In the last few years, Minecraft has taken the world by storm. We all perhaps know that it is a video game, but we don't know much beyond that. Almost all kids, on the other hand, not only know what it is (a video game!), but also know how to maneuver that game very well, and pick up all sorts of tips & tricks and shortcuts pretty quickly, which they use to build their world and fight monsters.
But what exactly is Minecraft, and why is it such a popular game?
First of all, unlike other video games, Minecraft does not have set objectives. It relies heavily on exploring surroundings around you, creative building, resource gathering, and survival. As a player, you look at resources around you (trees for wood, for example), and using those resources, you build a world. You can either build your world by yourself or collaborate with others. The creative freedom that this game brings is just amazing.
However, every rose has its thorn, and Minecraft is no exception to this idiom. Usually kids progress from playing solo to online servers, where they can play with thousands of other players from around the world, and that's where the trouble starts. Online gaming is notorious for bullying - rogue members are known to tease and cause embarrassment to others, disrupting what's otherwise a fun environment for many. This discourages many from returning to the online community of gaming. This is not good for kids with autism, who are especially vulnerable to bullying.
To combat the bullying, provide a safe haven for kids on the spectrum, and to give them an environment where they can be creative without being judged and harassed by peers, Stuart Duncan has started a new server called "Autcraft" for kids with Autism. In order to join, a member has to register on the Autcraft website, and await a response. Once registered, kids can play with others without the fear of being judged and bullied. Once they get comfortable in the environment, they share their interests with others and start making new friends, and they learn how to interact with others better.
Autcraft has been very popular with kids with Autism who have a naturally "engineering" brain. Their knack for being detail oriented and ability to be analytical and logical really helps them flourish in Autcraft. On top of that, it gives them a fantasy world where they can let their imagination run wild, especially when they are playing with so many other similar people from around the world. After playing Autcraft, kids with autism have shown tremendous progress in reading and writing skills. They also have more self confidence and make newer friends easily.
Through Autcraft, kids develop their Minecraft skills so well that other kids come up to them to talk about Minecraft. Contributing something valuable to a social conversation boosts their self confidence. Autcraft has given kids on the spectrum new ways to make friends and be social.
Watch this video to see how Stuart explains what Autcraft is, how it works, and the benefits it brings to kids on the spectrum.
Stuart Duncan, who has an autistic son, is not just the creator and moderator of Autcraft. He also provides ad hoc counselling to players, and maintains a blog separately where he writes about Autism from a parent's perspective.
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