Meaning and Medium in Tabletop Roleplaying Games

Emily Parks, Spring 2021

Director: Jennifer Maher

Committee Member: Lucille McCarthy

Because the COVID-19 pandemic essentially restructured the way we live our lives, many of us now do far more of our work, hobbies, and socializing online rather than in-person. What this changed environment means in terms of satisfying our social needs is not fully understood. To explore this question, I followed a group of Pathfinder Roleplaying Game players as they navigated adjusting their formerly in-person weekly game sessions to a virtual environment. While using a virtual tabletop platform for visual collaboration and a voice chat program to speak with one another allowed the players to hold sessions and didn’t appear to restrict their creative engagement with the game, the restrictions of the virtual environment inhibited social interaction and in one case worsened social anxiety for the players. This suggests that if we want to sustain online collaborative work in the future, we may need to reevaluate our virtual communication methods to better facilitate group-strengthening interactions.