Gaming the Systems: A Component Analysis Framework for the Classroom Use of RPGs


  • Maryanne Cullinan
  • Jennifer Genova



learning role-playing games, education, learning objectives, conceptual framework, growth


In recent years, as Dungeons & Dragons has entered the mainstream American cultural zeitgeist, the use of role-playing games has exploded in settings such as therapy and education. There is anecdotal and emerging academic evidence that RPGs can promote personal growth of participants in both academic and therapeutic settings. However, it has been challenging to capture the impact of RPGs on learning in classrooms. We submit that this is because both the term “RPG” and the term “learning” are too broad. There are myriad RPGs available, with different skill sets required to play. Similarly, there are many different types of learning an educator may be looking to develop in their students. Building on the 1983 work of Gary Alan Fine, the 2008 work of Klabbers, and the 2011 work of Mariais, Michau and Pernin, we propose two things. The first is a schema describing the structures of an RPG within the educational context. The second is a matrix is designed to identify the kinds of learning that an educator wants to promote in students through use of Learning Role-playing Games (LRPGs) (Mariais, Michau, and Pernin 2012), then match that learning to specific elements within an RPG that will support those objectives. Educational objectives include specific content learning; social emotional skills such as turn taking or teamwork; executive functioning skills; math fluency; and reading skills. Future work will include application of this conceptual framework to actual classroom settings and potential use in therapeutic settings.




How to Cite

Cullinan, M., & Genova, J. (2023). Gaming the Systems: A Component Analysis Framework for the Classroom Use of RPGs. International Journal of Role-Playing, (13), 7–17.