“They’re the Past Me that I’m Trying to Love”: Exploring the Experiences of Autistic Adults Who Play Tabletop Role-playing Games.


"They're the Past Me that I'm Trying to Love"

After developing a social development service for autistic teenagers and young adults that utilised tabletop role-playing games to build social confidence and encourage positive social interaction, I felt that there was a step missing in the research that was informing the basis of my practice.

For my PhD research, I set out to explore the experiences of autistic adults who engage in tabletop role-playing games, particularly those who were not introduced to the hobby through an autism-specific service.

Tanwn Ward, BSocSci(Hons), (She|Her)

PhD Candidate

I am currently undertaking PhD research at the University of Otago, New Zealand, focusing on a qualitative exploration of the experiences of autistic adults who play tabletop role-playing games. I expect to complete my research and submit my thesis by March 2022.

I have been lucky enough to be involved with the autism community for most of my life, but began working with autistic people in 2018 where I developed and ran youth social support groups as well as providing one-to-one mentoring for autistic teenagers and young adults.

Since then, I have travelled New Zealand providing professional development training on autism to people working in the health and disability field, and also got the amazing opportunity to develop a Dungeons & Dragons service for autistic teens. I have recently decided to take a break from practice to focus on my PhD research.

TRPG-wise, I have been playing TRPGs (starting with D&D5e) officially for the last six years after being a single-player cRPG fan for most of my life. I, like many others, fell in love with the medium and subsequently let it take over my life.

Today, I am the Guildmaster for the Waikato Role-Playing Guild, an incorporated society that focuses on raising awareness of, and sharing the love for tabletop role-playing games in my community and I have discovered my true passion lies in GMing and meticulously world-building down to the minute details that my players will never ask about.

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