On the importance of empathy in roleplay
I love to roleplay, ever since I tried that very first system a few years ago I've been hooked. If I could make any law to benefit most people, I would make the roleplaying class a mandatory course in schools.
That might seem like a silly priority for using up one chance to make any law. I could, after all, make any needed changes that are very hard due to realities of politics. But I truly believe that roleplay teaches one most important thing, that is unfortunately sometimes forgotten - empathy.
To find why I think so, we need to go back to that first game I played, those years ago. In that game, I created a character that due to some genetic messing around with her body, has stopped aging at the apparent age of around 12 years old. In the beginning, I did it purely for aesthetic choice. But then something happened - in my travels, I came upon a place I needed to enter that generally does not allow children in. So the GM stopped me from entering, and so it hit me, of course, that happens, she must have been dealing with this for many years already. It was an obvious revelation, but important. She has her life and unique problems, that are possible only because of her unique circumstances. For the first time, but not the last, I felt true empathy for my character I played.
Remembering that scene now, I realize how much that kind of roleplay could actually help people understand the circumstances of other people. Whether that be different gender, sexuality, race or any other factor that would lead the said person to a different perspective on the world.
No one really understands when told what kind of problems different people encounter, but if they find out for themselves and those problems actually impede their progress in a game. Well, that could only lead to deeper understanding.
What do you think about roleplaying games leading to empathy? Have you ever felt a moment like I described? Tell me about your experiences.