There is a paucity of research related to the motivation of people who play table-top role-playing games (TRPGs). Two questions drove this research: (1) What motivates people to play TRPGs and (2) Can a single supra-motivator be developed which envelopes a larger theory of why people participate in TRPGs? Grounded Theory methodology was used to investigate why people initiate and continue to participate in table-top role-playing games. Fourteen people who attended a 4-year college who played TRPGs and two people who did not play were interviewed regarding their participation in role-playing games. Open codes, emergent categories, conceptual categories, and a theoretical category indicated there exist two conceptual categories related to why people initiate participation in TRPGs and five conceptual categories related to why people continue to play TRPGs. These categories were linked together to develop the theoretical category of “becoming” to explain the motivations of people who play TRPGs. The emergent theory of becoming as motivation, limitations, and future directions for research are discussed within the interpretive context and research context.


Table-Top Role-Playing, TRPG, Motivation, Motivation Theory, Becoming, Grounded Theory, Emergent Codes, Theoretical Coding, Open Coding, Theory Development, Conceptual Codes, Semantic Network Analysis

Author Bio(s)

Darrin Coe is Assistant Professor of Psychology at Peru State College in Peru, Nebraska. He teaches a wide variety of classes from Counseling the Cultural Diverse, to Cognitive Psychology, to a Senior Seminar in Psychology. His research interests include all things related to role-playing games, ethics, and immersion. Dr. Coe is married and has five children ranging in age from 6 months to 18 years old. He runs a regular TRPG for students who attend Peru State College. Correspondence regarding this article can be addressed directly to: dcoe@peru.edu.


I would like to acknowledge the support and help of Dr. Greg Galardi, as well as the feedback and support of Dr. Sarah Bowman and Steven Dashiell. I would also like to thank the reviewers for their helpful comments. Finally I would like to acknowledge the participation of all of my research participants, without them there would be no theory.

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 4.0 International License.





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