High Functioning Autism: Computers and Playing Video Games

My History Playing Video Games

Computer games had such a profound impact on my life, that one of my first childhood memories was playing on one.  I remember it so crisply and vividly to this day.  I was around eight years old and my young aunty owned a portable space invaders game.  She wouldn’t let me play it often, but when she did, I would play it for hours.  Even though it was such a basic game, I was fascinated by it.

I went on to buy my own portable LCD racing car game.  It would have only cost around £10.  The car could only be moved into three positions.  Which were left, middle and right.  In order to avoid colliding with oncoming objects. The longer you played, the faster it got.  I got so good at it I could play for hours at a time. This was my first taste of addiction to computer games.

Things got much better when I had a Gameboy one Christmas.  I only had two games which were Tetris and Super Mario Land.  I’ll never forgot the first time I went on a submarine and plane on Super Mario Land.  It was such as amazing and exciting experience.  As well as playing the games, I loved listening to the video game music.

It was over 25 years ago when I owned a Gameboy. Since then I have owned many different consoles and played on a countless number of computer games.  In my early teenage years, I would spend every available hour playing on them.  Mostly playing on Mario on my NES, or Sonic on my cousin’s Master System.

As I got into my late teens, I eventually fell out of love with computer games.  But I still loved and used computers, and went on to study computing at college and university.

There have been periods of my adulthood were I have played on computer games again, and I really enjoyed them.  I owned a Nintendo DS and played on that for hours.  A few years ago I really got into Terraria, and played it with my eldest son for many hours every night.  At the moment I am playing Zelda Breath of the Wild on the Switch.  It is incredible to see just how good computer games are these days.

My two boys love playing on computer games such as Mario, Minecraft and Planet Coaster.  It’s incredible to see just how much joy it gives them.

How Autism (Asperger’s) is Related to Playing Computer Games and Loving Computers?

As a Learning Support Assistant I work with many young adults who are Autistic/Asperger’s.  I am also high functioning autistic myself.  From this I know a large majority of us love computers and computer games.

Why are computer games loved by autistic people?

  • They are played in comfort and security of our favourite space, such as our bedroom.
  • They alleviate boredom and give us a sense of achievement and accomplishment.
  • Video games give us a common ground with other children/adults for striking up conversations. Helping us to fit in, by understanding and playing the latest popular titles.
  • They keep our minds busy. Helping us to switch off from the day’s events or our current worries.
  • They provide a means of escapism. By going into another world.
  • It is something we can be brilliant at and succeed in. Especially with our autistic/Asperger’s minds, that excel at this type of activity.
  • They give us a vast amount of choices and freedom, that are not found in our limited and restricted lives.
  • They keep us happy and entertained for many hours a day.
  • It’s a solitary activity (mostly). So avoids face to face communication and there are no social difficulties to deal with.
  • Computer games and computing in general can be educational. Which positively stimulates our brain.  Such as creative games like Minecraft or video websites like YouTube.
  • They are an excellent way to unwind and relax. After having our senses over stimulated throughout the day.
  • They are predictable and consistent, in a way that is in tune with our autistic/Asperger’s minds.

What’s the Negatives of Computing and Computer Games?

Everything in life has it pluses and minuses.  The same is true for computing and computer games. The main negative is the time it takes up.

If we can limit our time on computers and computer games, it is not too much of a problem.  When it overtakes other important aspects of our lives it can become one.  In areas such: spending time with friends and families, being outdoors and exercising, or trying new things.  All of which increase our confidence, sense of self-worth and health.

There are many articles about autism/Asperger’s and addiction in general.  It’s highly likely that autistic people are more susceptible to becoming addicted in a range of areas.  These addictions include: alcohol, gambling, food, computer games.

There have been detailed studies looking specifically into autism and addiction to video games.  One study found that people with autism are more likely to become addicted to computer games (see the NHS 2013 link below).

In adolescence and adulthood, the time you spend on computer games can reduce your productivity.  This could negatively affect important aspects of your life such as:

  • Achieving good grades at school, college and university.
  • Forming relationships with friends.
  • Reducing the chances of finding a job, or earning money by working more hours.

Computer games, and computers in general, could open you up to online abuse.  Such as cyber bullying, and being exploited by others for their own gain.  Examples include: being sexually abused, being blackmailed (such as being asked to take sexual photographs of yourself) or being bribed. If you’re a child/teenager, it’s almost always best to tell your parents or carers if this is happening to you.  Don’t worry about the consequences.  What you think will happen in your mind, is unlikely to happen in reality.  People can always help in unexpected ways.

Final Words

Computer games, and computers in general, are truly amazing.  They offer many more benefits than negatives.  There are also things in life that are just as enjoyable.  So it’s not worth missing out on them, when you could play computer games a bit less and do other things as well.

I recently talked to one of my autistic friends about his addiction to computer games.  He said told me that when he goes on his summer holiday, for a week, he never leaves his caravan.  He just plays on his PlayStation for the full week he is there.  He doesn’t even go out for family meals, day trips or even to the beach.  Which seems like he is missing out on too much, in my view.

I use computers and smart phones for vast quantities of the day.  I realise that I am addicted and, in the past month, have started to have one day a week (at the weekend) where I don’t use computers or access the internet.  I also deleted my Facebook account, as I was spending too much time on it.  I have found this to be really beneficial for my own health and wellbeing.  But for most people it would be far too much to give up.


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

    I’m looking for advise on how to reduce the screen time my son has with the video games. Any advice will be appreciated.

    • August 18, 2017 at 5:18 pm

      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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