New game hints at life with autism

Date:6 March 2013


By Rogan Louwrens

Video games have an amazing superpower: they give us a way to enter new worlds and have new experiences.

Often that simply equates to putting bullet x into alien skull y, but sometimes, just sometimes, we get a glimpse into a life that we would otherwise never be able to perceive.

Once such glimpse is offered by a browser game called Auti-Sim: made using Unity, it gives a short, harrowing idea of the sort of sensory overload experienced by many people with autism spectrum disorder.

It starts out, calmly enough, in a quiet corner of a playground on a beautiful day – but venture near the other children (who turn out to be faceless mannequins) and the world starts to bristle with nauseous, foaming static; the innocent sounds of singing and laughing transform into an ear-shredding shriek. The sense of disorientation and menace grows as long as you’re near the others, relenting only when you retreat. It’s a pretty lonely experience.

Auti-Sim was made for the weekend-long Vancouver Hacking Health jam, in which programmers and healthcare experts teamed up to create innovative prototypes. The game is bare-bones basic, and not intended to be an actual autism “simulator”, but it puts across its point well enough that you’ll want to turn it off in about, say, four and a half seconds.

It’s worth bearing in mind that some people can never turn it off.


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