by Amelia Herbst
Program Coordinator, Assessments & 3E Group Facilitator
Game to Grow is dedicated to reaching participants in new and innovative ways. In the past, our adult programs had mirrored Game to Grow’s 90-min weekly Therapeutically Applied Role-Playing Game (TA-RPG) sessions for youth. Though many adult participants enjoyed the chance to play together in a safe, growth-focused environment, the weekly commitment was a hurdle for many, especially those in college or working. In the summer of 2022, we surveyed caregivers and interested adult participants on topics and growth points they would want to cover in an adult TA-RPG group. Many of those topics could be summarized into three words: Empowerment, Empathy, and Exploration.
And with this, the 3E program at Game to Grow was born!
The 3E program takes place for 3 hours over the course of 3 bi-weekly sessions and focuses specifically on a growth area in Empowerment, Empathy, and/or Exploration. In the 3E program, there are check-in and check-out questions based on the goals of the group. Questions address the mechanics of the game and how the mechanics help participants work on their goals. For instance, a check-in question for a 3E group may ask, “What fears do you and your character share?” The game master will take the answers of the members and tie them into the narrative for the week. The check-out question will then focus on the player’s experience of how they and their characters navigated that challenge.
Empowerment can be defined as the process of becoming stronger and more confident, especially in controlling and claiming one’s own life and rights. The 3E program embodies the belief that we can learn to empower ourselves through TA-RPGs and role-play. Many participants want to work on advocating for themselves, navigating complex interpersonal relationships, and enhancing their role-play. Empowerment themes can show up as encouraging leadership opportunities with each member of the group or providing challenging interactions with the non-player characters (NPCs) portrayed by the game master.
In the survey we sent out, many participants shared that they wanted to work on learning to understand and support others. 3E games encourage rich role-play with the game master and the characters they create but, more importantly, role-play with each other. Complex NPCs place players in scenarios where the “right” answer might not always be clear. Players are encouraged to check in with each other before making complex decisions.
The 3E program continues to open the way for participants to explore who they are, as players, as characters, and as themselves. Just like all Game to Grow groups, game masters are responsible for creating a safe environment that allows for players to be free to be who they are and to try new things. Players are supported in exploring their identities and interesting or complicated environments through their character and the role-play. Additionally, some of our players want to learn how to play Dungeons & Dragons (and other role-play games) and find that participating in Game to Grow’s groups is the best and most supportive way to explore that new interest.
The 3E program here at Game to Grow is an excellent opportunity for adults to participate in groups. Our players in the 3E program have been able to form connections with like-minded individuals while growing and exploring themselves through the use of games.