What is it like to be a child on the autism spectrum on a noisy, busy playground? The typical laughter and squeals of joy can be overstimulating and scary for children with sensory sensitivities. It is difficult for those without sensory issues to understand how a place of joy can be anything but fun for children, but a new indie game, Auti-Sim, attempts to give everyone a brief glimpse into the life of a child with autism.
Auti-Sim is playable on the GameJolt.com website, a site dedicated to independent game developers.
“This game was developed during Hacking Health Vancouver 2013 hackathon. The player navigates through a playground as an autistic child with auditory hypersensitivity. Proximity to loud children causes sensory overload for the player, impacting cognitive functions. This impact is represented as visual noise and blur, as well as audio distortion. Participants described the experience as visceral, insightful and compelling.”
TaylanK uploaded the game on Feb. 26, 2013 and users have given it a 4.4 out of 5.0 star rating. One of the comments caught my eye. User Aira said, “I've decided not to try this myself because I am autistic with several types of hypersensitivity, and from the demo video, it looks too intense for me. But I wanted to say thanks for creating it. Obviously there are many aspects to being autistic, everyone is a bit different, and it is probably not possible to make a neurotypical really understand how it feels just by playing a game - but that is no reason not to try to give people at least some vague idea.”
I’m not autistic, but I do have some auditory sensitivities and the game made my skin crawl. I can only imagine what it is like for my two sensory-sensitive kids. Both are on the autism spectrum and also have auditory sensitivities. When they were younger, they seemed to be okay at the playground, but the shopping mall was an entirely different story. If this game is any indication as to how they felt at the shopping mall, then I can easily understand why they had random meltdowns.
I love the fact that TaylanK is attempting to raise autism awareness through his simulation game. While I’m not alone in my praise, he also has his detractors. User andrewkilroy5 commented, “I am Autistic and I think this is a terrible stereotyping. Since when did we have voices knocking in our heads like that? It has nothing to do with loud noises but with picking up very quiet noises very well and not sifting them in to the background.”
What do you think? Is the game degrading to autistics or is it a valid attempt at helping neurotypical individuals understand what it is like to deal with sensory sensitivities? Watch a video of the game below: