Benefits of role-playing games include accessibility, community

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by Kevin Schaefer |

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For the past couple of years, I’ve been playing a Star Wars role-playing game (RPG) with friends from church. Yes, you read that sentence correctly. My church is progressive and a number of us in the congregation are self-professed geeks. Once a month, we gather for several hours of rolling dice, character interactions, and imaginary adventures across the galaxy.

Before our group’s first campaign, I hadn’t done much of any form of gaming in years. In middle and high school, I played video games on my PlayStation regularly. I enjoyed a mix of story-driven games and mindless ones in which I could fight zombies in a World War II setting. Whether I was alone or playing with friends, gaming offered a reprieve from my daily stresses and responsibilities.

However, as my SMA progressed and caused my arm strength to deteriorate, it became difficult to hold a controller, let alone press the buttons. Eventually, I stopped buying new games, while the ones I owned sat on the shelf collecting dust. I kept the PlayStation to watch DVDs and Blu-rays, with movies being my preferred entertainment medium anyway.

Accessibility features for disabled gamers have improved significantly since I was a teenager. My colleagues Brie and Sherry have written extensively about this subject, and I’m glad that changes are making games more inclusive and accessible. Still, I didn’t dwell much on losing the ability to operate a PlayStation controller back then. I always gravitated more toward movies, plays, books, and writing, and was content with those creative outlets.

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Enter RPGs

Then, in 2022, entering the world of role-playing reignited my interest in gaming. When a friend who started our group invited me to join, I figured it might be fun to try. I had never played Dungeons and Dragons or any other RPG, but I was well-versed in the Star Wars universe. Once I learned the basics of the game after a couple of practice sessions, I became hooked. I then jumped into creating my character and developing his backstory, and two years later I’m still playing.

As a disabled creative, I find role-playing games to be one of the more accessible and community-oriented activities I’ve ever participated in. Friends roll the dice for me and help me take notes on my character sheet, but otherwise, I’m independent when I play. I make decisions for my character, choose what I want to do on each turn, and immerse myself in the world of the game. It’s great for utilizing my storytelling skills and exercising my imagination.

As for the community aspect, our group plays in person at one of our members’ houses. We enjoy one another’s company, talking about everything from our personal lives to the latest pop culture highlights. During sessions, our ragtag team embarks on all kinds of idiosyncratic missions. We’re professionals when it comes to getting on the Empire’s nerves, and we especially enjoy when things don’t go according to plan.

I thought for a while that my gaming days were behind me, but I’m grateful that I discovered RPGs. It’s something I love and that I look forward to each month. SMA often hinders me from activities that require physical capabilities, but with role-playing, I can still travel to other planets as a rebel pilot. More importantly, I do it with friends.

Note: SMA News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of SMA News Today or its parent company, Bionews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to spinal muscular atrophy.

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