Have you ever thought that tabletop role-playing games like D&D could be used intentionally to help people? Well, some people actually do.
Maybe you've seen the season 2 episode of Community, called Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. That's the one where the study group plays a game of D&D to help out their friend Neil.
I think it's a great episode to show people a quick introduction into D&D because it can be difficult to explain exactly what a tabletop RPG is.
A beginner will have all sorts of questions and the rules can be confusing.
So if you're interested in learning more about tabletop role-playing games or how two therapists in Seattle run intentional and targeted PRG groups to develop better social skills, check out this two-part interview I recorded with Adam Davis and Adam Johns, the founders of Wheelhouse Workshop.
In part 1, we talk about how they joined forces and what it was like to develop their practice.
In part 2, we dive deep into how they run groups and how much their clients have benefited.
Check out both parts below, or subscribe to Geek Therapy and Rolling For Change for these and more podcast episodes.
I love podcasting so much that I regularly publish AT LEAST two a week. (And I want to do way more than that.) I don't just enjoy the conversations and the technical aspect of production, I love the community that forms around them.
Speaking of community... Thanks to the Geek Therapy Podcast I've met a lot of great people, some who are now my podcast co-hots. So we decided to unite all the shows that have grown from this community under one banner: The Geek Therapy Podcast Network.
The shows won't change but we'll crossover and promote the network in hopes of growing the community even further. And grow the network too! I hope that anyone who has thought of starting their own podcast will reach out to me about maybe getting started and joining the network. Seriously, reach out, let me know what you're thinking.
And of course, Geek Therapy is up every week with me and Lara Taylor. We're currently documenting the creation of an open, community-run Geek Therapy Library. So every week we try to talk about at least one piece of geeky content that might be relatable or have some potential positive effect in therapy or education.
Everyone mentioned here I met through our community. Let us know what you think and share your ideas with us! We can't wait to hear from you!
For almost a year now, Lara and I have been working on a resource tool which we've decided to call the Geek Therapy Library.
The Geek Therapy Library is meant to help fans communicate through their favorite movies, books, and games. It is a resource for therapists, teachers, and parents to find a way to work with or talk about things through awesome content and allow Geeks and Nerds everywhere a way to be better understood.
We go over it in more detail and provide some examples in episode 45 of the podcast. [Which you can check out here.]
As we add more content and get ready for a public version, we would love suggestions for entries. If you want to suggest a comic, show, or movie we should check out, help us out by filling out this simple form: https://geektherapy.typeform.com/to/azCwM5
Let us know what you think!
This has been a great year for Geek Therapy and me personally. I did not update the site or the podcast for most of the year but Geek Therapy is something I think about EVERY DAY.
This year I started a new podcast called PsychTech, got to be on a panel with Mark Waid at San Diego Comic-Con(!), became a published author(!!), and was featured in Jane McGonigal's new book Superbetter(!!!). Definitely a good year.
We've made a few changes at Geek Therapy and here is what we're focusing on right now:
1) New Podcast Format
The plan is to tell feel-good stories about Geek culture. My hope is that each episode will cheer you up or make you love that thing you love even more. I discuss it more here.
2) New Resource Tool
I strongly believe that the things we read, watch, and play can sometimes express how we feel better that we ourselves are able to. I also believe that there is value in using that content to share your feelings or understand other people. So we've started developing a tool that should help you navigate a library of content that can help you express how you feel and maybe even learn a thing or two.
I'll update here as we have more to report. In the meantime, let us know what you think!
Come see us PAX East! This year we've got a panel called "Games Are Good For You! How Gaming Improves Our Live" at the Arachnid Theater on Saturday, March 7th at 6:30pm. You can see the full details here: http://east.paxsite.com/schedule/panel/games-are-good-for-you-how-gaming-improves-our-lives
I'll be joined on a panel with Kelli Dunlap, Patrick O'Connor, and Sean Knuth. Kelli and Patrick have both been guests on the Geek Therapy Podcast.
It should be a lot of fun and if you can't make it to the presentation but you want to meet up at some point over the weekend just let us know on Twitter!
One more thing: Let us know if you have any interest in listening to a recording of the presentation and if enough people ask for it we'll make it available on the podcast.
By Lara Taylor
This past weekend I had the opportunity to attend GaymerX2, the sequel to the first convention of its kind. Striving to push boundaries and promote inclusivity for all in gaming, GaymerX looks at the gaming industry from an LGBT perspective. With the theme of inclusivity, allies not part of the LGBT community were welcome as well. I had a blast, and part of that was the sense of respect and community that seemed inherent in the event.
GaymerX created a sense of safety and dignity from the outset with their inclusivity statement. They defined clearly that there would be no tolerance of harassment or discrimination of any kind, including use of slurs against sexuality and gender identity (the "f" or "t" words) or against mental disability (the "r" word). I would venture to say that most conventions do not have a harassment policy, and those that do probably don't go as far as GaymerX has in the protections spelled out for attendees. However, what really makes them stand out is their policy addressing how to handle a situation in which someone feels offended by something. Attendees were asked to be polite, respectful and discrete in informing others that they have been offended and how to prevent the issue in the future. Those who had offended others were expected to listen to what was being said, apologize, and ask for help in making sure it doesn't happen again. While policies like this can help to build a foundation of security, the real reason for the sense of safety at GaymerX were the people. Everyone at the convention seemed so open and friendly, and ready to help.
Having the LGBT community in mind resulted in having small details that meant a lot to many attendees. Having things such as gender pronoun identifiers on badges, and gender neutral bathrooms shows the thought put into making everyone feel welcome in the space. Most of the programming was geared toward the LGBT community as well, and issues specific to both sexual orientation and gender identity issues. Panels covered everything from coming out in the gaming industry, to exploring queer identity through games, to forming relationships with straight allies in the gaming community. Gearbox Software and Bioware even had panels highlighting the forward thinking work coming from them in the near future.
One panel in particular caught my attention, which was the panel on gaming and mental health in the queer community (surprise, surprise). Joey Hannah and Serenity Sersecion, both currently practicing mental health professionals discussed both the positive and negative effects of gaming and what the signs of unhealthy gaming are. Many of the issues brought up are issues we have covered many times here at Geek Therapy, and I have covered repeatedly at Therapeutic Code. In addition to healthy vs. unhealthy habits and the skills built by playing games, they also discussed LGBT specific issues, such as being able to explore sexual and gender identity safely in games. When they asked the audience for examples of negative experiences with online gaming there were some standard stories of disrespectful or sexist comments (Is it sad that those can be referred to as standard? I think so). One transgendered woman told a story about being misgendered due to her voice being more masculine. As a cis-gendered woman it never occurred to me that something like that would be an issue. Obviously it is, and it's one that I will be more aware of now. That's part of the point of GaymerX, to learn to see things from different perspectives.
Joey and Serenity also pointed out a few games that they felt were therapeutic. Serenity told the story of a transwoman who was able to live out being a teenage girl through playing Gone Home, and how incredibly empowering it was for her. Other games they mentioned that I will have to check out are The Unfinished Swan, which supposedly deals with grief and loss, and Papo & Yo which deals with abuse. Their panel, and all of the panels from GaymerX (once they have been edited), will be available to watch online through their YouTube channel.
The fun continued on the expo hall floor, where 2k Games had a chance to play Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, Ubisoft had a daily raffle giving out games (SO MANY GAMES!) and there were plenty of opportunities to play some awesome indie games. One developer was demoing a game called Throw Trucks With Your Mind in which you wear a device on your head, which measures your focus and your calm. The more calm and focused you are, the stronger your super powers are! He hopes to demonstrate some therapeutic qualities for the game, but for now it lets you throw things at your friends with your mind, and who hasn't dreamed of doing that?
Another thing which stood out at GaymerX was the cosplay. OMG, the cosplay. There was a fabulous Maleficent in drag, an amazing Tiny Tina from Borderlands, a Yoshi and Boswer couples cosplay, and so much more. Everyone in the cosplay pageant deserved an award. Seriously. Some took the chance to make a political statement while still having some fun. Two cosplayers dressed as Ubisoft's version of women, wearing boxes with messages such as "2 hard 2 render", in an attempt to bring attention to the company's earlier statement concerning the lack of women in their games. You would think that Ubisoft being at the convention would cause a lot of tension, but everything seemed to be handled respectfully and peacefully.
The LGBT community is known for its activism, but it is also known for its ability to have a good time and throw one heck of a party. GaymerX had 3... and 2 after parties. I only had the opportunity to attend the concert on Friday night, but it was full of giveaways, drinks, loud music, and dancing. There was even a dance off, ending with one man proposing to his boyfriend. It brought the room to tears.
Earlier in the year it was announced that this would be the last GaymerX, however the founder Matt Conn and president Toni Rocca (a previoius guest on the podcast) announced at the closing ceremonies that there would be something in its place in the future, and that they weren't going anywhere. I hope they're right, because this event is truly needed for this community. The outpouring of thank yous at the end of the convention, and even into the days after on Twitter have been plentiful. People felt safe at GaymerX, they made friends and connections they might not have made elsewhere, and some even changed how they saw their sexual identities. All while playing games.
By Josué Cardona
San Diego Comic-Con is only a few weeks away and many people have been asking if Geek Therapy will be back at SDCC this year. Unfortunately, we won't be.
Instead, we're taking Geek Therapy to a new international audience! Patrick O'Connor and I will be in Bogotá, Colombia for a number of events, including a national comic book award show/conference. It's called Los Monos de Oro (The Golden Monkeys) and we'll be joined by some very cool guests including Herb Trimpe (Hulk, Wolverine), Renato Guedes (Marvel), and Ernesto Priego (The Comics Grid Journal).
The event takes place in Bogotá on July 25-29. For more information on that, check out www.elcomicenlinea.com.
I'm honored to be a part of this event and look forward to sharing more information soon.
Oh, and they made comic book versions of me and O'Connor!
And in keeping with the spirit of the monkey theme, they made monkey versions of us!
In addition to Los Monos de Oro, O'Connor and I will also be speaking to a group of mental health professionals and journalists about mental health and the use of comics as a therapeutic tool.
During this event, the Rosalynn Carter Fellowships for Mental Health Journalism will be awarded to two local journalists so they can investigate and produce a comprehensive project unveiling mental health issues in Colombia.
This event is a partnership between The Carter Center in Atlanta, the Universidad de La Sabana, and the Clínica Universdidad de La Sabana.
Again, it's an honor to be a part of such important events and I'm excited to bring Geek Therapy to a new audience and in a new language. I hope to bring back some great stories from this trip.
P.S.: My guess is that in Colombia you would say Geek Therapy as Terapia Ñoña.
By Josué Cardona
For Mother's Day I wrote a bit on how my mom was very influential in helping me become the Geek I am today. Well, it's Father's Day and my dad is just as responsible and more importantly, we still share many interests today. Here are some of my favorite memories related to why I'm probably into what I'm into and why it matters so much to me.
From the Master System to Mortal Monday
I don't think I knew what video games were when our first console appeared at home. If I remember correctly, my dad bought it from a co-worker who decided to buy a newer console. So dad brought home a Sega Master System and a lot of games. I remember my father and I spending a lot of time on a bonus stage in Shinobi in which you flinged throwing stars from a first-person perspective at ninjas running and jumping around the screen; It was my favorite part.
We later had a NES that my parents bought, complete with a matching Mario-branded TV cart where we kept a small TV and all of our games.
As I got older my dad implemented a rule at home that I could get any console I wanted but I had to sell the one I had first. This was actually a really good rule to have and I was very careful when managing my console "resources." I sold my SNES and Genesis multiple times each during the 16-bit era.
Then there was a time when the only way my dad was able to get me to go to church without complaining was with the promise of Sunday afternoon arcade visits. One of our favorite games was Mortal Kombat and we played it every weekend. My dad was really good as Sonya Blade. Fun fact: He was very tough to beat as Chun-Li in Street Fighter II.
Cowboys and Superheroes
"When I was your age..." my dad would often say. Nothing too surprising here since lots of parents share what they liked as kids with their own children but I'm proud to say that my dad seems to love those interests just as much today as he ever did. I'm actually jealous of how he's been able to see his favorite characters evolve over his lifetime. Oh, and the regret you see on his face when he talks about losing his comic books is just painful...
I remember 1998 being a particularly interesting year because two of my dad's favorites were made into new Hollywood movies: Lost in Space and The Mask of Zorro. After watching Zorro at the theater, my dad was so excited that he ran in the lobby and did a full swing around a column, jumped out, and proclaimed he was Zorro. I don't think I've ever been more embarrassed by my father's behavior. In retrospect, I may have never been prouder.
Little did I know at the time that my dad was the biggest Geek I'd ever met.
Superman is definitely the most important character to my relationship with my father. George Reeves's Superman, the Christoper Reeve movies, the Superboy TV series, Lois & Clark, and even Superman: The Animated Series were all things that my father and I shared religiously. We loved everything superheroes but there was a lot of Superman for us to share.
My father and I were very close but my parents divorced and a few years later my father remarried. I did not get along with my stepmother or my stepbrothers and my relationship with my father got so bad that I stopped talking to him. This lasted for a very long time. We spent a few years during which we barely spoke and definitely didn't share any of our geeky passions.
Then one day I saw a commercial for a new TV series. They just showed a field, some voices could be overheard, and then the title flashed on the screen: Smallville.
I got goosebumps when I saw this. I cried when I saw the commercial. I was excited because I knew enough about Superman to realize that Superman was coming back to television but I was also extremely sad that something like this was going to be on TV and I would not be sharing it with my father.
I was 17 at the time and I realized I really missed my dad.
Instead of staying sad and feeling like I was missing out because I couldn't share this with my dad, I called him to tell him about it. It didn't take long for us to start talking on the phone almost every day.
Smallville was on the air for 10 years and after almost every single episode my dad and I would talk on the phone to discuss what we just saw. During those 10 years I graduated high school, college, switched careers, finished grad school, and moved 5 times. We even had a couple of movies during that time. A lot changed but we always had Superman.
It's not out of character for my dad to still call me Clark, Clarky, or Kal-El.
My dad showed me how to unabashedly love your interests and how powerful that love can be. Not just because it feels great to fully embrace something you're interested in but he taught me how those interests can bring people together and even heal some old wounds.
I don't think I would have learned that lesson as clearly and early if he didn't live by it every day.
He has obviously also influenced my work because I form relationships with my clients and students based on sharing and embracing their passions.
So thanks Dad. I don't know who I would be if you weren't the way you are.
By Josué Cardona
"Spider-Man... He spoke to me..."
During last week's episode of Modern Family titled "Message Received" we see Mitch confronted by his partner Cameron about a Spider-Man comic book Mitch has been holding on to for years.
Watch the clip here:
Mitch tells Cam that he related to Spider-Man because he also had a secret side that he couldn't share with anyone. "Spider-Man made me feel like it was ok to be different.... Made me feel tough enough to get through the tough times."
This scene made me very happy because I'm always looking for TV clips to reference and this one is perfect. I love Modern Family because it's full of relatable moments, although none as geeky as this. (And maybe Phil's desire for an iPad in the first season episode "Game Changer.") The best part is that it shows a fictional character relating to a fictional character. Let's hear it for Meta-Geek Therapy!
Capitalizing on relatable moments is how I use TV in therapy. Sometimes, if appropriate and potentially helpful, I'll make a reference to a scene from a movie or show that I know my client likes or recently watched. What occurs most of the time is that a client will bring up something recently watched or remembered.
Regarding this Mondern Family clip, a client might say they relate to how Mitch feels about the character of Spider-Man, or to how Cam felt when he realized that Mitch related to the character as a kid.
In fact, the reason why I love this scene so much is that it would probably be more effective for parents and partners as a way for them to see themselves in Cam or simply seeing someone they care about in Mitch. Hearing him talk about what Spider-Man meant to him as a kid only took 30 seconds to explain and he did so more eloquently than most people are able to. It shouldn't surprise you to learn that Modern Family has won a lot of awards.
A few weeks ago at Wondercon, I was invited to participate in a panel titled The Psychology of Cult TV and the theme was "TV Can Be Healing." While the intention was to talk about "cult" TV shows like Buffy and Firefly, I came out of the gate talking about Full House.
I brought up a time when I remembered Bob Saget's character in Full House being yelled at by one of his daughters and looking very hurt. The scene was similar to a fight I had recently had with my father and seeing Bob Saget (who always reminded me of my father anyway) so sad and hurt made me feel horrible for what I had done to my father. It was a big learning experience and it was very cathartic.
The "Psychology of Cult TV" panel was Janina Scarlet's idea and the story she shared that seemed to be the most personal was related to the sitcom Family Matters. Yeah, Steve Urkel Family Matters.
While sitcoms can have a more realistic setting than say, the TARDIS, people relate to all sorts of shows. At the Wondercon panel I also shared the story of how the 10th Doctor's regeneration on Doctor Who helped me overcome some personal obstacles by reminding me that change doesn't happen immediately and it's actually a process.
I saw regeneration as a metaphor for change. The 10th Doctor spends a long time traveling and visiting friends between when his regeneration starts to when he finally becomes the 11th Doctor. At the moment I watched this scene (again) it was exactly what I needed to get me from thinking about making changes to actually doing something. It got me past the belief I had at the time that the change I wanted was unattainable. It helped me remember that change is a process and it takes time.
While I usually provide examples related to comic books, video games, and sci-fi or fantasy movies and TV shows, the effect is possible within any genre. Who and how we relate to what we see on TV isn't a science and it often happens in unexpected ways. It's a very personal experience and it may not make sense to anyone else.
You never know when it will speak to you but when it does, great things can happen.
By Josué Cardona
Today is Mother's Day and I've been reading stories all day about how moms are responsible for certain geeky interests or how they supported geekdom when no one else would. These brought up a lot of memories for me so here are some of my favorites.
Super Mario Bros. With Mom, My Earliest Memory
My mom and dad are both responsible for me liking video games but my earliest memory is actually of me and my mom playing Super Mario. Bros while my little sister, still in diapers, was trying to watch. I must have been 3 or 4 years old.
It's actually one of those memories that I don't really have but was able to experience through an old home video a very long time ago. So I remember a third-person view of the event. (Thanks for recording that, Dad!) The VHS isn't around anymore but that "memory" is one that I always refer to when asked about my love of video games.
Thanks Mom for teaching me how to stomp on goombas!
My siblings and I each had a console. The Sega Saturn was in my sister's room and one day we bought Tetris Plus... Big mistake. Tetris was huge at home. I remember family gatherings at which we set up the NES and had one chair in front of the TV and everyone took turns seeing how far they could get.
One night my mom and I started playing this new version of Tetris that featured an archaeologist that you helped do... something and get to Atlantis, I think, whatever, I don't remember the details but it was fantastic. With two players, each person essentially progressed through the game on their own and my mom and I kept keeping an eye on what the other was doing and we tried to beat the other to the end.
I remember my mom and I sitting at the foot of my sister's bed hours after she had gone to sleep. She even turned off the lights hoping it would encourage us to leave. I don't know how late it was when we both finished the game but it was late.
Thanks Mom for not making me go to bed before beating the game!
The Temple of Time
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is still my favorite video game, for many reasons. One of them is that moment in the Temple of Time when Link pulls the Master Sword out of the stone and is transported into the future and we meet grown-up Link for the first time. I knew that moment was coming and I couldn't wait.
When I finally reached the sword, I stood there, very very excited. I mean, I was ecstatic. I was so happy that I apparently wanted to share the moment with someone. So I called for my mom and she came. I had already talked to her about what was going to happen (probably a lot) but I gave her some background info anyway to make sure she was caught up.
Two years ago she bought me a Zelda-branded 3DS with Ocarina of Time and although I don't think she remembered our moment at the Temple of Time in 1998, I did, and her gift meant more to me than she could possibly understand. (I tried to explain why it was so great.)
Thanks mom, for sharing in one of my favorite video game moments and not just rolling your eyes at your overly excited teenage son's inexplicable love for that game!
Star Trek was a family thing. I would have never watched The Next Generation if it weren't because my mom liked it so much. I remember her being the type of person you could not bother when she was watching one of her TV shows. You had to be quiet. You didn't interrupt her. If the phone rang, she wasn't home. Instead of having her get mad at me because I somehow distracted her from a show, I would join her. I don't remember loving Star Trek as a kid but I remember enjoying sharing it with my mom.
Also, do you remember Columbia House? I think that right off the bat my mom ordered the Star Wars trilogy, the Aliens trilogy, and a lot of other great stuff like Batteries Not Included and Cocoon (1 and 2).
My mom not only watched sci-fi, she engaged in conversations with me about what we saw on Star Trek and other things we watched/read so it wasn't just entertainment for us; These things we shared were conversation starters and my mom encouraged me when I wanted to be an astronaut, go to science camp, or buy that book on how to use a personal computer.
So thanks again Mom for sharing some of my favorite things with me - whether it's your fault I like them or not - because you did a great job of making me feel like what mattered to me mattered. Period. That's something that meant a lot to me and guides a lot of what I do today.