Games players and creators need a space to connect authentically with autism research to transform the industry. That’s why we created Autistica Play.

Hi, I'm Jake. I joined Autistica last year as their Games Partnerships Manager. We know that games are a big part of many autistic peoples' lives, and that understanding and supporting players and creators should be a key part of our vision of building longer, happier, healthier lives for autistic people.

A month after I joined the team we held our first games focused event at the BFI as part of the London Games Festival and World Autism Awareness Month.

We had a packed audience, a diverse panel of neurodivergent games sector members, and an incredibly insightful discussion. We knew that this was just the beginning – the start of a great conversation (thanks to Anna Mansi and her team at the BFI, UKIE’s Jo Twist for hosting, and Steve Godwin from Enemy Of Boredom for speaking at the event).

Due to the success of this first event, we will be holding another one this year at the BFI on the 2 April 2020 and aim for this to become annual.

Read more about it from Dominic Sacco of esports News UK.

After the event, we officially launched Autistica Play, our initiative to:

  • Improve support for autistic talent.
  • Increase understanding of autism.
  • Raise vital funds and awareness.

Through Autistica Play, we have already connected a group of neurodiverse games players and creators to work with us and empower other neurodiverse people in and around the games industry. This happened organically, with people bringing their own strengths and tools to Autistica Play. Etch Play founder Dan Thomas for example, was one such Ambassador. He and his team at Etch Play contributed by designing our Autistica Play logo.

By the end of 2019, we had a growing group of diverse and impactful Ambassadors that we will continue to work with and grow in 2020. If you would like to see more from our Ambassadors, you can check out the hashtag #AutisticaPlay on Twitter.

Some of our big wins of 2019:

Game Changers

We began having conversations with games studios, companies and representatives. It became apparent that while they were all interested and knew that there was potential and need for the industry to be more inclusive of neurodiversity, there were concerns about where to start. So, to help with this, we put together our first Game Changer leaflet. This one focuses on work and event environments and highlights some considerations on how to be more inclusive. We aim to create more Game Changers in 2020 focusing on other areas that impact the players and creators of games.

An inclusive games industry

With a growing number of games industry connections and our Autistica Play Ambassadors, we began to raise awareness for Autistica Play. One of our Ambassadors, Dominic Shaw, presented Autistica Play and our Game Changers leaflet at the GiBiz Best Place to Work awards. The audience responded with a very inclusive flapplause. This was a great visual moment highlighting the openness of the games industry to become industry leaders in neurodiversity. Dominic then had the opportunity to write about his experience as a young autistic person in the games industry and highlight Autistica Play.

After reading Dominic’s article, another young autistic person felt empowered to write about his own experience in the games industry and reached out to Dominic to ask if he could quote his article.

Get Connected with Disconnected

Another Autistica Play Ambassador, Xu He, has been creating a documentary narrative game called Disconnected as her final year project. This is still a work in progress and she is hoping to continue working on this project until it is complete. This has the potential to be a great tool in helping neurotypical people understand more about what it might be like to be autistic.

Here is the trailer, in which you will hear experiences from other Autistica Play Ambassadors talking about their own experiences.

If you would like to find out more about this game and play the demo, please click through to the Disconnected Twitter account.

Playing Disconnected at EGX

Relax Mode

In 2019, we launched our Relax Mode event. Not only did we have important and inclusive conversations throughout, we also managed to raise over £2,000 towards our life-changing research. In 2020 we plan to hold more online events, open to all.

GamesAid 2019

For the 3rd year in a row we had been chosen as one of the charities supported by GamesAid, as voted by the games industry. Over the year I attended a number of great GamesAid events and in September at the UKIE members day, GamesAid held their annual cheque giving ceremony where we received a cheque for £21,114.64! Thank you to GamesAid and the Games Industry for your continued support, we hope we can earn your vote again in 2020!

RetroPrincess playing Stardew Valley while interacting with her community in chat for Relax Mode 2019.

Together we can do more

Ultimately, none of what we hope to do in 2020 will be possible without the funds we receive from the generous people around us. We are not government funded so our research and campaigning is only possible through charitable support.

There are many ways we can partner including online fundraising streams, sponsorships and our employment initiative DARE to name just a few.

If you would like to get involved or hear more about Autistica Play, we'd love to hear from you. Please do reach out to me at jake.mackey@autistica.org.uk or on Twitter at @LevelUpJake

If you would like to donate to allow us to continue the work we do, please click here to donate.

Thank you to everyone who has been a part of the Autistica Play journey in 2019. We look forward to seeing what 2020 brings and the difference we can make together.

Jake