On a crisp autumn Tuesday, four teenagers gathered in a West Seattle community center found themselves in trouble. An evil king was threatening to attack their village, and the only way to survive was to enlist the help of a two-headed monster.

But the monster’s two heads would not stop arguing with each other, and time was wasting. One head of the monster insisted on a swift attack while the other head called for strategy before action.

The teens were engaged in a match of Dungeons & Dragons—a tabletop role-playing game that requires players to create their own characters and participate together in a story. But they were doing more than exercising their imaginations. Guided by game master Adam Davis ’06, co-founder and executive director of Game to Grow, the teens were learning real social skills such as problem solving, collaboration, frustration-tolerance, and perspective-taking (a psychology term for taking someone else’s viewpoint into account). 

Adam created the nonprofit last spring with his business partner, Adam Johns. The two founders, along with three other game masters, meet with nearly 40 kids each week throughout the Seattle area. Their goal is to help kids with underdeveloped social skills by mimicking the unstructured play of childhood—a crucial step in social development. “What we need to do is meet them where they’re at and help them come along the way,” Adam explains.