High Functioning Autism: Computers and Playing Video Games

My History with Computing and Video Games

Ever since I saw my first ever computer game I fell in love with them. I would have been about eight years old and my young aunty owned a portable space invaders games. She wouldn’t let me play it often but when she did I would play it for hours. I then bought my own portable LCD racing car game. All you could do was move the car into three positions which were left, middle and right to avoid colliding with oncoming objects. The better you got the more you moved up the levels and eventually it ran so fast it was impossible to move out the way fast enough. I got amazingly good at it after playing on it for hours and hours at a time for many weeks. This was my first taste of addiction to computing.

Things got much better when I got my first proper console which was the first Gameboy. This was purely amazing to me and playing on Super Mario and having levels where you went into a sub marine and could fly gave me such an overwhelming sense of enjoyment and excitement that it could have been marked as one my best experiences of childhood. This was about 25 years ago. Since then I have owned many different consoles and played on a countless number of computer games – obviously completing most that I played on even though friends and family found in almost impossible to do this. I would spend every available hour playing on them and getting more and more experience on them. I would never quit when it got too difficult. In my opinion games were much more difficult, addictive and tedious in this era as your progress could not be saved so once you were good at the game each session would take a few hours and if you ended up losing your lives on the last boss you would, of course, have to start the game back at level one.

As I got into my late teens I eventually fell out of love with computer games but went into studying computing instead. Over the years studied computing for 7 years at college and university and achieved two degrees in computing and have loved learning about how computer work. I never got bored of the subject and always got exceptionally high grades.

Over the past year I have got back into playing computer games with my son playing on games like Terraria and Minecraft.

What’s Autism (Asperger’s) got to do with Playing Computer Games and Loving Computers?

In my line of work, I help many people who are autistic (or Asperger’s Sydrome) and of course I myself am high functioning autistic. As we are all different we don’t all like computers and computer games but from looking at myself and the people I know with autism a large majority of us love computers and computer games.

Why are computer games and computers so loved by autistic people?:

  • They are often used in our favourite place to be which is our bedroom or home so was automatically feel safe and comfortable whilst using them
  • They alleviate boredom and give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment
  • They give us a common ground with other children/adults and help us to fit in by understanding the latest technology and popular gaming titles
  • They keep our minds busy so we are not thinking about other things such as what happened that day or our current worries
  • We can play on computer games for many hours and there is another variation to keeps us happy and entertained
  • It is mostly a solitary activity so avoids face to face communication and social difficulties
  • They are a form of education (such as YouTube, websites, news websites) and creativity (such as open world sandbox games like Minecraft).
  • They make us happy when playing them and when purchasing new games
  • They are an excellent way to unwind and relax after having our senses over stimulated throughout the day

What’s the Negatives of Computing and Computer Games?

Everything in life has it pluses and minuses and the same is true for computing and computer games. The main negative is the time it takes up. If this is manageable it is not really a problem but when it overtakes other aspects of our lives it can become too much. There are many articles on websites about autism and addiction (and I am hoping to write my own webpage soon) but it seems to be very likely that autistic people are more susceptible to become addicted to a range of things (alcohol, gambling, food, computer games) than the rest of society. There have been studies specifically into autistic spectrum disorder that have looked into autism and addiction to video games that have found that people with autism are more likely to become addicted to computer games (more can be found on the NHS 2013 link I have pasted below).

Even though addiction can be a problem it could be said that being addicted to computers and computer games is better than being addicted to something else. But it is in this time when other things that are healthy for us are missed out on such as learning essential face to face social skills, spending time with friends and families, being outdoors and exercising and trying new things which will all increase our confidence, sense of self-worth and health.

As you get older the time you spend on computer games could eat into your productivity and negatively affect areas in your life such as achieving a good grades at school, college and university, forming relationships with friends or reducing the chances of finding a job or earning money by working more hours.

In addition, although there is the positive of making friends online and interacting with friends at school or work this can turn into a major negative. For example, it can open you up to cyber bullying and being exploited by others for their own gain (such as being sexually abused, blackmailed into a range of things such as being asked to take sexual photographs of yourself or being bribed etc). If you are not an adult yet, no matter what you think the consequences may be, it is almost always best to tell you parents or carers if you feel any of these things are happening to you.

Cost can be a negative, especially with the price of some of the latest consoles and computer games, but all hobbies cost money and as long as it affordable to us and the person paying then I am sure it is money well spent and a small price for happiness.

All in all, I think computer games and computers are great but there are many other things in life that can be just as enjoyable. So to become happier and more successful in life it’s all about finding a balance between computing and doing productive and enjoyable things away from the computers and modern technology.

References

NHS (2013), Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder play video games for two hours a day, http://www.nhs.uk/news/2013/08August/Pages/Autism-and-ADHD-associated-with-video-game-addiction.aspx

2 thoughts on “High Functioning Autism: Computers and Playing Video Games

  • August 17, 2017 at 6:13 pm
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    I’m looking for advise on how to reduce the screen time my son has with the video games. Any advice will be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Shaun - Site Admin
      August 18, 2017 at 5:18 pm
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      This is a really tough one. As the screens and video games are so addictive. Both of my children play on tablets and if they had it their way they would be on them for hours a day. Things I’ve found to work are having set times of the day when they are free to play on tablets, like after their dinner and times when they can’t. I also keep an eye on the time and let them have an hour or an hour and a half on them and they say they need a break for a while. I never simply take the tablet away though as this would cause tantrums so I always give a warning when their time is going to be up like 5 minutes left. My eldest negotiates this time a lot such as saying can I have 12 minutes as that is when my video finishes. I’ll agree if it’s a short amount of time extra but not if it’s a time like 30 minutes extra. You can set limits on most tablets and games consoles to only allow a set amount of time and then it locks the child out until you put a password in. I’ve never had to do this but it may be helpful. I would also try to encourage hobbies away from the screen that they enjoy such as swimming, cycling, music lessons or ensuring that they play out with friends a few times a week.

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