Socio-Emotional Play: Designing an Applied Game for Autistic Girls (age ~10-16y.)
Applied games (or “serious games”) are designed for a primary purpose other than pure entertainment – and in this project, the aim is to make a computer game that will provide support in obtaining socio-emotional skills.
Why a game?
Understandably many parents see computer games as something that stands in the way of education by capturing children and adolescents’ attention for long stretches of time. Good games are designed to be fun and to produce an intrinsic motivation in the player to achieve the game’s goals – whether that’s winning a race, defeating an opponent or following and shaping a character’s story. In the past few years, several research projects have started to exploit these qualities to create games or gamified applications that aim to teach social emotional skills to young autistic people.
What’s special about THIS project?
The challenge with any applied game is to balance fun and “serious” content. We are trying to do this by involving a diverse group of autism researchers, therapists, design experts and game designers/developers, as well as – most importantly – autistic girls (the target users), and other members and allies of the autism community. No other games have been made specifically for autistic girls, who go through their own unique set of challenges and experiences and have often been overlooked in the discussion around autism.
Activism through design
Design can be used for social change and it is important to realize who benefits from this change. Throughout history, autism interventions have often focused on “correcting” autistic behaviours to fit the social norm and thereby creating tools that help teach autistic people how to behave in a “non-autistic” way. However, this project takes an active stance in advocating for autism, acceptance, and focusing on improving the quality of life of autistic girls. Together with autistic and non-autistic researchers we came to the conclusion that the game should not only aim to support girls in dealing with everyday life social interactions and emotions, but also to promote self-advocacy, increase their self-confidence and teach them how to stay safe.
This project is currently part of Claudia A. Libbi’s master thesis at the University of Twente. It is being supervised by Carolien Rieffe, Jelle van Dijk and Marcello Gòmez-Maureira. Also contributing are Els Blijd-Hoogewys, Funmi Bamidele-Walboomers, Lex Stockmann and Marieke Bos.
Photocredit: www.freepik.com (gpointstudio)