Although video games typically conjure up images of recluses secluded in their dark basements, new findings are discounting these assumptions and realizing the benefits gaming can have for those on the autism spectrum. Neuroscientists and gaming technology experts have collaborated and developed a counterintuitive creation: a video game called Brainville designed to increase the social skills of those with Asperger’s and other social cognition disorders. This gaming experience provides these socially limited individuals with a safe and stress free virtual world for them to practice common interactions, like job interviews, going to school, and skills needed for socialization. Benefits the participants receive by playing the game are already being reported, namely rising scores in psychological tests and increased abilities to recognize what others were feeling.
This Huffington Post article provides a brief overview of the researchers’ findings. It explains what the game aims to do, provides examples of the benefits found, and has quotes from autistic participants who tout the game’s positive impact. These aspects of the article support my hypothesis that those with autism can find help and social practice within the virtual realm.
The lead researcher/creator of the project, Carl Lutz, tells of the game and the team’s findings through his own perspective. We are given his background and impressive credentials, providing some validation for what he says.
I will cite this source to give a deeper understanding of what autism is, and how deeply it inhibits social skills and causes anxiety in those afflicted. Providing the science of what goes on in the mind of someone with autism will show that video games give them respite from their real world pressures that the disorder causes.
This article provides additional examples of various games used as therapy for autism. It also contains multiple references to studies that involved gaming and autism. I can look these up for additional information as needed.
The storytelling and life-like aspects of the game are supported in this article. In Brainville, the players act out scenarios that follow linear paths. The research in this article explains how games can allow autistic children to utilize the important “theory of mind” ability.