The Microsoft-owned building game Minecraft is reportedly having a positive effect on children on the autism spectrum. According to an expert from the National Autistic Society (NAS), the game can help children to improve in many of the key areas that those with autism struggle with, including communication.
Minecraft is a construction game in which players use large blocks to build structures and cities. There is also an action element to the game, as during the game’s ‘nighttime’, various monsters enter that need vanquishing before the structures are destroyed. The nature of the game – which never really ‘ends’, as players continue to build day after day – is thought to be beneficial for improving children’s concentration, as well as their problem solving skills.
It is the improvement in autistic children’s communication skills, however, that is attracting the most attention from health professionals and parents alike. Players are welcome to play on multiplayer servers, and can work together on joint building projects and various tasks. Children with autism are traditionally not as adept at interacting with others as those without autism, and so this element of the game can help them to improve their abilities.
The game has proven so beneficial for those with autism that a private multiplayer server has been set up just for children and young people with the condition. Autcraft, which was created by the father of an autistic child, is an invitation-only server wherein young people can interact with others in a safe environment where they feel comfortable. As entry onto the servers is strictly controlled, parents of the children playing can also be assured that they are protected from the potential dangers of the internet.
There are currently 6,000 members in the Autcraft community, including young people from all points of the autism spectrum. The importance of teambuilding, compromise and respecting others are amongst the key things that parents report their children are learning via the game. In this interview on the BBC, one 14-year-old with autism explains how Minecraft has helped to keep him “focussed” and that his “confidence has improved a lot”.
Coventry University’s Atypical Development research group also carries out a lot of research into children with Autism Spectrum Conditions. For more information on their projects and news, visit their research page.