Serious Games for Children with Autism

  • Trainee: Guilherme Baptista de Moura, Bart Geelen, Marta Kaczmarczyk, Lennart Overkamp
  • Company: Shosho, Koninklijke Kentalis
  • Company supervisor: Harold de Groot (Shosho)
  • TU/e supervisor: Emilia Barakova

Description

Problem:

During social interaction at home, at school, or in the street, 7 to 13 year old children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) and language impairment, as well as their family and teachers, are burdened because of these children’s difficulties with the following:

  1. Recognizing own and other people’s emotions;
  2. Understanding own and other people’s emotions within social context;
  3. Responding correctly to other people’s emotions. As a result of these difficulties, the long-term development and performance within society of children with ASD and language impairment is impaired.

Goal:

We were hired by Shosho, an Amsterdam based digital studio, to work with them on digital solutions for Koninklijke Kentalis that decrease teachers’ workload. Our project goal was twofold. First, we aimed to design serious games to teach autistic children to recognize, understand and respond to emotions. Second, we explored different types of multimedia interactions that could act as a ‘game controller’ to input emotions.

Process:

After competitor analysis and user research on our end-users, we performed multiple co-creation sessions with teachers and experts from Koninklijke Kentalis. We evaluated the solutions that resulted from these sessions in an iterative, agile manner, by asking feedback from experts from Koninklijke Kentalis and performing usability tests with end-users.

Results:

We developed a high-fidelity prototype of a point-and-click game that teaches autistic children understanding of emotions and consequences of their own behavior. Multiple times throughout the game, the child has to choose a combination of facial expression (e.g. happy or angry) and verbal response (e.g. rude or polite) that is appropriate for the specific in-game situation. Appropriate social behavior is rewarded with mini-games for increased engagement. Additionally, children are presented with a ‘quiz’ after each response, to teach them the link between their own responses and the responses of other characters.

After comparing many types of interactions (e.g. joystick, sliders), we developed and tested Emotion Cubes. These cubes act as dice, with emotions or expressions rather than numbers. Since the emotions or expressions that are on top are shown on the game screen, these cubes can be used as game controllers by turning them over. Additionally, cubes could be combined to form complex emotions on screen.