Posted by patrickklepek (3469 posts) -
Individuals with Aspergers have trouble picking up on and quickly responding to facial cues.

[Note: This article used to refer to "Jake" as "Jeff," until I realized I'd spaced out while writing on why that might be confusing.]

No one knows exactly why a child is born with Asperger's Syndrome, a disorder in the same family as autism. Those afflicted have significant trouble responding to typical social situations. Someone with Asperger's can also be prone to intense interest in a specific subject. Unlike traditional autism, an individual with Asperger's does retain linguistic and cognitive development.

If you meet someone with Asperger's, you may not be able to tell. They may just seem...different.

You may also go several decades of your life without knowing you even have it. Like Jake.

Jake, a 25-year-old from Sweden I've been talking to, has Asperger's. His real name is not Jake, but he is 25-years-old and he is from Sweden. Jake, who was only recently diagnosed, asked to remain anonymous because he'd rather people "judge me for who I am than my diagnosis."

I wanted to talk to Jake because of an article on Joystiq about how L.A. Noire might be difficult for anyone with Asperger's to play, given the reliance on analyzing, interpreting and acting upon facial cues. Doing all three of those things are difficult for Jake and others with Asperger's. Jake has not played L.A. Noire, but he told me that he plans to eventually. Ironically, he's someone that's drawn to games with deep social aspects, like BioWare's Mass Effect and Dragon Age series.

He credits Anticipation on NES and translating RPGs into Swedish with teaching him English.

"It's kind of ironic that what I shy away from in real life is that I seek the most in video games--to interact with people," he told me. "It's not really been a problem in games, in fact it is probably part of the reason I love any game that have social interaction like Dragon Age, Mass Effect and such. For me those games are more about interacting with the party members than anything else."

Games like Mass Effect allow Jake to have the satisfaction of social interaction without the pressure.
== TEASER ==

Jake's messages to me are long, detailed and very specific. At one point, he apologizes. When he begins to describe what his mental processes are like, his sentences go on and on and on.

"I have to stop before I flood you with my theories about everything," he said. "I cannot stop thinking about these sort of things. It's like my brain is constantly running folding@home or something. It is always analyzing my actions, people's reactions etc etc. In fact when I play games is one of the few moments where my brain can relax and not run several different threads and analyze things. I become immersed into the video game world and can forget about everything else."

The way Jake describes it, he struggles to slow his brain down. Stuff that happens in the background for us, seemingly automatic, is foreground for him. When approaching a traffic light, you and I wait for the light to turn green, then cross. That's not possible for Jake. He calculates the speed of traffic flow, how each of hits steps and hand movements will influence the action of crossing the street, and spends time calculating when--or if--he should press the crossing button.

"To make a perfect choice you'd have to be God, and see every possible outcome and choose the best one," he explained. "In games the number of outcomes is limited, but not in real life. Otherwise I would not be able to live any sort of normal life. The only problem is that I will spend a lot of time analyzing if I made the correct decision afterwards which takes up a lot of my 'CPU time' to use a computer analogy. But analyzing the outcome is at least a lot simpler after the fact since you know what happened the only question is why it happened. It becomes a sort of reverse engineering of every encounter which is how I learn. It is not unlike how a computer would work."

When a conversation starts in Alpha Protocol, you have a limited window to make a choice.

Sandbox ridiculousness aside, in games, there are a finite number of options. When Jake boots up a game, even one with many "choices" like Mass Effect, there are limits.

You have all the time in the word to decide which path to head down or which dialogue option to exercise in Mass Effect--time to analyze. Some games apply pressure to the player. Alpha Protocol provides a finite choice space. The moment a conversation is initiated, a timer begins counting down. If you don't quickly make a decision, the game will force you to make one. In the game, however, the results of those actions impact the avatar, not the player. Thus, Jake doesn't stress.

"I just went with suave the whole way through because I wanted it to role play as that kind of character," he said. "Also it is not me in games. If I say choose an option that offends someone only my in game character has to deal with the consequences so it doesn't stress me out. Not to mention that there are a limited number of choices in a game which makes it easy to analyze each one compared to in real life when you can literally say anything. "

And while games have spent years coming up with new ways for players to influence the world, in the end, it's all in a virtual environment. Jake has spent most of his life's free time playing games, and since encountering Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, he's been enamored with role-playing games. In many ways, social interactions with video game characters give Jake an opportunity to practice his own lacking social skills and feel the satisfaction of a social interaction.

You can take your time making a choice in KOTOR, but you also have a finite choice selection.

"It's basically a primitive form of holo deck for me," he said. "Have you seen the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Barclay suffers from holo deck addiction? He creates holo deck representations of the people in the Enterprise because it is much easier for him to interact with them there and he feels more confident. In real life he can barely speak to women, but on the holo deck he is the exact opposite. I think it is safe to say that it fulfills a need for social interaction that is not fulfilled in real life because I'm too worried about saying something dumb or offend someone that I just don't speak to them."

One obstacle Jake hasn't overcome is multiplayer. Those people are real. He still plays online--just muted. Then again, that's usually what I end up doing after the fifth racial slur is dropped, too.

We all play games for different reasons. Maybe it's escapism for one person, exploration of a new medium for another. For Jake, it's something else. It realizes a need. Throughout our conversation, Jake dropped the term "in real life" many times, underscoring the personal disconnect he feels between his ability to interact socially in a virtual environment through games and "in real life."

"I think many people who become very successful in an MMO often are not successful in real life which is why it means so much to them to be successful somewhere," he said. "You may be just another guy in real life but online you are the king of the server. It just so happens that the need I want to fill is the social interaction need, although that is certainly not the only need, but I think it is the largest."

Staff
#1 Posted by patrickklepek (3469 posts) -
Individuals with Aspergers have trouble picking up on and quickly responding to facial cues.

[Note: This article used to refer to "Jake" as "Jeff," until I realized I'd spaced out while writing on why that might be confusing.]

No one knows exactly why a child is born with Asperger's Syndrome, a disorder in the same family as autism. Those afflicted have significant trouble responding to typical social situations. Someone with Asperger's can also be prone to intense interest in a specific subject. Unlike traditional autism, an individual with Asperger's does retain linguistic and cognitive development.

If you meet someone with Asperger's, you may not be able to tell. They may just seem...different.

You may also go several decades of your life without knowing you even have it. Like Jake.

Jake, a 25-year-old from Sweden I've been talking to, has Asperger's. His real name is not Jake, but he is 25-years-old and he is from Sweden. Jake, who was only recently diagnosed, asked to remain anonymous because he'd rather people "judge me for who I am than my diagnosis."

I wanted to talk to Jake because of an article on Joystiq about how L.A. Noire might be difficult for anyone with Asperger's to play, given the reliance on analyzing, interpreting and acting upon facial cues. Doing all three of those things are difficult for Jake and others with Asperger's. Jake has not played L.A. Noire, but he told me that he plans to eventually. Ironically, he's someone that's drawn to games with deep social aspects, like BioWare's Mass Effect and Dragon Age series.

He credits Anticipation on NES and translating RPGs into Swedish with teaching him English.

"It's kind of ironic that what I shy away from in real life is that I seek the most in video games--to interact with people," he told me. "It's not really been a problem in games, in fact it is probably part of the reason I love any game that have social interaction like Dragon Age, Mass Effect and such. For me those games are more about interacting with the party members than anything else."

Games like Mass Effect allow Jake to have the satisfaction of social interaction without the pressure.
== TEASER ==

Jake's messages to me are long, detailed and very specific. At one point, he apologizes. When he begins to describe what his mental processes are like, his sentences go on and on and on.

"I have to stop before I flood you with my theories about everything," he said. "I cannot stop thinking about these sort of things. It's like my brain is constantly running folding@home or something. It is always analyzing my actions, people's reactions etc etc. In fact when I play games is one of the few moments where my brain can relax and not run several different threads and analyze things. I become immersed into the video game world and can forget about everything else."

The way Jake describes it, he struggles to slow his brain down. Stuff that happens in the background for us, seemingly automatic, is foreground for him. When approaching a traffic light, you and I wait for the light to turn green, then cross. That's not possible for Jake. He calculates the speed of traffic flow, how each of hits steps and hand movements will influence the action of crossing the street, and spends time calculating when--or if--he should press the crossing button.

"To make a perfect choice you'd have to be God, and see every possible outcome and choose the best one," he explained. "In games the number of outcomes is limited, but not in real life. Otherwise I would not be able to live any sort of normal life. The only problem is that I will spend a lot of time analyzing if I made the correct decision afterwards which takes up a lot of my 'CPU time' to use a computer analogy. But analyzing the outcome is at least a lot simpler after the fact since you know what happened the only question is why it happened. It becomes a sort of reverse engineering of every encounter which is how I learn. It is not unlike how a computer would work."

When a conversation starts in Alpha Protocol, you have a limited window to make a choice.

Sandbox ridiculousness aside, in games, there are a finite number of options. When Jake boots up a game, even one with many "choices" like Mass Effect, there are limits.

You have all the time in the word to decide which path to head down or which dialogue option to exercise in Mass Effect--time to analyze. Some games apply pressure to the player. Alpha Protocol provides a finite choice space. The moment a conversation is initiated, a timer begins counting down. If you don't quickly make a decision, the game will force you to make one. In the game, however, the results of those actions impact the avatar, not the player. Thus, Jake doesn't stress.

"I just went with suave the whole way through because I wanted it to role play as that kind of character," he said. "Also it is not me in games. If I say choose an option that offends someone only my in game character has to deal with the consequences so it doesn't stress me out. Not to mention that there are a limited number of choices in a game which makes it easy to analyze each one compared to in real life when you can literally say anything. "

And while games have spent years coming up with new ways for players to influence the world, in the end, it's all in a virtual environment. Jake has spent most of his life's free time playing games, and since encountering Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, he's been enamored with role-playing games. In many ways, social interactions with video game characters give Jake an opportunity to practice his own lacking social skills and feel the satisfaction of a social interaction.

You can take your time making a choice in KOTOR, but you also have a finite choice selection.

"It's basically a primitive form of holo deck for me," he said. "Have you seen the episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Barclay suffers from holo deck addiction? He creates holo deck representations of the people in the Enterprise because it is much easier for him to interact with them there and he feels more confident. In real life he can barely speak to women, but on the holo deck he is the exact opposite. I think it is safe to say that it fulfills a need for social interaction that is not fulfilled in real life because I'm too worried about saying something dumb or offend someone that I just don't speak to them."

One obstacle Jake hasn't overcome is multiplayer. Those people are real. He still plays online--just muted. Then again, that's usually what I end up doing after the fifth racial slur is dropped, too.

We all play games for different reasons. Maybe it's escapism for one person, exploration of a new medium for another. For Jake, it's something else. It realizes a need. Throughout our conversation, Jake dropped the term "in real life" many times, underscoring the personal disconnect he feels between his ability to interact socially in a virtual environment through games and "in real life."

"I think many people who become very successful in an MMO often are not successful in real life which is why it means so much to them to be successful somewhere," he said. "You may be just another guy in real life but online you are the king of the server. It just so happens that the need I want to fill is the social interaction need, although that is certainly not the only need, but I think it is the largest."

Staff
#2 Posted by Broman6015 (63 posts) -

Nice article

#3 Edited by Crono11 (1639 posts) -

Always nice to see when games are doing some good.

#4 Posted by MackGyver (516 posts) -

I didn't know this kind of thing existed.

#5 Edited by JoyfullOFrockets (1177 posts) -

Cool.

#6 Posted by Jonathan (654 posts) -

This is pretty fucking rad

#7 Posted by stoodspoon (596 posts) -

I can relate to him because I have Aspergers

#8 Posted by demonbear (1859 posts) -

" You may also go several decades of your life without knowing you even have it. Like Jeff. " 
 
I read that and went : Oh THAT's why Jeff is so weird!

#9 Edited by satansmagichat (187 posts) -

So glad Klepek's here. Great article.

Also, I recommend the Movie Ben X, a dutch movie about a gamer dealing with asbergers.

#10 Posted by StrikerTheLizard (315 posts) -

Very poorly written article about something that isn't even newsworthy. Keep it in your blog.

#11 Posted by S0ndor (2715 posts) -

That's pretty interesting. I sometimes obsess about my past mistakes and such, but I can't imagine what it would be like to analyse the flow of traffic when trying to cross the street. 
 
Sounds like KoTOR saved him, sort of. Bioware does it again!

#12 Posted by Sinful (211 posts) -

Nice Article Pat, but this belongs in a Blog not a Video Game News Section.

#13 Posted by Simplexity (1382 posts) -

Great article, really enjoyed reading that.

#14 Posted by AlexanderSheen (4929 posts) -
@satansmagichat said:

So glad Klepek's here. Great article.

Also, I recommend the Movie Ben X, a dutch movie about a gamer dealing with asbergers.

That movie is really hard to watch.
#15 Posted by lockwoodx (2479 posts) -

Very good article

#16 Posted by jkuc316 (981 posts) -
@MackGyver said:
I didn't know this kind of thing existed.
This, but it makes me happy to read that gaming helps those people with disorders. 
 
That last article really struck me. Maybe that is why some people love Achievements/Trophies, because it fulfills their need to feel accomplished.
#17 Posted by Yanngc33 (4496 posts) -

Very interesting, I'd love to see more of these kinds of articles on the site

#18 Posted by MEATBALL (3064 posts) -

This was a really interesting look into a condition I really don't know much about beyond an extremely basic understanding of how it impacts a person's social abilities. This was a great insight into Jeff's thought process and how he, or someone in his situation, approaches videogames.

#19 Edited by mak_wikus (503 posts) -

An article about Aspergers and not a word about Abed?
 
Edit: In the paragraph under ME2 screenshot it says "metal" instead of "mental".

#20 Posted by DrDarkStryfe (1086 posts) -

I cannot believe that people think that this should be relegated to a blog.

Gaming journalism should be a lot more than a cycle of previews, reviews, and release date information. There is a whole world out there filled with stories about how gaming has ingrained into our lives and society that go untold because at how bad the enthusiast media has turned into nothing more then a PR spewing machine.

This was a wonderful article to read, and I hope this is just the start of bringing more of this style to the site.

#21 Posted by Ghost_Cat (1384 posts) -

I had a friend with the same disorder too.  It also makes it difficult  for him to sleep, and games were usually his outlet to relieve stress.

#22 Posted by Kovski (169 posts) -

If you are going to use a made-up name why not use a generic name like Martin or Johan instead of using a name of a co-worker? Not like it really matters though. 
 
Not to bash, but I would find Bioware's games, post BG2, as a horrible way to practice social interaction, seeing as most of the time the dialogue choices doesn't even make sense. Really nice written article. Mad props to both Patrick and Jeff!

#23 Posted by mattjam3000 (434 posts) -

Very interesting read, great article.

#24 Posted by drew327 (558 posts) -

Does GB need a post editor? : )

#25 Posted by TaliciaDragonsong (8698 posts) -
@Yanngc33 said:

Very interesting, I'd love to see more of these kinds of articles on the site

This, it was a good read!
#26 Posted by mbradley1992 (17 posts) -

Patrick, this has got to be the best piece I have seen by you, hands down.

#27 Posted by Hace (20 posts) -

Just in case someone's counting the opinions: here's one for having more articles like this! A great read.

#28 Posted by Foggen (836 posts) -

@demonbear said:

" You may also go several decades of your life without knowing you even have it. Like Jeff. " I read that and went : Oh THAT's why Jeff is so weird!

Yeah, this is not a website where you say "someone like Jeff" and let it hang there like that, unless you actually mean Gerstmann.

#29 Posted by deadmenrise (7 posts) -

Great article. Patrick, your really raise gaming journalism to another level and are a huge asset to Giant Bomb. I work with someone who has Aspergers and it's always frustrated me when people who don't know about or understand his condition would comment on how he acts "weird", even though I understand that's how the world works. Bringing issues like this to light (in this case relating it to gaming) does a lot to expose people to the reality of the condition and with exposure hopefully comes acceptance and understanding.

#30 Posted by kickinthehead (71 posts) -

Very nice article, I'd be interested in a followup after he plays L.A. Noire. Though one thing, of all the pseudonyms to pick, did you have to go with Jeff? O_O

#31 Posted by JerichoBlyth (1044 posts) -

My brother has a strong case of Asbergers and I really wish that he was born at a later date at times. He was born in the early 80's and back then, doctors refused to diagnose anybody with Asbergers syndrome in the UK because half of them didn't believe it even existed.
 
So for things like social interaction (which he still can't nail at all) he only had the stories he would write for his own amusement and also built an obsession with different works of fiction from all sorts of genres in order to expand his horizons.
 
He has never been able to play RPG videogames to be honest. He just cannot get into them at all and so the only games he touches are retro games like old Commodore or Mega Drive classics, as they have nostalgic values, reminding him more so of a better time in his life rather than enjoying them for the gameplay.
 
But yeah, I feel that if he was a little younger - he would have got more help and would have probably caught on to the whole 'gaming' thing.
 
A concerned brother.

#32 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11474 posts) -

As someone with Aspergers (as I'm sure plenty of people on these forums are), I can relate to this guy. However, despite my similar love of those kinds of interactive RPGs, I wouldn't say that they have helped me with my social interaction skills (though maybe that's one of the reasons I was drawn to KotOR in the first place). Only several years of trial and error in the real world have helped that. I'd like to think that at this point I can do pretty well for myself and not have to use video games as some sort of aid in my real life.  
 
As for the somewhat random L.A. Noire comment near the beginning of the article, I can play that game just fine. Whatever isn't known inherently can be learned cognitively and that goes for identifying facial cues as well.

Online
#33 Posted by SeanFoster (855 posts) -

Great article. Stuff like this fits in perfect with the type of site GIant Bomb is that's more about celebrating our love for gaming and what it means in our lives and not just mumbling angrily about every little bit of news.

#34 Posted by Yummylee (21249 posts) -

Good for him. It's always refreshing to read more personal articles such as this raising awareness on how helpful and productive gaming can be to certain individuals. More of this and less of the gaming deaths caused by WoW or whatever.

#35 Posted by TobbRobb (4579 posts) -

KOTAKU ALERT!
 
Kidding aside, I enjoyed the article. Well written and interesting.

#36 Posted by solidlife (877 posts) -

Good Read, Nice to see the culture side of gaming. People calling for this to be a Blog post Go do one. Gaming is much more than button presses. 

#37 Posted by Clonedzero (4091 posts) -

fantastic read. stuff like this is really awesome to read.

#38 Posted by EpicBenjamin (623 posts) -

Very interesting read, I have Aspergers myself. Great article, Patrick.

#39 Posted by AngeTheDude (644 posts) -

Stories like this make me proud to be a gamer and a paid member. This sort of thing shows that gaming is huge and it really means a lot to many people.

#40 Posted by Nmckee503 (87 posts) -

Loved this article, really interesting thing to read on a gaming website, that's why I love giant bomb!

You may also go several decades of your life without knowing you even have it. Like Jeff.

When I read this I also thought "Gerstmann?" I thought it added a nice touch to the article, kinda made it feel more personal than just *insert generic name here*.

#41 Edited by Legend (2649 posts) -

Hm, I think I know who Jeff is. If I'm not mistaken, he's a Swedish let's player on youtube. He does his let's plays in English, and he's 25 years old. I'll send him a message. If it's a different person, that's quite the coincidence. I'm sure he'll find the article interesting.

#42 Posted by billyblaze (63 posts) -

Brilliant, Klepek. More stuff like that!

#43 Posted by MayorFeedback (674 posts) -

Klepek is KILLING IT over here.

#44 Posted by Soulblitz (349 posts) -

Well done, Patrick. Another brilliant article, and it's this stuff that goes to prove why you're such an excellent addition to the Giant Bomb crew.

#45 Posted by simonbuchan (33 posts) -

+1 on more articles like this.

I dunno. A couple people have said I act like I have Asperger's, but I think it's often a term thrown around to describe assholes (how I would diagnose myself :) ) by people who don't get what it is. But I Am Not A Doctor.

I don't know how L.A. Noire would be that difficult for Asperger'ses(?), they overact pretty hard in that game and there's no time pressure, for obvious and valid reasons. All the trouble I've had with that is when I've disagreed with the game between doubt and lie - a lot of it's 'evidence' is super-sketchy. You can always tell if they are lying or not super easily.

#46 Posted by monkeynuts8 (73 posts) -

This is why I use this site

#47 Posted by Vexxan (4615 posts) -

One of the best articles this site has ever had, very well-written and very interesting.

Good fucking job, Patrick.

#48 Edited by TheAdmin (711 posts) -

There are a couple of grammar issues:

Aspergers is can also be prone

Got an extra "is" in that sentence...

Jeff, who was only recently was diagnosed

Too many "was"

Great article though!

#49 Posted by partoftheproblem (44 posts) -

Me reading this article: "Holy shit! Jeff Gerstman has Aspergers?? I'd never have- oh. Oh, nevermind. Carry on."
 
But yeah, my brother has aspergers, and he uses gaming in much the same way. Very classy article, GiantBomb. Keep it up.

#50 Posted by Vodun (2370 posts) -

@Legend said:

Hm, I think I know who Jeff is. If I'm not mistaken, he's a Swedish let's player on youtube. He does his let's plays in English, and he's 25 years old. I'll send him a message. If it's a different person, that's quite the coincidence. I'm sure he'll find the article interesting.

Because there's only one 25 year old person in Sweden who plays games?