Our (RPG Professional) Story

Our RPG origins go back to the late 1970s... We provide a wide range of recreation, entertainment, publishing, educational, and therapeutic services, including Music and Recreation Therapy related services, but this page focuses just on the evolution of our RPG related services.

RPG Therapeutics LLC's story begins with our founder, William Hawkes-Robinson ("Hawke Robinson").

TLDR Short Version

Our founder began researching around 1983, and designing program plans around 1985 for gifted & talented children, then expanded into therapeutic fields in 2004. Since 2016 we have been able to provide services remotely, onsite, and even in remote rural locations with our mobile facility.

Long Version

Mr. Hawkes-Robinson began role-playing gaming in the mid-1970s.

In the late 1970s he began programming computers, and creating text-based RPGs for fun. By 1982, he had his first paid programming gigs for POS & inventory software at a video rental store.

In 1983 he began researching the effects of role-playing games, in response to the beginnings of the anti-RPG movement fueled by the "Moral Panic" aka "Satanic Panic" of the 80s.

Also around 1983, at only age 12-13 years old, he was paid by gamers twice his age to run games as Dungeon Master (DM) and Game Master (GM). In addition to the usual offerings to the GM, of players bringing food, snacks, drinks, etc. He ran 2 game groups on Saturdays and 1 on Sundays, with about 8 players per group, with 6 hour sessions. They also paid a mere $1 per gamer per session. A pittance per hour, but for a 12 years, when at the time the rule books were only $12, and miniatures only $0.25 cents, this helped, as he put it, "feed the habit". In raw inflation this would be only about $3/player in 2019, in RPG inflation this would still only be about $5/player.

Around 1984/85 Mr Hawkes-Robinson had the opportunity to teach role-playing games in a school for gifted and talented children (Realms of Inquiry), 5 days per week as an alternative to "Study Hall" as the last class of the day. He has intermittently been providing RPGs in various educational settings ever since.

In 1986-1988 he created a number of RPGA gaming conventions in Salt Lake City, Utah. The first event only had 12 players. The following year it had over 50. He remained engaged with RPGs to varying degrees over the following years.

Fast-forward 2003. Our founder had a successful career in computer science, information technology, and information security. Was CIO and CTO for a number of companies, "did the Silicon Valley .com thing", and was able to semi-retire in 2003 to focus on raising his family of then 3 young boys. Looking ahead to when they were grown, he decided to, on the side, become a recreational therapist and found that much of the material stated that there was a dearth of cooperative activities that are motivating without competition, but that research showed were very much needed. As a person with an RPG background, it seemed obvious that RPGs could fill that need. As he contacted recreational therapists around the country, he couldn't find anyone that had ever considered RPGs as an intervention modality.  Most Therapeutic Recreation Specialists of the early 2000s came from either an "outdoors" or "athletic" background, so Mr. Hawkes-Robinson's distinctively diverse background lead to a different perspective.

The Therapeutic Recreation (TR) literature turned out to be an excellent mapping to role-playing games in all formats: tabletop (TRPG), live-action (LARP), electronic (ERPG), and solo adventures books/modules (SABM).

Also there was a dearth of real research into the effects of role-playing games. Around 2004 there were (generously) at most 40-60 research studies on role-playing games and gamers, and most were focused on trying to verify or invalidate the negative claims about RPGs and RPGers. Most were correlational, small in "n" size, short in duration, or case studies. Only a small handful were remotely controlled experimental studies. However, in educational settings there was an increasing body of data from successful instructors around the world using RPGs to improve their courses.

One example of a life-long professional GM includes Rebecca from the Role-Play Workshop. In the late 1980s she was a certified instructor in California. She found that RPGs were a significantly better modality and began offering after school and summer camp educational RPG programs. This was so successful that after a few years she took the plunge and quit her job as a school teacher to focus on using RPGs as an instructional modality. Using her own setting and system (Abantey), she has been making a living as a professional GM ever since, and has, over the years employed a number of other Game Masters in the Oakland, California area as well.

In 2004 Mr. Hawkes-Robinson founded "The RPG Research Project" as a subsection of his many websites. This later became its own dedicated website around 2006 at rpgresearch.com. He aggregated all available research on all RPG formats, shared openly (within legal limits) as much as possible with the public.

The RPG Research Project made it possible for others to much more quickly look over the data and begin their own research

Mr. Hawkes-Robinson is a self proclaimed "Open Source Advocate" and states that as much as legally possible "All information should be free" and that sharing "floats all boats", and often quotes Thomas Jefferson's "he who light's his taper from mine does not diminish me" as the philosophy behind The RPG Research Project.'

This (among many other variables) helped contribute to an increasing boom in RPG studies and research since 2006. A number of professionals completing their Masters and Doctoral degrees have contacted Mr Hawkes-Robinson indicating it was his website, public speaking, presentations, and papers, that shaped their academic and professional career decisions!

Mr. Hawkes-Robinson, among many other interests and background, had experience as a Certified Nursing Assistant, LPN, Habilitation Therapist, and working with many special needs populations. As he began learning American Sign Language (ASL) around 2005, he formed several ASL study groups in the Eastern Washington area, and became highly engaged in the Deaf and Hard of Hearing (HoH) communities. He was able to grow monthly "Deaf Coffee Chat" from 8-12 average attendees per month, to around 50-70+ attendees per month! He also began running TRPG & LARP sessions with some of the Deaf & HoH community between 2006 through 2012.

2004 was also the beginning of the formal research efforts by Hawkes-Robinson, trying to determine the key variables and effects of RPGs, how to optimize the RPG experience, and the potential to use RPGs as intervention modalities to achieve specific measurable goals in 4 key sectors:

  • Recreation
  • Entertainment
  • Educational
  • Therapeutic

In 2004 he began writing papers, and by 2007 was frequently providing  presentations, participating on professional panels, and guest speaking at various locations around the US and online. Including mostly hospitals, rehabilitation centers, professional conferences, and sometimes at the occasional fan/gaming events/conventions like WorldCon.

In 2012 through 2015 Mr. Hawkes-Robinson began struggling with life-threatening pulmonary disorders, and the medication was causing significant damage as well. He has been in gradual recovery from the illness and medication since. This steadily reduced his capacity for working long hours every day, but did not stop his overall drive and  vision.

In 2014 Mr. Hawkes-Robinson registered with the Washington State Department of Health as a Recreational Therapist and founded RPG Therapeutics LLC as his practice for music and recreation therapy, which included RPG related services.When clients were not a good match for pro bono services, Mr. Hawkes-Robinson was paid on average $120/hr as a Professional Game Master. On the lower side in recreational settings around $90/hr, and on the higher side in therapeutic settings around $150/hr., with entertainment and educational settings more around the middle range.

These funds were mostly used to help further the goals of RPG Research and community programs, and the early ideas of the wheelchair accessible RPG Trailer. The rates were comparable to his information technology/security consulting rates. Most of this was through a variety of professional organizations, hospitals, rehabilitation organizations, group care providers, some educational and special needs organizations, some larger entertainment events, some insurance covered providers, and others. Occasionally individuals and groups paid directly for services.

By 2015 Mr. Hawkes-Robinson had too much work to keep up with. He was mentoring many people around the world over the phone, Internet, and in person. He was providing paid professional services across a wide spectrum, including paid game mastering and GM training for professionals in the educational and healthcare industries. He was "burning out" pulling 90+ hour work weeks. He had trouble saying "no" to anyone in need and was extremely overextending himself. He stated he "felt terrible turning so many people away that could have been helped". Initially he mostly gave away his consulting, presentation, speaking, and mentoring time for free. In the hopes of trying to get more hirable people out there, he often provided free training and mentoring, and only charging for the services from organizations that insisted it be handled as a paid service, requiring insurance coverage and other expenses.

In summary due to overwhelming demand, he began trying to hire staff to help address the overwhelming demand. 

Unfortunately he could not find anyone with the combination of TR & RPG experience sufficient to help with the client demand. So after a frustrating year of going through hundreds of applications with no match, he decided he needed to formalize training on a larger scale to create the talent pool needed to meet this incredible demand.

This eventually lead to the creation of Rpg.Education., and trying formalize training with professional certification modeled after a combination of the medical industry (CNA, LPN, etc.) and the tech industry (MCP, GCIH, GSE, etc.). He began the process of starting to convert more than 70 classes he provided from in-person courses to online, a lengthy and still ongoing process. He hopes over time to make these courses as scalable as possible to reach as many people around the world as possible, as inexpensively as possible. The more self-directed they become, the more it frees up his time.

He started the process with having to say "no" more, and stopped accepting most new clients, and wrapping up existing client contracts, while simultaneously ramping up engagement on the RPG Research side.

All through these years the RPG Research Project had continued to grow in scope and impact, but while he worked with hundreds of volunteers and other professionals from many other organizations in partnership, and the website was a conglomeration of an active sharing community of many contributors from many disciplines around the world, it was still effectively a 1-person organization.

So in 2016 he put out the word that he was looking to formally bring volunteers on board long-term to RPG Research and began the process of formalizing the effectively non-profit organization to become a 501(c)3 non-profit research and human services organization. The RPG Research Project became simply "RPG Research" in the Fall of 2017, and shortly thereafter received 501(c)3 status from the IRS.

In late 2016 the first team member to official join RPG Research was John Welker, who would over time become Vice President. John had worked with Hawke Robinson on and off in previous years, including at WorldCon 73 in 2015, Tolkien Moot, Merlyn's, and others.

In the Fall of 2016 he purchased the Wheelchair Friendly RPG Trailer Prototype.

By Summer 2017 there were 6 volunteer staff members at RPG Research, by the end of 2018 RPG Research signed up volunteer number 44!

In 2017 Hawke Robinson purchased a dilapidated 1984 activity bus. Throughout 2018, with the help of friends, family, & volunteers, and his prior mechanical (4x ASE certified) experience, the long process of fixing up and enhancing what would become the "RPG Bus" began. This is still an ongoing process.

September through October 2018, Mr. Hawkes-Robinson undertook a 26 day, 8 state, tour, to raise awareness about accessibility and gaming, and to connect with the gaming community in the western USA. You can see the photos, audio, and video from that real-life adventure at www.rpgtour.com

Not Always Rolling A "Great Success"

While Hawke Robinson has had repeated success in commercial ventures over the decades, receiving payment for services or products rendered, he continues to struggle to "get it" regarding fundraising efforts for the non-profit. While not having any trouble recruiting and keeping volunteers, fundraising has eluded him. Fortunately part of the charter he created with RPG Therapeutics LLC is that 20% of profits go to support RPG Research. He hopes some day RPG Research will be a fully self-sufficient non-profit organization, with private grants and donors bringing fully to life the incredible potential for research and community programs around the world. Until then, combined with the help from a handful of Patreon, PayPal, Facebook, and individual donors, they will keep growing primarily based on the help from volunteers, running a very lean non-profit organization.

As the RPG Education and Certified RPG Professional (CRPGP) training and certification continued to develop from 2015 onward, a number of people are also by their own means, based on Hawkes-Robinson's guidance, gaining the skill set so desperately needed. The key combination, if you wish to train on your own and get the equivalent training and knowledge needed for different variants and levels of the CRPGP,  and our founders background, the following needs to be taken into account:

  • Breadth & depth of RPG experience in all 4 RPG formats and related hybrids.
  • Training and experience in RPG Theory and related theories.
  • Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist or equivalent training & experience.
  • Training and experience in TR and RT Theories.
  • Training and experience in various forms of the neurosciences including cognitive neuropsychology as well.
  • Training and experience in Research Psychology and Clinical Psychology.
  • Training and experience with the specific populations you wish to work with (see our lengthy Populations list).
  • Training and experience in theater, acting, voice.
  • Training and experience in music theory, singing, and one or more instruments.
  • Training and experience in music therapy.
  • Accessibility training and implementation
  • American Sign Language
  • and many other knowledge domains.

January 2019 RPG Therapeutics was able to finally begin hiring sufficiently qualified RPG Professionals. While the CRPGP is still evolving, these staff members have years of relevant training and relevant certifications, and are helping shape the future of this industry.

Role-Playing Game Master employee wages currently range from $20 to $60 per hour, depending on qualifications, abilities, certification status, and client contracts. Our founder hopes that, over time, he will be able to get all GM Level 2+ employees to at least $30-40 per hour, and specialists with CTRS or equivalent to be around $40-60 per hour within the next 2 years, and around $90 to $120 per hour within 5 years. This is the rate he was receiving in 2015. This is of course depending on what the market will tolerate, business overhead, and will vary significantly by location. Some states are much more business friendly than others.

In addition to our remote services we already provide worldwide, we hope to be providing on site services in the following states by 2020:

  • Washington
  • Idaho
  • Montana
  • Oregon

And we hope to be providing services in the following states by 2022:

California, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado.

Further growth will be determined by staff availability, and various business model approaches currently being evaluated.

There have been quite a few inquiries about franchising opportunities. It is too early in the development of this industry for such an option. We are not yet far enough along in this process, but hopefully within 1-3 years we will have repeated and refined the process sufficiently for such possibilities to help extend the beneficial reach of these services throughout the US, Canada, EU, and other parts of the world.

Of course, these estimates may be completely overreaching to grow so quickly, and our plans will of course adjust to actual market pressures. With a likely major crash coming in 2019, we are also preparing to buffer ourselves for a sharp market downturn potential, which would delay these growth plans.

Meanwhile, the demand for paid professional game masters is through the roof, and the demand for training to create these professional is completely outstripping our current resources to meet the demand. This is a good "problem" to have, the only real problem is that we are scrambling to meet this demand and frustrating the long wait list of people impatient to get under way.

This page will be updated as things unfold...

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