"Initially what really got me into actually playing on a regular basis was, I had gotten depression."
Erica Robertson was grieving the death of her father and experiencing postnatal depression. In a time where she needed social interaction and an escape, she had few options.
"I was the only person in my friendship group that had a child, and I wasn't going out every weekend like everybody else, my only form of socialisation was gaming through a screen, but that can also be very isolating."
But then after Ms Robertson heard about a game called, "Dungeons and Dragons" she felt her life changed.
Dungeons and Dragons, commonly known as D&D, is a roleplaying game where one person acts as a narrator to take the other players on an adventure through a fantasy world.
All it takes to play is a pen, paper and a healthy imagination.
Ms Robertson has found that part of the game's appeal is it increases self-esteem: "Anyone can be the hero of their own story".
"When I was in high school, I was never in any of the cliques, my group didn't really belong anywhere else," she said.
"It gives those kids that feel a little bit out of the mainstream a chance at finding their tribe. A lot of people who play Dungeons and Dragons are just looking for someplace to find their own."
Ms Robertson has found fulfilment as a volunteer at the Mudgee Library, teaching young people how to play D&D.
"I honestly enjoy seeing the different ways people try to get through a puzzle, or a problem," she said.
The Youth Council-run events have brought young people together from across the region, and friendships have since been forged in the heat of battle.
"They just instantly fall into this pattern of teamwork, because they all have different strengths and weaknesses," she said.
"It's been really interesting to see people that had no other reason to interact with each other, end up finding each other."
The latest event, "Dungeons and Dragons Extravaganza" was organised by Mid-Western Youth Council for young people to enjoy over the school holidays.
Ms Robertson placed adventurers in a deadly game where they had to work together to complete a series of challenges, including an escape room puzzle.
Youth mayor Immi enjoyed the experience, where she played as a bard who uses music to cast spells.
"When you play, you really get immersed in the story, it's like you're there," she said.
"And it forces you to think how you respond in different magical situations. It teaches you to work with what you're given, which translates to real life."
D&D helps with critical thinking, as players must formulate creative ways to work through problems, according to Ms Robertson.
"It also increases empathy because you're playing someone else's life, so it makes it easy to see someone else's point of view," she said.
To attend the next Dungeons and Dragons event, please register online.
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