If you are a parent you have probably heard of Minecraft. If you are a parent of a child with autism then you have almost definitely heard of Minecraft and you may just know the ins and outs of it.
Just incase you are not aware, Minecraft is a computer game built around mining resources, like timber and ores, and then using them to make tools, machines and buildings. The game has been described as a virtual Lego world.
A lot of children with autism love the game. Some play it obsessively and spend their spare time, when they aren’t playing, watching youtube videos about playing!
So why does Minecraft have such an appeal to children with autism?
This is a game where there is freedom to play and do as you please. You can wander around doing as you please and you can build anything. This is interesting, considering the fact that kids affected by autism normally want rules, and to knowing what to expect, but my son explained that he likes that he can’t go wrong and that makes sense. Minecraft provides information in a visual way and has a certain amount of predictability.
Minecraft is easy. You don’t have to be brilliant at it to play. You can start off building small things or just smashing things and digging holes ( about as much as I have ever mastered!) and you can learn to do more at your own pace. Therefore, there is no need to get frustrated at the game for being too hard. The child can control the game.
Minecraft enables children who may not be successful at much of school etc. to be successful within the game and this helps to build their self esteem.
Minecraft is like living in another world. The world has similar logic to the real world but can be manipulated and you can build whatever you want whilst following your own interests.
Minecraft can be likened to lego as in you can build without getting it wrong and you are able to smash the bits you don’t like and carry on.
There are different versions of the game that children can flip between. They can create with no risk or they can play with dangers or other players that can “kill” them but they always respawn as there are endless lives.
Minecraft allows children with autism to have control over their environment whilst being able to be creative and productive in their own way. Children are able to discover and create without becoming anxious.
Minecraft also helps with social skills. When children work together in multiplayer mode, they learn how to talk to each other, share ideas and say what they want others to do. By understanding why people act in a certain way in Minecraft, children can start to make sense of real-world situations.
So is Minecraft all good then?
The only issue my son has had on Minecraft over the years is his lack of social understanding. He has got himself “kicked” from games but not understood why which has frustrated and upset him. Other people online aren’t always nice to him either and he is easily subject to cyber bullying.
However, we recently discovered the Autcraft community and he has taken to playing minecraft using Autcraft as his server. He has been using Autcraft for about three weeks and I haven’t seen him this enthusiastic about minecraft in years!
Stuart Duncan, the creator of Autcraft, got the idea when he wrote a blog post about his own experiences with autism as well as bringing up his son with autism. On chatting to other parents of autistic children who loved minecraft he realised a lot of these children were bullied online and decided to make a safer place to play. In 2013 he set up Autcraft, a server for minecraft which is exclusively for people with autism and their families. The server works as invite only. You can request to join but are vetted first. It took two weeks for my son to be allowed to play from when he applied.
The Autcraft server has administrators who know about autism, either because they are autistic themselves or they have a family member who has autism. There are understanding online helpers too who can help you in the game if needed.
Autcraft is a nice and safe place to play. There is no bullying, killing, stealing, griefing or swearing. Admins track play and chat and are actively involved in keeping it safe and friendly.
Autcraft currently has a Halloween Village which my son is very excited about. Halloween isn’t something a lot of children with autism get involved in for reasons outlined in this post. It is great for my son to be able to join in with Halloween as part of a safe community in a way which he feels comfortable with.
So far my son has been very impressed with Autcraft. It is now his favourite Minecraft server. I asked him why he likes Autcraft so much and this was what he said:
“Its fun, its better than other servers because it has different modes and mini games and the owner of the server comes online to talk to us every Monday. Everyone on the server is really kind.”
Sounds good to me!
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