Of course the reality is that roleplaying games do have more in common with childhood games of lets-pretend than they do with structured board games or computer games played by adults. Despite the proliferation of rulebooks that provide the internal structure of a game like DandD, at heart it’s still a game of make believe. And it’s this element of childlike behaviour juxtaposed with a grown up game that I think freaks people out and has often turned DandD into a taboo games that people can’t understand.
History teaches us that which cannot be understood is often feared. Its irrational and bigoted but its also an evolutionary throwback to our caveman days when the unknown usually came with 9 inch sabre teeth and a taste for human flesh. And its this combination of confusion, lingering suspicion and sometimes outright hostility that makes the need for a clear definition all the more important.
So here's my definition, for what its worth.
"Roleplaying is game of storytelling where the players imagine themselves as characters in a fictional adventure and work together to explore the location and events as described and guided by a referee."I'd be glad to hear what you say when asked, What is Roleplaying?