Online Gaming Environments as a Potential Conduit to Support Friendships for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Online Gaming Environments as a Potential Conduit to Support Friendships for Individuals With Autism Spectrum Disorder

Jenn Gallup, Celal Perihan
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-7053-1.ch003
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The purpose of this chapter is to elucidate the potential of online mediums such as multiplayer online role playing games (MORPGs), augmented virtual realities (AVR), and other virtual immersive mediums that hold the potential to build social connections and develop friendships for individuals with autism and related disabilities. Further, this chapter will examine current evidenced-based practices to support social skills and then relate the interventions used in the context of the virtual environments to support the development of friendships that could support transition to postsecondary situations.
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An increasing number of individuals are being diagnosed with ASD now affecting approximately 1% of the global population (CDC, 2014). Autism has considerable variety and is characterized by the following: (a) persistent deficits in social communication and social interaction across multiple contexts, (b) inability to understand nonverbal communicative behaviors used for social interaction, (c) difficulty developing, maintaining, and understanding relationships, and (d) restricted, repetitive patterns of behavior, interests, or activities (CDC, 2014). Symptoms associated with an ASD are persistent and affect those individuals across their lifespan (APA, 2013).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMORPG): MMORPG is a mix of the genres of role-playing video games and massively multiplayer online games, possibly in the form of web browser-based games. A MMORPG is a virtual environment in which a single player or a large number of players interact with one another. The majority of MMORPGs have tools to facilitate communication between players. These tools can include chat boxes, webcam rooms, voice chats, and any form of video-chat as a web-based tool used to connect.

Soft-Skills: Soft skills are a term for a complex system of traits and habits commonly required by employers. They are the abilities and traits that pertain to an individual’s behavior rather than the technical knowledge (Moss & Tilly, 2001). Some examples of soft skills can include integrity, taking another’s perspective, daily pleasantries, the ability to compromise and communicate effectively, and collaboration within a group.

Guild or Clan: Many MMORPGs offer support for in-game guilds or clans; most MMORPGs require some level of teamwork for parts of the game. These tasks usually require players to take on roles in the group. Each role is important to the success of the team (guild) and often tasks in the game cannot be completed without a guild that is comprised of each of the defined roles in the game.

Virtual Environment: Virtual environments are digital replications or generations of environments that people can interact within. Interactions may be through the use of an avatar which allows a human to embody themselves in a character-like presence. Avatars can be used to interact with other avatars or agents.

Computer Agent: A computer agent is a digital character that is mediated through the computer programming (Fox et al., 2014; Granic et al., 2014).

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