Dungeons and Dragons and other Tabletop Role-Playing Games (TTRPGs) have immense value in strengthening communication skills, building confidence, and becoming more empathetic. I am too lazy to look up articles and studies but I wanted to share my personal experience with D&D; If you know of a study or article feel free to leave it in a comment below so we can all learn!
Dungeons and Dragons, whether a person is a player or Dungeon Master, is a rewarding group story telling with slightly mathy game mechanics. Dice with different numbers of sides are used to determine outcomes of events and battle mechanics. There are other TTRPGs that have all sorts of themes if fantasy is not your thing (post apocalyptic, Pokémon, and more realistic settings).
The Dungeon Master (DM) is the combination of a world builder, character creator, plot director, and referee. Being a DM requires and hones executive functioning skills since the pacing, rules keeping and story telling starts with them. A DM, like a good author, has to get inside of characters’ heads and develop motivations for characters that the party encounters.
As a party member, I get to create a character that I control which leads to endless opportunities for unique experiences. I can either be a character that is similar to who I am as a person (this is what I usually lean towards), a character who is very different than me and who has attributes that I would not want to have (for example an evil thief or a brash barbarian), or someone who exaggerates a part of my personality (for example someone who is a little more outgoing, or a different gender, or a silent monk). The last one is very interesting to me due to the therapeutic possibilities. Students and adults can practice being more outgoing and making quicker decisions under the guise of being someone else. If someone is trans or gay or something else and is having trouble publicly expressing it they can use their character to explore themselves and how they would want to be seen. I have seen many students be very reserved and shy or act in ways that isolate them, but in D&D club they come alive and their peers help them build social skills that they can use in out-of-game interactions.
I think it is worth an attempt to encourage friends, family, and students to play. Who knows, it might be exactly what they needed.