Promoting neurodiversity in the gaming industry

ASD is a complex developmental condition that involves persistent challenges in social interaction, speech and nonverbal communication, combined with restricted/repetitive behaviours.

Awareness of Autism has increased in the last decade.

It's known that a lot of intellectual leaders and talented people, such as Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein and Andy Warhol may have been on the autism spectrum, but since we only recently discovered that autism was part of a spectrum, which implied that symptoms may vary, people were often misdiagnosed with depression, bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia.

Today, you are more likely to receive an accurate diagnosis and people are more open about ASD. Celebrities such as Susan Boyle, Daryl Hannah, and Dan Aykroyd chose to share their diagnosis to raise awareness about the autism spectrum.

What you may not know is that the father of one of the most loved video games of all time has shared his diagnosis of autism during an early 2000 interview. We are talking about Satoshi Tajiri, one of the creators of the Pokemon franchise.

Satoshi was a bug collector during his childhood and later discovered a passion for arcade games playing Space Invaders for the first time. He co-founded a video games magazine called Game Freak and later decided to start developing games on his own. He developed Pokemon to honour his childhood memories of catching bugs.

Nowadays, autism awareness has spread around the world to the point where we actually see some examples in literature, television, and obviously, video games.

The first case of a story that involves autistic characters is To The Moon, an indie game in which you have to fulfill the last wish of a dying person by changing his memories. Kan Gao, the original creator of the game, said that he took inspiration for the autistic characters of River and Isabelle by interacting with several autistic people, trying connecting with their experiences.

Another famous example of a well written autistic character is Symmetra from Overwatch, a team-based multiplayer shooter made by Activision Blizzard, even though his original author decided not to reveal her diagnosis initially. We are always glad to see genuine autistic examples represented in media.

This inclusion of a neurological diversity is empowering the world, and people in the spectrum can finally find their role models.

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