable for the job. Role play as part of an assessment can be subdivided into three categories:

1. Managerial practice simulation

In their jobs, managers are often confronted with different types of challenging situations because of the high diversity of employees that can exist in an organisation. A good manager has strong communication skills, persuasion, decisiveness and must be able to delegate. For example, a manager must be able to talk to an employee about undesirable behaviour or encourage the employee to perform a certain task. If the situation does not improve, an intervention conversation is used. The employee will most likely resist, certainly in a role-playing situation, but it is then the task of the manager to remove this resistance and arrive at a good, constructive end.

2. Commercial simulation

When applying for a commercial position in which there is a lot of contact with customers, the candidate can be also asked to participate in a role play. A future employee of the customer service department has to be able to respond tactfully when they are confronted with angry or dissatisfied customers. A salesperson may be asked to simulate a sales conversation in which they must show their negotiation skills and persuasiveness. The assessor will pay special attention to commercial and customer-oriented skills.

3. Practical simulation of a consult

Consultations are held in many situations. Whether it is the general practitioner who advises their patient to stop smoking or the HR manager advising the marketing manager on choosing a candidate, they have both acquired, researched, considered or negotiated knowledge. Consultations are often about change; something has to happen. Before the right choice can be made, the advantages and disadvantages have to be considered. Just like in situations where guidance is given, resistance is also offered in consultative discussions, often by the adviser. The consultant can (partially) remove this resistance by starting from a common problem for which they would like to come up with a solution.

There are of course more situations in which role play is a valuable way to identify whether a candidate is suitable for the intended job. Take for example the role play used in the selection procedure of the police. The role play is part of the psychological test in which the candidates are challenged to get a problem situation under control. Such role plays are also part of the selection procedure in the army.

Steps in a Role Playing Game

1. Select a situation

The situation that will be simulated depends on the goal of the role play. In order to start the process, it’s important that the problem is introduced and that the opportunity is offered to the candidates to discuss the problem or the assignment. This way, the subject will be active and valuable aspects can come to the fore.

2. Clarify the goal

The next step is to clarify the goal of the role play . What can be achieved and what can be learned from it? What are the possible outcomes and how do we deal with each other’s interests.

3. Assign your roles

Consider in advance which roles should be the role play and assign them. Preferably give the candidate a role in which they are not completely comfortable. This requires creativity and adaptability. If necessary, use fictional names.

4. Prepare the players and assessors

Make sure everyone has time to empathise with the character they need to imitate. Ask if the candidates can think about the (fictional) traits of the character such as: background, family, motivation. To be able to learn from a role play, it is necessary to be observant. Ask the assessors to pay attention to important aspects such as body posture, word choice, gestures and intonation and have them take notes.

5. Perform the Role Playing Game

Give a signal when the players are allowed to start the role play. Also indicate which signal will be given if the role play has to be stopped again. Stop the role playing if all issues have been dealt with or if the action is stopped. If a candidate does not understand his role well, it must be clarified. To test the candidate’s creativity, he or she can be asked to use different approaches.

6. Evaluate

Evaluation is important because the participants often assume their role in such a way that they can’t exactly reproduce what has happened. Be critical, but not judgemental, and stress that making mistakes is necessary to improve. Ask the assessors for their feedback on the role play and provide the candidates with constructive feedback.

To summarise

A Role Playing Game can be used for multiple purposes. As part of a selection procedure, it is often tested whether the candidate is suitable for the intended position or task. Role playing is also used to train employees or prepare them for future difficult situations. Participating in a role play has the advantage that different skills are tested and stimulated. Creativity, adaptability, steadiness and tactical ability are tested in such a situation simulation. By doing an evaluation after a role playing session, the candidate is made aware of what went well or what could be improved.

Now it’s Your Turn

What do you think? Do you recognise this explanation of role playing, and do you use role playing? For what purposes do you think role playing is suited? Which tips for participating in role playing do you want to share?

Share your experience and knowledge in the comments box below.

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More information

  1. Freedman, J. L. (1969). Role playing: Psychology by consensus. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 13(2), 107-114.
  2. Greenberg, J., & Eskew, D. E. (1993). The role of role playing in organizational research. Journal of management, 19(2), 221-241.
  3. Jarvis, L., Odell, K., & Troiano, M. (2002). Role-playing as a teaching strategy. Strategies for application and presentation, staff development and presentation.

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