A downloadable game for Windows and macOS
Navigating the world can be difficult for anyone, but for someone with Autism Spectrum Disorder, it can feel nearly impossible. Thanks to an early morning snafu, Lucy Garvey, a young woman on the spectrum, is struggling to get to school. She must endure a seemingly endless assault of sounds, smells, and the people that scare her, but how well can she cope when the threats come from within as well as from without?
ASD was first created over the course of four weeks as a student project at the New York Film Academy. The assignment was to create a rogue-like game, a genre which, I'll admit, I did not know much about at the time. I played a few rogue-like games for research, and found a few patterns: they were all randomly generated, very difficult, and each one I played had an unspoken goal of trying to survive for as long as you could before your inevitable death. I couldn't help but think that it seemed an awful lot like my own life.
I was diagnosed with high-functioning Autism Spectrum Disorder in 2012. In my experience, it is almost impossible for someone neurotypical to understand what being on the Spectrum is like. There is an inherent disconnect in experience - unless you've experienced it yourself, you won't fully understand it. I believe that video games, and their unique capacity for empathy, can offer a potential solution. In a video game, you aren't watching someone else slay a dragon, you are slaying a dragon. Similarly, I sought to put the player in the position of someone on the Autism Spectrum when creating ASD. It's unusual for a mental health narrative video game to take the form of a rogue-like, but I am very pleased with the result.
Revision and Refinement:
ASD was refined over the course of two weeks. In approaching the refinement process, I knew that, mechanically, my game was sound. What I wanted to do was add in content that had to be cut the first time around due to time constraints, and to polish the game to as close a mirror shine as I could. I conducted quite a lot of playtesting for this game, and made the following changes:
First, I reduced the size of the artwork (a rookie mistake from when I first created the game) to make it run more smoothly and fix problems with aspect ratio. There were two scenarios that I had to abandon the first time around, both of which revolved around player choice. These were both added into the game to give the player a greater sense of agency. The biggest change I made in refining my game was to eliminate the "How to Play" screen at the start of the game, a system that I have always found somewhat clunky and heavy-handed, and replace it with a playable tutorial that more effectively set up the narrative and mechanics of the game.
Music by Peter Enriquez.