Everyone who plays roleplaying games has heard this sentence at least once, while trying to explain their hobby. For those who are still playing D&D, or near enough, that's fine, maybe. But even for them, doesn't that feel full of the tinge of a bunch of pimply 13-year-olds in a basement playing execrable hack-and-slash without a hint of artistry or creativity? That's what's probably in the mind of anyone who would ask that dreaded question, after all.
After many years of labored analogies and other answers, I finally found an answer I like. "Yes," I'll say with a smile, "in the same sense that good community or professional theatre is like the elementary school Christmas pageant."
Perhaps a bit pretentious, perhaps presumptuous, but... accurate, isn't it? And it conveys the idea immediately, too. It banishes the bad associations and often opens up the listener's mind to the possibility that there's a whole lot more to this thing than they knew about.
Plus, it offends the people who are still playing D&D, so it's a win-win situation.