Programming is problem solving. When approaching any problem we think as we have been taught to for years: work within a rule set, use the available tools, and try to break down the end goal into smaller, manageable tasks.
I just described, arguably, any intellectually stimulating task. Like anything else, our brain needs practice to make perfect. I find those who surround me to be constantly exercising their minds be it through discussion or debate on a topic over a meal or while moving about through the day- through activities such as puzzles or video games (though not all video games fall into this category)- or be it through other actives such as role-playing.
Recently, a poster on /. (pronounced slash dot, www.slashdot.org) asserted that RPing and programming have a lot in common. It’s sad that neither the author nor I after some degree of searching could find any scientific studies correlating the two, but I think there’s more to it than meets the eye.
As I started this entry saying, programming is problem solving. Role-playing is problem solving. We engage in simple arithmetic to control the flow of the game. We have a defined rule set, currently on version 3.5 if one plays Dungeons and Dragons. We have a specific end result we desire reaching (though in some cases it could just be not dieing). And we, as a team, solve the puzzles and riddles or conquer what comes at us.
RPing on surface value looks like acting, and as such I would at first think that it would be more popular at a liberal arts school. However, the skills necessary- the very lifecycle of a campaign matches up with programming- with specific meeting times, a defined project leader, and countless hours of concentration on a single task. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that it’s fun too.