Award-winning researcher Dr Kate Ringland opened the keynote address at the 2019 Education in Games Summit, speaking on how games can be used in inclusive education.
Using the world of Minecraft, with modifications and add-ons to the software, Autcraft provides a safe learning environment for children with autism.
“Autcraft is a community for children with autism. It was built to be a safe place for children with autism to play together online,” Ringland said.
“It is run completely by parent volunteers and is sustained from donations by community members.
“Children with autism often find themselves bullied at school or singled out. And what happens is, as these kids are isolated at places like school, they're going online to find friends and play games only to meet more trolls and bullies.”
In order to prevent this, Autcraft members must follow strict rules, and a vetting process ensures that trolls and bullies are kept out of the game.
The game also has virtual sensory rooms that offer a variety of sensory inputs and moods, helping players adjust the game to accommodate their needs.
For her research, Ringland worked with members of the Autcraft community to understand how the game provides an inclusive environment for gamers.
Ringland said the platform provides four key features for children with autism.
“It gives them structure, creates a safe social space, allows them to filter their experiences and provides flexibility for them to use their imagination,” she said.
Ringland told the delegates that video games could remove the challenges that people with disabilities may experience in social interactions and learning.
“As a part of my research I've seen how children can work together in video games to solve problems work in teams and build amazing things,” she said.
“Video games are social platforms.
“They're social because people are playing together, they're social because people are sharing their experiences online.
“What people share and how people play together are going to differ from person to person but sometimes it's less about the game itself and more about the social experience that's happening as a result.”