Do you Like to Role-Play?

Playing tabletop role-playing games with real people or online. Which one is better, and why? Tabletop games allow social interactions face to face, with people you know and like, even come to love. When it comes to fitting gaming into your life, it's far easier to play video games than tabletop games. Just don't shout “die bitch!” on a packed train when you get too involved.
Steve Dean: Do you Like to Role-Play
Do you Like to Role-Play? Photo: Jo Stolp / Pixabay

Like many of you out there, I play both tabletop role-playing games with real people and online role-playing video gameswith real people who aren’t in the same room. Which is better, and why?

By tabletop game I mean any role-playing game where the players all sit in a room around a table and roll dice, move their beautifully painted figures around, and get distracted far too easily by subjects other than the present game session.

By video game I mean a role-playing game played either online or off, single or multi-player, where every part of the game is virtual. If you’re sitting around a table with your friends playing on your laptops, this is you. 


I find most video games that claim to have role-playing little more than a limited choice max/min fest. With tabletop games, the choices you make for your character are almost limitless. The ability to invent strange quirks for your character just can’t be replicated on a video game. If your character is scared of tomatoes and likes the feel of fresh envelopes, you’re probably playing a tabletop game.

The largest of points for tabletop games. It’s so big it counts twice!


Tabletop games allow social interactions face to face, with people you know and like, even come to love. People who share a common interest, who are willing to talk about the goblin language and laser-proof armour for hours. And it gets you out of the house, unless the game session is at your place.

Even when you’re using video calling technology, it’s still not as good as face to face interactions, particularly if the connection is a bit laggy or keeps dropping out. This is better than a tiny in-game chatbox but nowhere near as good as meeting someone in person.

Score one for tabletop games.

Value for Money

Tabletop game items don’t come cheap. But after you’ve bought all the manuals and floor plans, etc. then each session played will only cost a few pennies, so the more you play the better value it gets.

Video games can also be expensive. The games themselves aren’t cheap, and if you’re going to play online there might be an extra subscription to pay. There’s also the price of the hardware to consider. Like tabletop games, once you have these things it becomes better value. 

I’m going to have to call this one a draw.


Personally, I get more immersion from tabletop games than video games. I think this is because tabletop games are more immediate and require faster input, as well as the ability to get more involved with your character’s personality. With a video game you can put your character somewhere safe, and go off and make a drink, or if it’s a single-player game, just pause wherever you happen to be. If this task ends up taking several days, you know when you get back they will still be there, frozen in virtual time.

One point to tabletop games.

Real Life

When it comes to fitting gaming into your life, it’s far easier to play video games than tabletop games. You can play on your mobile device on the bus, on your PC at work, (during your lunch break of course), and drop in and out of the game when you need to write an essay/stop a child eating the dog’s dinner/suture a wound. Also, if you feel the need, you can tell people you’re checking your messages. Just don’t shout “die bitch!” on a packed train when you get too involved.

Video games win hands down on this one.

Second Chances

It’s generally true that if you mess up in a tabletop game session, tough. Unless your Game Master is extremely kind, the fact you used an invisibility spell on the goblin instead of on your thief is irreversible. Video games are far more forgiving than Game Masters, either with saved games, respawns, or just as many tries as you want until you get it right. You can look online for hints and walk-throughs, ask the other members of your clan/guild/free company to carry… help you, and you’ll usually get there in the end.

Score one for video games.


Unless you’re drinking alone, which isn’t recommended by most health watchdogs, tabletop games win hands down on this one. You can drink with friends, swap favourite tipples, and generally relax in a safe environment. Video games and alcohol don’t mix, as many of you can probably testify. I know a few people who deleted their favourite character while looking at the game through the bottom of a glass. At least at a tabletop game session there’ll be someone there to stop you from being too stupid.

One to tabletop games.


I know both sides can have snacks. With video games, you choose your own and don’t have to share, unless you’re playing next to your partner, and then it’s good to share.

But if you’re playing tabletop games you get to share other people’s snacks, and therefore get a wider variety of comestibles and to try things you wouldn’t normally buy. I was introduced to Wasabi nuts and dried seaweed by a gaming session. (FYI whatever anyone says, never eat dried seaweed, ever.)

I think we can call this one a tie. 

Avoiding People

There are people in the world who are complete idiots. Whether online or in real life, there’s always someone who mistakes opinion for fact and has the arrogance to proclaim these ‘facts’ to anyone who’ll listen, which is usually just their mother. With a video game, these people can be muted, kicked from the team, reported, or in some way avoided. In a tabletop game. the only viable way to avoid them is to leave the group or have the awkward talk with them about clashing personalities.

One for the video games clan.

It Was a Twenty!

I hope you haven’t come across this one, but cheating is a terrible thing to behold. Some people roll when no one’s looking, some people put their dice on the required number and pretend they’ve rolled it. Some characters never seem to die, no matter how much damage they take. I don’t understand why people do it, but it spoils the game for all the players.

Apart from some dodgy coding or a bot, this one isn’t so easy in video games, so this one is all on you tabletop games, and video games take the point!In conclusion, this shock result proves that when it comes to role-playing, tabletop gaming beats video gaming every time. 


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