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Minecraft is so much more than a game, especially to kids entrenched in its world. Or, more accurately, many worlds. Each server in minecraft presents an ever-expanding collection of terrains for players to build their monuments — or lay siege to the creations of their peers.
One server puts its own twist on that formula. “Autcraft,” created by Stuart Duncan, a web developer from Canada, runs a version of Minecraft designed exclusively for children with autism. This idea was inspired by his son with autism who enjoyed playing the game but often would be bullied by other players, a practice common in the game.
Three years later the “Autcraft” community boasts a population nearly 7000 members strong, according to New Scientist.
To join the server you must fill out an application. Once complete, you are admitted to the online world rich with impressive creations and organized games, such as group battles against in-game monsters.
Players are also encouraged to build as a team. According to New Scientist, kids with autism find everyday social situations difficult to navigate due to the need to keep up with eye contact and social cues. There is none of that with Minecraft, just digital blocks and a keyboard.
In “Autcraft” harassing players and destroying the property of others is illegal, as the players are encouraged to work together in a supportive environment. There is a spinoff server for teenagers with slightly more permissive rules, however.
Players have fun within the game, but they also tend to discuss serious real-world issues. As this is a safe space for kids with autism that removes much of the anxieties of social interaction, the discussion of more hard-hitting issues is more common, as this server gives them an outlet to address them.
Although the online community is not a complete solution in terms of social skill development that these children need to operate in the “real world,” it is a pretty good first step. And it serves as a great example of how inclusive and helpful a community centered around a common interest can be.