Editorials

Fantasy and Escapism: A Guide to Role-Playing and Mental Health

Fantasy and Escapism

Fantasy and Escapism: Welcome, Weary Traveller

Fantasy and escapism is a powerful team-up that can achieve great leaps for our mental wellbeing. As we move into the roaring ’20s of the new millennium, we enter it with a renewed interest in the idea of self-care in our mental health. In the modern world, stress-induced anxiety is all too common in many walks of life. Whether it is a general apathy at the daily routine of life, the uncertainty of the future, or the fear of believing in oneself, everyone has a worry that they carry on their back.

Anxiety itself is a catalyst that is known to spark depression. Those who have it tend to keep themselves guarded, for fear of burdening others. It is a dangerous state to be in and leads to a path of isolating oneself from those closest to us.

Fantasy and Escapism
A handful of role-playing game dice

There is no catch-all solution for amending your state of mind. Some swear by therapy; others insist a simple gym routine is the fix. We all have our passions that we gravitate towards—passions that alleviate a sense of dread for facing the fast-moving world around us.

One such example that I want to share is role-play. The art of role-play is a direct response to controlling the narrative of our anxiety. It is a tool for changing our viewpoint on how we approach situations. Today, I am highlighting what it has done for me as a person and what it can do for you.

The Journey

We all have our own cross to bear. Our upbringings are different and our status in the world is not always within our control. Life is a journey that we are simply improvising as we move along. It is a learning experience. Over time and with practice, there is a sense of who we should be listening to and who we shouldn’t be giving attention at all.

My social barometer is not the same as anyone else’s, as we are all different. A charming quirk to me could be seen as an annoying habit by another person. Discovering this is a part of the journey. Mistakes are made along the way and often times we misjudge character. Doubt formulates from worry at being hurt again when we pile up a series of negatives in our minds. 

Equally, role-play is a journey, albeit one with much different stakes. The consequences are purely superficial. For a short time, our problems are shaped in a different light. Today, I am a merchant shopkeeper looking to sell my wares to an unruly horde of fictional beings. Tomorrow, I am an eloquent playwright constructing my next piece on the majesty of a dragon.

No Destination Required

I am not of this world; I am indulging in a fresh narrative. Escapism is a powerful incentive to change the way we think. A short time passes playing a role. Being someone unlike ourselves, stepping out of our own shoes and into another purpose. A purpose that serves as a distraction. True capability, shown in the journey of playing a role unlike ourselves, fortifies our own sense of self. Perhaps I’ll be braver like the hero I have constructed. Tomorrow, I will be wiser, like the sage we met along the way. Tiny pieces of personality slipping into our day-to-day harmonise with the journey that we are on ourselves.

A Change of Mindset

Fantasy and Escapism
He’s definitely not you, unless you posed for the portrait, but he COULD be you for a few hours! – Image via Wizards of the Coast

There are countless role-playing games that can be enjoyed among friends, Dungeons and Dragons being the most played and known. It is a rigid world with its own rules and sensibilities. Brewing a version of this world is part of the task of those playing the roles. We are lifting a veil on a half-finished painting that we have time to work on. In the case of myself, it was my first introduction to role-playing. 

Beckoning a sense of creativity from the get-go, DnD serves as a reminder that our vices can be our solace even in the darkest times. As a sufferer of anxiety, I know the feeling of the world caving in around me. Anxiety can revoke our stature as thoughts of insignificance creep into our psyche.

Reaching out into role-play was a lifeline for me. A childlike wonderment at what strange journey I am about to embark on. The full element of creating a new persona entirely. Am I a wildly unlikable goblin with a power complex? Am I an inept bard with no sense of rhythm?

With fantasy and escapism, we create a grand scope that bolsters a fresh perspective on life. Characters that we create have meaning. We conceived them from a small creative centre in our brain and gave them life. The life they take on is up to ourselves. The influence of these characters affects us. They carry into our day-to-day. That is the strength in fantasy and escapism.

Just One Leap Forward

The anxiety of interacting socially, if I can do it as a character, I can translate that to real life. The helplessness of depression, if I can accomplish a goal in a fictional campaign, then at least I can drive myself to move forward to the next day. Our minds are capable of absorbing so much information, we can influence ourselves with what we create. A change of mindset is a key feature of what role-playing is. 

You Have It All

To a sufferer of depression, to those who feel inadequate in their lives, the smallest progress can reawaken the senses. Positivity is accomplishable, but not always viable. Structured role-play is a way to get a win when you are down and out without a rope to climb. A goal that is reachable and approachable is the difference between a good and a bad day. Time is not on our side; with the time that we have, we must strive to be as happy in it as we can.

Problems of the world are muted when you are interacting with a completely different world, regardless of whether the world you are entering is heroic or not. A gratification in each step defines a new journey where the only important aspect is simply enjoying yourself.

So, if you are a role-player, get excited. Do a comically over-the-top voice. Be quiet and solemn with something up their sleeve. Portray a scoundrel that makes innocent people walk the plank. Whatever you decide, do it to your fullest and make sure you embrace who you are being and see what it can add to your life.

To those who don’t role-play, why not see what you can achieve? You aren’t yourself in this setting. There is no need to be. For now, you can peacefully don a new face to show the world. A face that, hopefully, helps you any way you need it.

Thank you for taking the time to enjoy my piece on fantasy and escapism. To learn more about your own mental health, check out the centre for Global Mental Health online or My Mind.org.

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About the author

Daniel Kelly

Proud beard grooming enthusiast with a background in writing about not beard-related topics.

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