187: Hard-Wired for Gaming

tthor

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Jester Lord said:
Im just curious about what causes autism. A friend of mine has had 3 kids and they're all autistic. Does it have anything to do with genes? If anyone knows then may you please tell me. Great article by the way.
its purely genetic, as far as i know
 

tthor

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Dom Camus said:
The interesting thing is that as well as the known disorders regarded as being on the autistic spectrum there are other conditions which are seemingly related. Mathematical ability, for example. And indeed aptitude for technical detail generally. Evidence suggests the children of mathematicians and scientists more likely to have various autistic spectrum disorders, for example.

As you might expect, this is an area of ongoing research.
some of the greatest minds in history are believed to have autism.
for example, Albert Einstein and Bill Gates both had aspergers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asperger_syndrome (a form of autism)

having aspergers myself, its not difficult to see why people with it tend to become scientists and physicists. ppl with aspergers think a bit differently than most ppl. they tend to think very logically. this can be a huge advantage in areas such as mathematics, science, programming, etc, since these fields involve strict rules and laws that dictate them. but with things such as social interaction, this can be a big disadvantage, because social interaction requires a strong ability to reason and think on your feet. that logical mind wants to always give an exact answer to any given problem, but social interaction is a very inexact science.


(edit:sry for double post)
 

jay-ell

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Sep 16, 2008
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Charlie-two-zero said:
Probably the most important point I might make is that especially with the online nature of most games these days it is a pressure free social environment where the game is the focus. And Autistics have the potential to be VERY good gamers so they already get a modicum of respect. Something that can quite often vanish in real life encounters because of some other difficulties. The skills learnt from say "Joining a WoW guild" can be extrapolated (with help from mum and dad) into gaining friends in the real world.
I actually wrote a different piece a while back about a program at the University of Texas - Dallas center for Brain Health, which has a program that uses Second Life to teach people with Asperger's about social skills in a way very much like what you've described. I had originally included a bit about the program in this article, but had to cut it for word count. Link (.pdf) [http://brainhealth.utdallas.edu/news/documents/GameofLife.pdf]

Thanks to everyone on the autism spectrum who chimed in. I don't claim to speak for the "autism community" but it's nice to feel like I'm at the very least not doing a disservice to people who think like my son.



Dom Camus said:
Does your nephew literally discuss wanting to one day design games? Or is it that he wants to make games right now and this has been interpreted in that way by his family? I ask because my experience has been that autistic children at his age have trouble discussing events in the future unless they're repeated from known events in the past.
My nephew actually talks about wanting to be a "video game maker" in the future, as a career. I think his parents and teachers have talked to him about what he might want to be when he grows up. And my husband is a programmer, so he has talked to my nephew a lot about what he does for a living and what kinds of things he studied in school to get there. My nephew is also a great writer, and he writes his own stories all the time -- his second-grade class had indoor recess all last month due to bad weather, and he wrote and illustrated four books during his recess periods. I'm trying to convince him that it's as fun to write about games as it is to make them, but so far, no luck. ;)


tthor said:
great article
what type of autism does your son have?
To be glib, I guess you could say he has the type he has -- you know as well as anyone how unique people on the spectrum can be.

I guess, if pressed, I would have to say that he's high-functioning, but I'm convinced that the only difference between HFA and LFA is speech. He's got emerging speech skills already, and he's not quite four, so it seems he'll have full spoken communication someday. At present he's about a year behind verbally and socially, and a year ahead in many other (academic & fine motor) skills.

Endangered Puma said:
Some recommendations: "The Sims 3" comes out in a few weeks(which basically does what you said for The Sims, but captures it a bit more)...
I review games for another site, so I'll be getting a review copy of TS3. You better believe I got my name on the list as soon as the release date was announced. I'm a girl gamer; I'm contractually obligated to be obsessed with The Sims. Seriously! I signed a paper.

I'll keep those other suggestions in mind, though.

Thanks to everyone else who commented; I appreciate all the feedback. I hope to do a lot more work for The Escapist in the future; in fact, I've already submitted my next pitch. And if you want to check out my game reviews, they're here. [http://www.popmatters.com/pm/archive/contributor/355/]
 

jay-ell

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Sep 16, 2008
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Autism sucks, no matter how great you are at certain things.
This article kind of brought me down.
 

JoeSnaith

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Feb 5, 2009
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I have a friend with autism strangely it makes him amazing at certain things, like drumming and computeing it is wierd how a "disability" can help him and im sure others to be very good at certain things.
 

Eruanno

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Aug 14, 2008
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This was, I think, the best article I've read on the Escapist so far. It caught my interest a lot, even though I don't have a lot of experience with disabilities as such.
 

Labyrinth

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Oct 14, 2007
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Jester Lord said:
I'm just curious about what causes autism. A friend of mine has had 3 kids and they're all autistic. Does it have anything to do with genes? If anyone knows then may you please tell me. Great article by the way.
This [http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/badcock08/badcock08_index.html] may help you.

Fantastic article, as has been said before. It's warm without being sappy and very well written.

I think that video games are much better for this kind of thing than say, television. They're interactive and have the social learning skills mentioned in the article. This sort of thing I just don't see in television, where it's more like spoon-fed images.

In the future I can see things like the Sims being used as learning tools in centres for autistic children and the like. Probably a more sheltered variation, if it did occur, but it clearly has great potential to help remove many of the barriers endured by autistic people.
 

jay-ell

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Labyrinth said:
This [http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/badcock08/badcock08_index.html] may help you.

Fantastic article, as has been said before. It's warm without being sappy and very well written.

I think that video games are much better for this kind of thing than say, television. They're interactive and have the social learning skills mentioned in the article. This sort of thing I just don't see in television, where it's more like spoon-fed images.

In the future I can see things like the Sims being used as learning tools in centres for autistic children and the like. Probably a more sheltered variation, if it did occur, but it clearly has great potential to help remove many of the barriers endured by autistic people.
I've often said that I'd rather my kids spend an hour playing a video game than an hour in front of the television. Now that we as a society have decided that kids can learn from TV shows like Sesame Street, it's time we afforded the same funding and respect to video games that teach.

Certainly some games teach things I'd rather my young kids didn't learn. I'd never let a small child play Mortal Kombat, for instance. But there's more inappropriate content in film and television overall. Yet, very few parents categorically disallow TV and movies any more.

There are whole cable stations devoted solely to children's programming, yet when I walk into my local big-box store's software section, there are only a small handful of age-appropriate educational games for my kids, and most of them are outdated, under-budgeted, and just plain boring. This is less true of "kiddie consoles" than PC games, but even the vTech and LeapFrog systems are just beginning to come into their own technologically.

Anyway -- that's another article. Thanks again to everyone for reading and commenting.
 

tzimize

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Mar 1, 2010
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Fantastic article. I'm almost done with my 4th and final year as a teacher trainee, and this is a truly inspirational read for me. In one of my practice periods I have taught a student with asperger, and I know they can be a real challenge...how challenging is then a "real" autist?

My hat is off to you both for being such a good parent, and for sharing this experience.
 

chozo_hybrid

Jund 'Em Out!
Jul 15, 2009
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This was a fantastic article and you must be a fantastic parent, kudos :)

It was interesting reading about that experience and such, now if only I could convince my parents to play games...
 

SoulSalmon

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Sep 27, 2010
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Hehe, this article reminds me of when my autistic bro was sill little :p

Though it was a somewhat different story, I was the gamer at a young age, playing through Super Mario Bros 3 and Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (with the help of my mum ;)) at the age of 2, roughly the same time as my brother came along.

Naturally I wanted someone to play with, we already had two snes controllers and mum was usually busy so it was me who got him into games, of course we're talking a totally different era of gaming to the little one in the article.

Mum managed to get him to learn how to read at a young age, she did the same for me of course, and this quickly led to his improval in games which in turn led to improvement at reading and so-on. It also led to me learning how to read "options" and "language" in a ton of languages because he kept changing them...

Skip ahead a few years to the N64; We actually ended up with four controllers right away, and this was the first time I noticed my brother doing something I couldn't do.
He was playing a four-player race, by himself.

He held one controller in each hand and used his feet (that actually quite dextrous genetically... like a monkey) on the other two, and he was ACTIVELY racing himelf, I couldn't even control two at the same time without crashing into walls while his screen coulda fooled me into thinking that their was four different racers.

I don't really know where I'm going with this story... just pointing out the fact that some otherwise handicapped people can do some amazing things I suppose...

Of course I could skip ahead to present day and tell you what he does on Minecraft... if he ever built a scale replica it would be perfect, but he hasn't yet.

His main world however has several 32x32 holes down to bedrock (ones a swimming pool...), a statue for every mob, a tower made out of iron blocks, lavafalls from the sky... my descriptions probably make it sound terrible but it's quite amazing, especially for someone who plays totally legitimately.
 

unknownartist

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Jan 4, 2011
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I know almost everyone has said this, but: Great Article!

My little brother (9 years old, diagnosed autistic at the age of 1) and I try working his social skills by cooperating in Little Big Planet, sharing time with him is always a new adventure, and we both learn things from each-other. He still struggles with putting words to express what he feels and thinks, though he is a great listener and understands a great deal of what is being said.

When I hear people talking about the negative consequences of gaming I feel that we all should put things in perspective and see both sides of the argument. Seeing how video-games represent a great help to autistic kids (and to other people too) I feel proud of being a gamer.