Bradley Hennessey was 16 when he started developing “an Aspie Life” – a video game that centers around what it’s like to live with Autism. Bradley, who has Asperger’s Syndrome, first released this experimental adventure game in 2018. Since then, not only has Bradley made several updates to the game and provided bug fixes based on gamers’ feedback, he is also ready to launch the prequel to the game titled “An Aspie Life Beginnings”.
An Aspie Life tells the story of a young Autistic man whose roommate leaves for no reason, leaving him to face the outside world all by himself. The game intentionally incorporates several facets of the day to day an autistic person deals with. For example, all characters in the game are just black outlines so their body language cannot be read. However, this is an opportunity for the player to interact with these characters with limited vocabulary. Of course, conversations with others can cause stress, uneasiness, happiness and other emotions. The character can regenerate their “feelings meter” by going to a quiet place. Environmental sounds are also measured on the sound sensitivity meter which means that the player always has to keep sounds under control so as not to overwhelm the character. Finally, the dark blue/purple theme represents social isolation in addition to paying homage to the 80s/90s.
“Video games can be entertaining and educational. When these two qualities are combined, the player not only enjoys being informed, they are also more likely to remember the key themes of the game. ‘An Aspie Life’ is a video game that explores autism through the life experiences of the central character and playing a video game can be more enjoyable and informative than reading literature and watching documentaries” – Tony Attwood
Bradley is just about to release the prequel “An Aspie Life Beginnings”. Set in a small town on an island far, far away, three kids with disabilities solve a decade long mystery while discovering more about themselves in the process. Along with our protagonist from the original game who is on the Autism spectrum, we are joined by a girl with low vision and a boy with hearing loss. As the player cycles through these characters, they also get to experience the character’s disabilities. For example, when the girl is chosen, the screen becomes darker around the edges. There are several audio, visual and gameplay cues to guide the player throughout the game. One big difference you will see is that the world in the prequel is much more vivid and the environments and characters are closer to reality than in An Aspie Life.
The games are meant to bring the “experience” of living with Autism and other disabilities, however, it is important to reinforce the fact that both these games were developed by a disabled person himself. Parents, employers, caregivers, and individuals with disabilities should take note of the realms of possibilities here.
While you wait for An Aspie Life Beginnings to come out, head over to Steam to play the original An Aspie Life for free.
Source: Fast Company