Is role play simulation (RPS) a form of problem-based learning (PBL)?
Both starts with considering a problem situation and try to provide an authentic learning experience to the players/students.
PBL typically has ONE problem (although it may be complex and involve several steps) to solve and it is also typical that there is ONE best solution. ALL learners are expected to solve the same problem.
RPS presents a complex situation, with multiple (conflicting) stakeholder interests. There is typically NO single correct solution. Students play our the situation in the sole of the roles (each role may represent one or more stakeholder interests). The game goal can change as the simulation progress (indicating either the result of the learning experience or the need to adapt to different strategy).
PBL does not finish until a solution is found. RPS focuses more on the process and it is normal to end a RPS without reaching a solution. (For example, Andrew Vincent's Middle East Political Simulation can have an end as it reflects the real life. History will not stop!)
Some RPS do NOT have any embedded problem. While the simulation designer may create a scenario with a compelling kick-start episode, the kick-start episode not necessarily represents the actual problem/issue that the RPS has been designed to 'teach'. Mary Noggle's "Scarlet Letter Simulation' for American Literature is designed to give the students a "stage' to experience the life at the Puritan era. The kick-start episode is just a start and there is no obvious problem for the players to solve.
Both PBL and RPS are not designed for transfer of information, they act as motivator for students to seek out and understand information necessary for solving the problem (PBL) or handling the situation/issue (RPS). The design motivation is the same.