Minecraft, developed in 2009, was designed for users to create their own virtual world. This game has many features to it, for example, having two game mode options. The player can either use create mode or survival mode. In create mode, the user gets to break blocks to create certain designs.
Players can also build towns, villages, basically anything they can imagine. In survival mode, the ‘main’ player must eat and drink in order to stay alive. They must build villages and walls to surround them to keep “creatures of the night” out. Many refer to the game, as a “sandbox” meaning there is no right way to play. Players literally get to play for hours crafting whatever they choose which is why gamers of all ages love this game. But there is a certain group of individuals who take to this game more than the average, and these incredible human beings are those with Autism. In this review I would like to discuss how the game Minecraft has a positive affect on the Autistic community.
For those who are unfamiliar with ASD, autismspeaks.org simply explains, “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.”
Many ASD children have different ways to communication. They use something that interests them to get others around them involved in their own conversation. For some this type of communication can be through video games.
Children with ASD tend to be more creative which is why Minecraft appeals to them so much. These kids are given the freedom to express themselves. They get to set the standards of creation in their own unique way. This gives them the control of predictably. Minecraft also allows them to gain focus. They can go in a deep thought process about how each block can meticulously mend with another block, which gives them this sense of focus. Minecraft can also give the children a talking point to other peers. They can break out of their shell if they know someone else likes the game. It gives the children more confidence in themselves.
I have seen with my own eyes how this game has helped with children, for example, my fiancée’s little brother, Luke. He has High-Functioning Autism, which is more commonly know as Asperger’s. He is currently 14 and a freshman in high school. Four years ago I met him, not knowing what he was diagnosed with. I knew something was different about him because he could not maintain focus, did not communicate very well, and had an uncontrollable temper. The first time I learned that he had ASD, I did not know how to act around him or what to say to him. I wanted him to feel like he could be comfortable around me and be able to express himself. I tried regular conversation but did not break through that wall. It was not until I took interest it what he was doing did he open up to me, and that interest was (of course) a video game. The types of games he has played has changed since he has gotten older but one has remained the same, Minecraft. He plays this game all the time. When we were at church waiting for service to start he would be on his Ipad playing this game, or when we were as lunch he would play on his mom’s phone. He was obsessed with this game. I used to get him to show me how to play and he would laugh at me when I could not figure out what buttons to press. During him playing this game I could tell his receptors were on. He knew every conversation being held and how to respond to every question being asked of him. This game kept him focused and more responsive to others. I understand how strange that must sound, but it is the truth. The reasoning behind this logic is that some ASD children’s mind goes in all different directions making them unable to keep on a train of thought. This is why being plugged into this game can be very important.
There have been many discoveries with the game Minecraft. Stuart Duncan, a blogger with Autism who also has an Autistic son, created a website called Autcraft. This unique website was created to benefit individuals with ASD who play Minecraft. It allows them (along with their families) to be in a safe place and connect with other people just like them. Autcraft benefits people with ASD by giving them an outlet within the game.
There are certain aspects to this website that make it standout. There are these workers called ‘Helpers’, “jrhelpers”, and “srhelpers.” They help these families find there way through the world of Minecraft. The people of Autcraft are always working towards new discoveries within the game, for example, building upon their existing worlds. Many children have benefitted from this website but according to an article by Kimberly Gillian from news.com.au the game “has quickly become a godsend for parents and therapists who credit it with their children’s incredible developmental gains.” The one drawback to this website is that it has a limit. Many people have to be waitlisted to gain access to the game, because the sever can only hold so many. According to the Autcraft website “waiting time for assessment of applications is approximately 2 weeks, due to recent increased interest in our server.” This could mean that some children will not ever get a chance to experience the website.
Minecraft can be used to benefit everyone. According to Charlie Warzel from BuzzFeed, “Minecraft — and specifically Autcraft — gives autistic players the chance to meet and talk with likeminded children, hone crucial social skills, and learn to feel comfortable with themselves and in their new environment.” Its unique qualities generate a fun atmosphere where we can connect with Autistic children like never before.