We recently wrote about Blogger, dad and gamer Stuart Duncan's Autcraft server. The server’s website describes Autcraft as “the first Minecraft server committed to providing safe, fun [learning] environment for children on the autism spectrum and their families.” The hugely popular game Minecraft lets players design virtual worlds block by block.
Stuart was diagnosed with Aspergers as an adult and he has a son on the spectrum as well--both are avid gamers. We talked to Stuart about the impact videogames have had on his life and how it feels to see his young son adopt his love of gaming.
How old were you when you were diagnosed with aspergers? I was actually diagnosed at the age of 36. It wasn't until my son was diagnosed at 2.5 years of age that I started to recognize many of the traits in myself. I realized his challenges were very similar to mine
Did you get into video games at an early age? Oh yes, in fact, before I could really speak very well, my uncle would take me to the arcades all the time. His name is Mark but I would call him "gain"... because I couldn't say "game" properly. And that was my name for him for a long time.
I would spend countless quarters there. Then later I got my hands on a Colecovision playing Pong, then Atari and Gemini and then one summer I found myself working my very first job all summer long just to save up for a shiny new Nintendo.
Does your son get his love of gaming from you? His mother has never liked video games or "kid stuff" in general. I'm always the one showing my boys all the great cartoons, toys and of course, video games. So yeah, he definitely gets that from me. I could never get enough video games. I remember my feeling of accomplishment as I watched my Pac-Man score roll over 999,999 and back to 0.
What impact have video games had on you? You will never meet a more dedicated, determined and persistent problem solver than a gamer. You will master reflexes, coordination, precision movements and precision timing and most of all, you will develop problem solving skills that can't be taught any other way.
I guess you could argue that I love video games so much because I'm a logical thinker and I need that challenge... or, you could say that I developed my logical mind from playing all those games and just kept loving it more and more. I'm not really sure. But my son definitely has it as well. He will play a game until he beats it. Which these days, is not really very long. He can beat them pretty quick. But no matter how stuck he may find himself, he will never give up until he solves it.
Many people see video games as mindless entertainment. To me, that better defines movies. To watch a movie, you do nothing but take it in. But with video games, you make "in an instant" decisions and you do it a lot. You have to adapt and you have to learn. Games don't get easier. They don't let you fall you asleep.
That being said, too much isn't healthy either. Particularly for children. But as a tool, a learning and developing tool, video games can be really quite powerful. It's just up to the parent to learn how to use it as the tool that it can be.