The latest craze, Pokémon GO, is a new Nintendo game which uses ‘augmented reality’ – a mixture of the real world and the gaming world – to let players catch Pokémon, virtual animals or monsters, in real places through their smart phone GPS and cameras.
This game was only released in the UK on 13 July and already, among millions of others, lots of autistic people love the game and are enjoying going out and about to find different Pokémon and PokéGyms to play against other users of the game.
We’re hearing lots of stories from autistic people and their families about how the game reduces people’s anxiety when travelling and leaving their home. Some autistic people have said that it can make starting conversations easier because they enjoy talking to others about Pokémon GO. Some parents of autistic children have also praised the game, saying that their children really enjoy going outside and playing it with others in the playground. For instance, Danielle, mother of an autistic son commented on Facebook that her son is going outside, walking the dog and passing strangers without having a meltdown.
Since the game is only one week old and has already gained an extraordinary response, from autistic and non-autistic people alike, there is no way to know yet how it will develop. And, while it’s been widely welcomed in the autistic community, there have been some concerns raised.
It’s important to remember that it would be wrong to think that it suits every autistic person, any more than it would appeal to every non-autistic person. Some autistic people might love Pokémon GO, others might not be interested or may not be able to play because going outside is too overwhelming.
There is also no evidence as yet that displaying new skills through Pokémon Go will be transferred to everyday life, and conversations that aren’t about the game may still be as hard as usual for that person.
The game can also come with some risks and people playing must remember to stay aware of their surroundings, like keeping away from traffic, as well as not going to unsafe places to catch Pokémon.
The NSPCC have some helpful top tips about keeping safe when playing the game.
It looks as if autistic children and young people are really enjoying Pokémon GO. And if you or your family and friends are playing – have a great time and please remember to stay safe!
You can see some of the stories in the media here:
Mum ‘in shock’ how Pokémon Go helped son with autism
How Pokemon Go changed an autistic teenager's life