Autism, Gaming, and a Pandemic

I am writing this during the COVID-19 pandemic.  One can usually find the bright side to even the darkest of tragedies.  As someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), when taking a walk, it isn’t unusual for me to change paths to avoid crossing paths with someone.  I am delighted when I have a trail to myself.  I continue in the midst of this pandemic of taking walks and am amused I have the excuse of a pandemic to dodge human beings on the path.  Seriously, I yearn for the day I can go back to social distancing on MY terms.

A coping mechanism for me during quarantine is to play games on-line.  I would have never thought I would become a video-gamer.  Not in a million years.  You see I have never wanted to play games with others. I didn’t as a kid and that has no changed with my aging.   I am a do-it-myself person.  I am content as I can be in entertaining myself in solitary.  Just one of my qualities living with ASD.

It was shortly before the pandemic, around Christmas of 2019, that I took up video-gaming.  It only takes one video game console to dive into video games.   Logically, I know that.  But one of my ASD traits is I go way, way overboard with anything I try and fall head over heels with.  I do mean overboard!  This explains why that Christmas I bought myself an Xbox, Nintendo Switch, and a virtual reality device.  The gaming was an offshoot to my long-held obsession with electronic gadgets.   After all, video consoles do have power cords attached to them.

The video-gaming hobby came at a good time though as COVID-19 became a household word.  My having to go into quarantine was not as much a challenge for me as other family members since social isolation is what I daily do on the Spectrum.  But I got bored and anxious like most people did and gaming was a coping mechanism.

I also did on-line surveys to pass the time.  It’s another “solo” activity and the extra plus is I am paid with a little bit of spending money and gift cards.  One of the surveys I took was on the topic of video-gaming.  No surprise that my answers proved to be a snapshot of my ASD.

Some of the survey questions asked the following:

Do I prefer games that focus on single-player vs. multi-player?

This was the easiest question to answer.  I don’t play solitaire, but I do play in solitary.


Do I play just for fun vs. being a serious gotta-win gamer?

Winning isn’t my motive for playing.  I don’t know what it is to be a serious winner.  Oh, I like to win, but I can have fun without winning.

There’s an old saying that practice makes perfect.  Well, I am happy to say that with more gaming practice, I have on occasion ended a game in  “first place”.


Do I care more about playing games to help me improve real-life skills such as fine and gross motor skills or more about games letting me live a different life than I really have?

The games exercise my gross and fine motor skills, both of which need plenty of fine-tuning.  So I care more about that.  However, I am entertained with getting to race cars and shoot targets that I have only done in my imagination.


Did I prefer games with realistic themes vs. fantasy or sci-fi?

I had a wild imagination as a child and I haven’t lost that in my senior years.  Delving into fantasy and sci-fi is a break from the business of living.


Did I enjoy playing game puzzles, such as jigsaw, or did I find such games boring?

I don’t find game puzzles boring.  I am a jigsaw fan and of other word and board games.  Puzzles have for several years been food for my ASD brain!


Did I tend to play games for action vs. games with a story?

Action is my favorite because it is quick.  A story requires focus and patience and I don’t have much of either.  That’s one reason why I’m not big on reading books or watching movies.  If I do watch a movie, it is at home by myself and where I can do something else, like a crossword puzzle, during the movie.


Did I prefer games that challenged my mind vs. games that offered a big reward?

I care nothing about the rewards.  I pay little attention to the game statistics and reward number.  The games are food for my mind and practice for my skills.  During the pandemic, video-gaming has been fun, a way to pass the time, and take my mind off of the dark headlines.


Did I schedule a time to play video games or only played during my free time?

Another easy question.  A schedule helps to keep me on a steady keel.  Most everything I do is on a schedule and gaming is not an exception.


Do I prefer games that are single-tasked or multi-tasked?

Single, please!  The fewer buttons on the remote that I have to push the better are my chances of a decent score.  One of my favorite single-tasked games is Ping-Pong, for example.  It’s a game on my virtual reality device.  I play with an alien-like figure instead of choosing to play with real-life humans on-line.  My focus is hitting the ball over the net.  I have more success at this game versus one where I have to use multiple buttons such as moving right to left or up and down, another button to perform some action, and so on.  I play multi-tasked games, but my strength is a game where my focus is only on one task.


Finally, my ASD is still at play when I have a game controller in hand.  My lack of balance, motor skills, and speed put me at a disadvantage but with practice, I am improving and that motivates me to keep at it.  My goal isn’t to finish third, second, or first.  It is primarily to have fun, especially during a pandemic!

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