Weaving Autistic, Neurodivergent and Disability Community Thought and Activism into the Game

So, I’m excited to share some of how I’m building this game from a foundation of Autisic, neurodivergent, and disability community thought and activism! I’ve figured out how to represent neurodiversity on the second page of the character sheet, as well as how it will mechanically influence gameplay. The two necessary parts to do this are referred to as “spectra attributes” and “associated actions.” 

“Spectra” is in reference to the autistic community’s understanding of our own neurodivergence as being a collection of spectra, not just the neurotypical understanding of a single spectrum from low-functioning to high-functioning. We might be higher on the axis for verbal communication, while lower on the axis for executive function, but we also may have “hacks” or “loopholes” to work within our limitations, or costs for using something we’re good at, like exhaustion from verbalizing. 

I’m basically trying to write disability activist thought into the fabric of the game. I can’t think of any games off the top of my head that do this intentionally. I’d love to hear about any other games that are trying to do this. 

I want people to come away from playing with tools to understand themselves better, without it being “therapy”. I use metaphors like referring to my internal thought processes as algorithms to better understand how my brain works, so why not RPG mechanics? 

Also, I feel like the concept of multiple spectra to represent traits and experiences is a very queer thing, at least in my experience of queerness.

Here’s how I explain spectra attributes in the current draft:

Here’s the explanation of “associated actions” which are optional mechanics to represent spectra attributes in gameplay.

I also want this game’s mechanical tools to be useful for personal growth and understanding oneself, without patronizing the audience of the game or making it into “therapy”. The purpose of the game isn’t to fix something wrong or lacking in someone, it’s about self acceptance, community, overcoming marginalization (including internalized oppression), and of course having fun magical adventures! What players get out of it is up to what they want to focus on, if anything, while providing a space that is safer than the real world to try out forms of expression, resistance to oppression, community building, and self definition. 

Sure, the game does promote the message of unmasking and self acceptance, but I feel like it’s significant that it’s coming from a queer, neurodivergent person to whom those messages are personally important rather than a team of non-queer neurotypical people trying to push a specific outcome on groups they don’t belong to. What do you think, and do you have suggestions for directions I should take in finishing this game?

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