Roleplaying is NOT a novel. Novels serve many functions, primarily to tell a story. Sometimes they are pure escapism and entertainment. Many times they serve to topics important to the author through his characters. Through character development an author can convey ideas to the reader. If done well it is subtle and gives the reader things to ponder. The author has full control of the direction and content of the story.
Roleplaying is NOT a movie. In a movie, much like a novel, a story is being presented, in this case to a viewer. The director has merged audio and visual elements of his devising to take the viewer on a journey. The ride can be exciting and fun, or somber and thought provoking.
Roleplaying is NOT a board game, though we are getting warmer. A board game doesn’t often tell a story but when it does, its generally very straightforward and given to the players to react to. There is a set few actions the players may take and a smaller subset that generates a win for either a player or team of players.
Roleplaying is NONE of these things and yet a curious mix of ALL of them. While the GM or DM provides scenarios for the players to explore, he is more a facilitator the story growing from the combined actions of all at the table, to one degree or another. And while many of us enjoy having a grid with terrain and minis for physical representation, a lot of the story happens in our minds as the imaginations breathes a kind of life into the game. We as a group collaborate to play a game to produce an interactive story we can share as friends.
Roleplaying is a means of temporarily escaping into fiction, leaving behind the issues of the day, at least for me. Donning the persona of a man on his journey to become a hero is the best medicine for stress, and can often provide inspiration to be a hero, as much as is possible, in real life.