4 mins read

Revisiting Autism and Gaming

My son played in his first gaming tournament on Saturday.

What was the experience like?

On the one hand, I was rooting for him and wanted him to do well. He’s new at this type of competition. He loves playing the game and wants to compete.

But, he’s going up against very experienced, world class players. This tournament boasted the top five players in the Smash Bros. universe.

And, honestly, I’m conflicted about how good I want him to become at gaming. To become this “world class” type of competitor requires hours upon hours playing this game.

That means hours upon hours committed to one thing—not uncommon for people on the autism spectrum.

But, gaming means not interacting with people.

Gaming means being focused on a screen with a controller in your hand.

For hour after hour.

What do I tell my son?

First of all, I do have to point out that he was partnered with a buddy from his swim team. This buddy is more experienced than my son, but really enjoys mentoring him.

That’s certainly a positive. He has this friend whom he shares a common interest.

In regards to obsessions:  Whether my son has autism or not, I have always tried to preach balance.

Yes, he has a habit of being obsessed with something and that is directly related to his autism…Fire trucks, cars, airplanes, power poles, the Titanic, Monopoly, chess, the list goes on and on.

However, even when he’s been obsessed in the past, I have always tried to insert other opportunities to help balance his obsessions. He had soccer and baseball, swimming and traveling.

The concept of learning how to do something where the end result is excelling in that thing is fine, to a certain point, and with the understanding that my kid can really take it to the extreme.

Was there anything else about the experience?

Well, my son did learn the hard way that he’s used to playing this game in a quieter environment with only one or two other players, and without other games happening right next to him that may be distracting.

Even though he lost all of his matches, he practiced a lot. Which I felt was good since it gave him the opportunity to get used to playing in this facility and around a lot of other players.

I also was able to observe that this tournament had a lot of “spectrum.” Besides being a bit distracted when he was playing, I did believe my son felt right at home.

He had no problem talking to people there. He even recognized some top players. He approached them and began appropriate conversations.

He was definitely in a happy place.

Were there any downsides?

Because my son is new to these tournaments, he does have to commit to a learning curve. He learned, for example, that it is considered “appropriate” and “expected” to fist bump the player you’re playing against before and after a game.

A few times my son didn’t notice that the other player was offering their fist.

Also, my son approached a higher ranked player immediately after that player had lost a match and tried to talk to him.

That was a no-no.

He has some rules of etiquette that he has to learn.

Overall, how was the experience?

My son was happy to be there. He was with a buddy from his swim team, they were partners during the doubles portion of the tournament.

He enjoyed the day and wants to go again.

He wants to get better at Smash Bros. yet I’m secretly hoping not too good. That would take away from being balanced.

However, I’m happy when he’s happy. Revisiting Autism and Gaming


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