Rosey Games is a DriveThruRPG author, founder of Roll Play Lead, and TEDx presenter. Jamie earned her master’s degree in Leadership Development from the University of San Diego and has spent many years working with adults and teenagers through workshops. Not long after learning how to play Dungeons and Dragons, Jamie was able to make the connection between skill development at the table and real world confidence and problem solving. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to connect with Jamie to chat more about her work, both using and designing therapeutic gaming content.
Berry (she/her): Who are you and what do you do?
Rosey (she/her): I am Rosey or Rosey Games on the internet and I am a social skills DM for the organization I founded: Roll Play Lead. I work with teenagers and do social skills development and anxiety management while we play Dungeons and Dragons.
I started playing the game a handful of years ago and there was just this particular dynamic for it, and then I saw this homemade advertisement on Reddit. Regular weekly groups can help with social skills and for me that was like the moment. I have this “useless” masters degree in leadership (it’s not really useless) that I wasn’t using specifically, and so after I saw the ad I really made a lot of connections with the education that I have in group work. Once I saw that I thought “That is what I have been doing in D&D, but what would it be like if I was doing that intentionally?” Building a world, building scenarios, and creating NPCs that led you more intentionally down this path, rather than just a group of friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. I like working with teens and I wanted to be a high school teacher originally, so I already had that desire to help and work with teenagers. This was both of those worlds colliding nicely.
Berry: Once you saw the connection between leadership and game play, how did you start in therapeutic gaming?
Rosey: I started researching it just to see if this was a thing or if I just made it up and I didn’t, (which is good that there is a precedent) but it is new. It’s maybe fifteen years old, and maybe in the last five years it’s become really practiced. There are all different types of things and I think this is the biggest challenge for me to wrap my mind around, therapeutic gaming or I like to call it applied gaming (Some people hear TG and think therapy, which it isn’t always). This type of gaming is all over. There are therapists and psychologists using this in their practice and it is really specific, like to address divorce or address social anxiety. “Here are two people fighting over you: how does it make you feel? How does it remind you of your parents?”
I have a really good friend who does it more corporately and uses it for college or grad school students, such as “How do you use gaming to become more self aware, as a partner, as an employee, as a manager?” It’s all over the place. I started doing research and I decided this is really awesome and I worked with the Star Institute that works with kids who have Sensory Processing Disorders, or SPD. I connected with a woman who runs it and she asked me if I wanted to run some groups through her, which was awesome. I wanted to take it further. My passion wasn’t necessarily just with kids who have SPD, I wanted to expand it to other kids that maybe are just looking to make friends and are a little socially awkward but don’t have a specific diagnosis.
Berry: I was excited to see that you have begun to create your own modules, specifically with Applied Gaming in mind. What can you tell us about it?
Rosey: Myself and three other amazing gamers created a module. The very first module I ran for summer camps has turned into a D&D module. It’s called The New Queen’s Handmaiden, is now on Drive Thru RPG, and it is intended for a table of teenagers 11-17 (but I guarantee you can adjust it for older kids or take out some things for younger kids). The cool thing about it that we really focused on is It runs just like a D&D module. It’s not a new system and there aren’t new rules to it, so if you are a seasoned DM you don’t have to relearn how to play. The biggest difference is that there are these social skills moments built in. There is a section and off in a box will say “We are looking to build empathy here. Here are ways that you can build empathy in this scenario or scene”. There is an appendix in the back that will help you build social skills in D&D that you can apply to any other modules you would like!
It’s perfect for a mom or dad who is a DM who wants to be a little more mindful as a parent; Or once COVID lifts and you want to help kids or you’re a teacher who needs approval to run the game in school, that is all kind of there for you. Our goal is to have you bring it home to your family, friends, etc. We are looking to build a box set that you can take home and share. I have a whole world built, this is just step one.
I am very fortunate to have friends that help support me and could help turn this into a D&D module!
Berry: What is some advice you give to the kids you are working with on how to take lessons from the table to their everyday lives?
Rosey: If you are feeling anxious, what advice would you give your character? It is always easier to give advice than it is to take it. Once they say it, they’re aware! Let’s see what we can do with it!
Berry: Can you tell us what it has been like doing this kind of work? How have you kept going in such a niche field?
Rosey: When I started this I was like “I believe that the education that I have in leadership development and understanding of how we grow fits into this.” I feel like I have that. But there are days that I really have to check in with myself and ask “am I really helping?” But there are these moments such as, I have this one kid and I was the first person they told they were non binary and they wanted to use they/them pronouns, and so in that kind of moment you are like “Okay, I have built such a great relationship with this particular kid that they trust me with this information and asked me to facilitate a conversation where they told the rest of the kids in the group, and asked how they could approach their parents with it.” In those moments I am able to say “I am doing good.” I might not be able to change the entire world, but the world that I am in I am helping influence. My confidence has grown exponentially. I applied to do a Ted Talk! Die Hard Dice reached out for an affiliate program with them because they believe in the message of Roll Play Lead. There are still days that I wake up and think “All you are doing is playing D&D with some kids.” but for the most part I feel awesome! I feel cool! I feel like I’ve made great connections with people! I am making a difference! I am helping kids learn how to be confident. When I step back and really think about the kids I am with consistently they have grown so much, and I feel really fortunate that their parents trusted me enough. That the kids trusted me to be vulnerable at the table: To open up with their characters and with their lives and have me help them manage it. And sometimes you don’t manage, you just address and let it be out there and that’s cool too!
Berry: You have offered a lot as to how the kids you work with have grown through gaming, but have you experienced any changes yourself?
Rosey: I have only really played two characters regularly in my time in D&D. The very first character I created and went through the Tyranny of Dragons campaign with her. She was very different from me, very inexperienced in life. Grew up in a small town and would forget to ask people’s names, so it was interesting to play her. It was really interesting to play a character that was so different.
And my character now is in a lot of ways very similar to me. I made her specifically to work through some stuff. I made her a little more sexual, a little more flirty, because in my teens and twenties that is how I existed in the world to cope with some difficulties. But also because it is fun to be flirty, and I always felt bad about it. I felt guilty that that is how I lived and I feel like I did things “wrong”. For me, playing her is going to be my way of processing how the world sees her. Both because as she is doing things that are crappy and bad, but also taking it back. I am pretty, I can look good and I can have fun with it and I can still have value as a human being. I very intentionally did that after Roll Play Lead. I built her after I knew how characters can help you work through stuff. Delphine was my first character and I learned a lot from her about being innocent and being naive about particular things and that was really cool, but I didn’t necessarily process stuff the same way as I plan on doing with Alassandra.
Berry: What charity/non-profit can we help you spotlight?
Rosey: Game to Grow, from Seattle. They are the organization I talk about in the TED talk. They are the first people I talked to about how to run these intentional RPG groups. They do a ton of amazing work with the kids in their area! Also, look forward to Roll Play Lead becoming a non-profit in 2021!