Teen on the Autism Spectrum Creates 'An Aspie Life,' a Video Game About Autism

Seventeen-year-old Brad Hennessey wants to change the public perception of life on the autism spectrum. But rather than showing people a video or speaking about his experience, the Australian teen has something much more interactive planned. To fulfill his goal, Hennessey is launching “An Aspie Life,” a video game that lets gamers see the world from his perspective as a person on the autism spectrum.

Hennessey started working on the game about a year ago, after seeing the term “autism” used as an insult and scare tactic.

“The best example of this is [the idea that] vaccines cause autism, which is not true,” Hennessey told The Mighty. “I just thought, “Why?” After doing some research, I discovered that it was from a lack of knowledge. I was alarmed at the lack of information and resources trying to show people what autism truly is! There’s endless information available for people with autism and about it, but the general public doesn’t want to read a scientific report.”

In “An Aspie Life,” gamers play as a person on the spectrum as they navigate everyday tasks. Players try to keep the character’s emotions and health at maximum level as they go through the game while also taking into account characteristics such as sound sensitivity and a limited vocabulary to communicate with others.

“Everyone with autism is a little different,” Hennessey said. “How I see autism might be different to another person, but, in general, we see the world the same way. ‘An Aspie Life’ is how I see the world through my autism.”   

One way the game shows players what it’s like to live on the spectrum is by making other characters in the game black outlines instead of fully-detailed characters. This is to portray the difficulty people with autism spectrum disorder have when it comes to understanding body language.

Currently, very few video games feature characters on the autism spectrum. In March, it was announced that Symmetra, a character in “Overwatch,” is autistic. Others video games highlighting autism include autistic characters as minor players or have been critiqued for their stereotypical portrayal of people on the spectrum.

Hennessey is still working on the game but hopes to release “An Aspie Life” early in 2018.

“When a player stops playing, I want them to a least have learned something,” Hennessey said. “Something about autism they never knew or did not understand.  If that’s what they get out of it, then my mission is a success.”

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