Video games may help children with autism to better their social skills, according to researchers who carried out a singular study of video games and its psychological impact on subjects with autism. At a time, when video games and its violent contents are blamed for encouraging anti-social behavior among children, this study brings in a fresh perspective that could be beneficial for children with or without autism.
Published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, the study shows that a benign version of video games, one without brutal and gory graphic details, may actually help improve social skills. The authors of the study Daniel Bormann from the University of Freiburg, Germany, and Tobias Greitemeyer from the University of Innsbruck, Austria, tested two different video games and its impact on two groups of participants.
One group was asked to play a video game by the name of Gone Home. It is a story-based game where the players donned the character of a college girl who returns home to find everybody missing. The mission is to find her family members using the given clues. The other group was asked to play Against the Wall, where the character climbs a wall while interacting with the talking bricks of the wall. The game has no character development or much of a storyline.
The other group was asked to play Against the Wall, where the character climbs a wall while interacting with the talking bricks of the wall. The game neither has character development nor much of a storyline.
After playing the games for 20 minutes, the participants of the two groups were tested for their ability to understand the mental state of other people from their facial expressions. The participants also completed a survey of how much they were involved in the game and how enjoyable their gaming experience was.
The result revealed that the story-based video game (Gone Home) strengthened the players’ ability to understand “opportunities for meaningful choices and relationships.” According to the authors of the study, a story-telling video gaming experience is much like reading a book or watching a movie.
It allows people to get ‘immersed’ in its narrative; the readers or spectators begin to relate to the characters’ emotions. A non-violent video gaming experience could teach its players a lot about human emotions and interactions, the authors concluded.
This study could be useful for those who have difficulty with social interaction, a common symptom among children with autism. There is ample room to develop this study keeping autism in mind. Researchers and software developers can aim to make a video game that would simulate real world environment and would help kids with autism learn and practice social skills, said Bormann.
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