I had just finished watching the new Zero Punctuation over at the Escapist and figured I would browse around a bit and see if Rev posted anything new over there. Whilst my flurry of mouse clicks I came across the article “Hard-Wired for Gaming,” believing it to be a story about an innate gene that would correlate with either the need to game or one’s proficiency in gaming. I was correct, but for surprisingly wrong reasons.
The writer, Jamie Dunston, touches on some very interesting, heartfelt aspects of autism and gaming. Her young son is autistic but he learns how to interact with the world through games. I won’t paraphrase the story because it’s well worth the time it takes to read.
The article shined a brighter light on the way I saw video games. I can remember reading previous articles on the subjects of physical therapy games and similar articles to Jamie’s. Intrigued, I started to familiarize myself with the autism - video game connection and begin to think of ways to tailor-make a game for kids with autism. That lead me to the Autism Collaborative. These researchers are designing a video game, Astropolis, to directly help with the conditions of autism.
After Matlock-ing for a couple more hours I began to question how both Gears of War and Astropolis could both, essentially, be in the same category of a "game", but have near opposite applications. Fanboy flaming aside, video games as a medium lend themselves to far greater and imaginative things than chainsaws and blood. Indie games, being the subculture that it is, are able to present the more artistic and thought provoking elements of the medium. I feel that games can and should be something more than what is currently out. Games can provide an avenue for children with disorders, an opportunity to grow socially and mentally; something that other mediums can also accomplish, but not to the extent nor to the potential success that video games can.
Games have the unique ability to incorporate the visual and audio aspects of film and the written characteristics of print. But the thing that separates games from other medias is interactivity: a feat the others strive to mirror. All that stimulus is easily picked up and cataloged by children with autism, making games an efficient and accommodating way to reach them. I think the next big leap in the ongoing legitimacy of video games would be a mass market game that changes the way the public sees games and their developers. I envision a game that could be adopted by doctors, parents, and publishers which would be used in the treatment of disorders like aspergers and autism. Keep in mind that one out of every 150 kids have autism. That’s a lot of gamers, and a lot of kids that love to learn.
We, as a growing community, an ever evolving medium, and as gamers, should push to see something along these lines realized. If nothing else “Make a game to help autistic children learn” would make for an interesting theme for game design jams like the ones at GDC. Who knows, maybe we might be able to finally proclaim, “Look we aren’t just full of hot coffee, alien sex, and head shots,” and the rest of the world might believe us.
(I’m sure Bill O could find a way to bash a game that helps kids with disorders, no doubt in my mind.)
So to begin, I am currently enrolled at Baton Rouge Community College working to get my associates in Game Design and I am loving every minute of it. This is only my second semester back at college after taking an 18 month break. Nervous breakdown, insomnia, blah blah blah. So I took the time I had off from school and focused on figuring out what exactly I wanted to go back to school for.
I started college right out of high school not knowing what to expect. I was dead set on being a journalist but after a semester and a half of wandering blindly through classes and constantly second guessing my career path my enthusiasm begin to dwindle.
So August of last year was my first semester back at school, and of all things, for game design. AMAZING. I don't know why but i always assumed that working on games was such a far fetched goal. I owe a lot to my friends and family for being supportive and excited about my goal.
However, I owe more to Rev Anthony and his Indie coverage. Had it not been for Dtoid and Rev I would never have know that Indie developers even existed.
So I also got a job working for EA as a Quality Assurance Tester, and i must say, possibly one of the best jobs ever. However the thing I am most proud of and extremely enthused about would be the game that myself and nine others are creating.
I play all genres of games. I figure the more games i play the more information and ideas i have to pull from. The game that made me a gamer however, would be Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening. And yes, I still have the cinder block gameboy and a perfect game save on the original game cartridge. I <3 it so much.
There is a lot more going on in my life, but I'll leave that for another blog.