A server for the highly popular video game Minecraft has formed a safe zone for over 5,000 individuals around the world with some connection to autism. Named Autcraft, the online community meets the unique needs of children, teenagers and parents with autism and Asperger's syndrome.
The whitelisted Minecraft servers were created by a web developer from Timmons, Canada named Stuart Duncan (in game name AutismFather), an autistic father who created a bully-free online community for his autistic son Cameron.
"When you have a kid with autism and they like something they will talk to you until you, as a parent, need to talk about something different and you can kind of shut them down. But on the server all the kids know that and never, ever shut each other down. A kid will say, âThat's amazing — you know all this about trees' or some other subject. Having such a big community, there's at least one other person who shares that interest and they go off and build together."
A number of parents of autistic children continue to seek out servers on the Internet for their child to play Minecraft without being subjected to bullies, trolls, swearing and other emotionally disturbing behavior, writes Charlie Warzel of BuzzFeed.
Duncan purchased the starter server at $2.50 and named it Autcraft later. The server immediately received a strong response and required no separate advertisement.
The servers are heavily moderated by a team of responsible and intensely trained volunteers, mainly adults with autism, parents of children with autism, or family members of someone with autism. The volunteers monitor the servers for hackers and regulate any form of unruly behavior. They resolve situations by taking "the time to talk to them and sort things out, make sure everything runs smoothly".
Autcraft has whitelisted thousands of children and adults, and the response has put pressure on both the server and hired moderators, whom have worked without any form of wages, writes Roberta Hill of Autism Daily Newscast.
Minecraft by nature acts as an interactive and engaging tool for teaching and is lauded by parents for encouraging children to utilize their creativity, develop their social skills and get comfortable with themselves and their environment. Players can construct homes, castles and even Christmas ornaments as long as they exercise some level of teamwork.
New applicants for Autcraft must fill out an application and go through a screening process which filters out as many bullies from the community as possible.
Autcraft serves as a safe space for children who have a difficult time engaging in social circles and making friends. It provides a platform for autistic players to meet and make friends (without worrying about the prospect of being bullied) with likeminded children, as well as promotes teamwork by making them pair together textures and colours in building the world around them. The game also maintains the anonymity of the player through the use of avatars, according to Duncan.
"They're learning how to share things for the first time ever. You're learning how to ask for help when you need help or to volunteer to help when somebody else needs help. When you have a lot of insecurities, face-to-face communication can be very limiting. Whereas in Minecraft, you don't feel like you're talking to a human being, but you have fun and you let your guard down."
Unlike traditional video games where you need to defeat bosses to proceed to the next level, Autcraft rewards players for displaying characteristics of sharing and compassion. Children are
motivated to work to their strengths and enhance their confidence.