In a playground filled with gleeful shouts, you approach a group of children. Suddenly, your vision turns blurry and pixelated. The echoing screams become raucous.
It’s the experience of sensory overload, according to a new game called Auti-Sim. The simulation, created by a three-member team at the Vancouver Hacking Health hackathon, aims to raise awareness of the challenges of hypersensitivity disorder and help people understand how it can lead to isolation.
The closer you get to loud and active children, the more overwhelming the situation becomes. As you move toward quieter areas, the strain tapers off. Watch the demo here.
Taylan Kadayifcioglu (who goes by Taylan Kay), one of the game’s programmers, says he was inspired by an excerpt from a documentary called Inside Autism. The clip simulates what it’s like for a person with autism to take a trip though Walmart.
“It was striking how an ordinary, everyday environment could pose significant challenges,” Kay tells Mashable.
“It was striking how an ordinary, everyday environment could pose significant challenges,” Kay tells Mashable. He continues, “It made me think of the coping strategies and how they may be misunderstood and mislabeled by other people … it was fascinating that they could impart some understanding and raise empathy with even that much. I thought it was a very clever attempt, and I thought I could take it a step further.”
After posting the demo on indie game site Game Jolt, Auti-Sim received generally positive feedback.
“We have had quite a few people with autism thanking us for giving them a means of communicating what they are going through,” Kay says. “We have had many people saying that through this experience they have seen themselves reacting in ways that they have seen [children with autism] do in real life.”
The game also garnered criticism from those with autism who said the game didn’t represent their experience with the condition. Kay explains it was a critique they expected to receive, since they had only 12 hours to develop the demo with help from a special-needs educator who served as “autism advisor.” As a result of autism’s wide spectrum, it was impossible to create one game that represented all possible experiences.
The team is in the process of expanding the demo to a full game, with ideas to add interactivity and more environments. Professionals in therapy, education and advocacy around autism will also collaborate. The game will serve as a teaching tool for the general public.
“Imagine teachers being able to provide better learning environments for children with autism, or siblings being better able to understand their brothers or sisters and feeling closer to them, or whole communities becoming more inclusive,” Kay says. “The positive social impact of such projects can be huge.”
- Auti-Sim, The Game That Startlingly Reconstructs Life As An Autistic Child (fastcompany.com)
- ‘Auti-Sim’ conveys the discomfort of auditory hypersensitivity (theverge.com)