In case you needed it, here’s yet another reason RPGs are cool. Today at work, I had occasion to help with a large-scale evacuation. People with walkie-talkies anxiously relaying information back and forth, fire trucks and command centers, rapidly evolving situations and faster-evolving rumors — the whole thing. I’m not a trained emergency response person, but I could feel my RPG instincts kicking in: “If this were a scenario I were running, what factors might go wrong? What other factors would complicate them? How could the PCs prevent problems before they occur?” Being able to anticipate problems like that helped me come up with a couple good solutions that quickly got seized on as the right way to run things; and my experience handling emergencies in games allowed me to be more helpful in a real-world emergency.
This kind of situation often makes me think of the Phil Foglio What’s New cartoon that looks at how RPGs make you better able to handle different situations. It could be read as self-congratulatory pap (a gamer version of “fans are slans”), but a lot of it is really true, especially (I think) the part about being able to think quickly in a dangerous situation. No wonder the armed forces, State Department and other organizations run ‘exercises’ that look remarkably like RPGs.