Can Science Based Video Games Help Kids with Autism? DeWeerdt

This article addresses the newer trend in health and technology that is using video games to solve health problems, in this case autism. Particularly with autism, this seems to be a very viable way to attempt to improve children’s certain skills in the real world, because “boys with autism spend almost twice as much time playing video games as typical boys do” and they already enjoy these types of games. As Micah Mazurek, Professor of education at the University of Virginia explained, “we are finding that kids with autism are especially drawn to technology,” Mazurek says, “why not try to leverage that interest to design interventions?”

Well, for one they have found that some of these games that promote things like “reduced cognitive impairment associated with health conditions”,  have largely been falsely advertising their products. For example Lumos Labs received a $2 million fine in 2016 for this. Another issue is that the gaming industry typically works with bigger budgets a shorter timeline, so the actual research is often cut short. And even when companies do discover a game or technology that does help with things just as Autism, they are often poorly maintained or kept up to date.

The idea of improving social skills with video games sounds oxy-moronic in that way that you are telling kids to sit down alone and stare at a screen in order to help with real time social interactions later, which is why the article says that the developers of these games are trying to make them entertaining, but not too entertaining. While the developers are aware of this, this pattern of being addicted to video games is a distinguishing characteristic of children with autism, so is it really possible to achieve a level of “not too entertaining” that could make children want to play these games only “the right amount?”. Could these science based video games be encouraging more video-game addicted behavior that developers can’t help?













2 thoughts on “Can Science Based Video Games Help Kids with Autism? DeWeerdt

  1. On one hand, I think that using forms of entertainment like video games to help people is wonderful. On the other, however, I think that a lot of the “science” behind the proof of their efficacy is not as thorough as it claims to be, as exemplified by the Lumos Labs cased you referenced. It seems that the replication crisis ( may apply to the video game/ e-learning sphere as well– not only are studies rushed, as you mentioned, they also might not be reproduced enough to be as “proven” as they convince consumers that they are.

    You also pose an interesting question about video-game addictive behavior. The only way to curve addiction that I can think of is to have a time limit of how long a game can be played, after which it automatically shuts off. As to how effective staring at a screen can be for social interaction, I agree with you– it doesn’t seem to make sense.

  2. I think you make a valid point with your question, “so is it really possible to achieve a level of “not too entertaining” that could make children want to play these games only “the right amount?” I am not sure how this would technically be possible. I think its incredibly creative and uncoventional to attempt to ameliorate the harmful social effects of autism through video games, but I am skeptical as to how much these games can actually reduce cognitive impairment and improve social conditions. What are the variables for measuring a social experiment like this? What guidelines and standards of procedure would we have to create?

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