Life on the autism spectrum can have its challenges, especially when you are higher functioning and “look normal.” For individuals like Isaiah, getting to know people and engaging in conversation often poses unique challenges because the nuances of language often escape them. Sarcasm, facial expressions, and tone of voice can be misinterpreted leading to misunderstanding, confusion, and feelings of ineptitude. However, through the world and language of gaming, Isaiah has found his kindred spirits.
Isaiah’s adventures today began with a bus ride through Austin to arrive downtown a few short blocks from the Austin Convention Center. Although he was nervous, Isaiah was also very excited. This was his birthday present, and he hoped it lived up to his expectations. After arriving more than an hour early, Isaiah took the opportunity to look around the available area and grabbed a pizza to fuel up before the start. Then it was time to wait in line and make new friends.
When Isaiah finally stepped through the door to the exhibition hall, he was speechless and overwhelmed. He didn’t know where to start or what to do. He asked questions like, “Are we supposed to be here in this area?” and “Can we try some of the games?” After about 10 minutes of wandering around, Isaiah finally found something to occupy his time, a virtual reality game called To the Top. I have to admit, I was a little worried because Isaiah often has sensory issues, and I thought the game might be too overwhelming for him. I couldn’t have been more wrong.
After a brief (1 minute) explanation of how the game works, Isaiah set about climbing through the game with ease. He was even complimented on his skill and his ability to understand and follow those very brief instructions. He completed two levels of the game before the demo was over. Isaiah displayed such enthusiasm for the game that the presenters asked him for a video reaction and interviewed him about his experience. I could not have been more proud! Isaiah was well spoken and enthusiastic, and he gave a thorough evaluation of the game. He enjoyed it so much that he wants to go back to that same booth and try the game again for day 2.
Isaiah regained his equilibrium after the game demo and wandered through the aisles of the exhibition hall and happened upon a group of likeminded teenagers playing a card game called Superfight. Isaiah asked if he could join the game, and they enthusiastically said yes. He shook hands and introduced himself. Together, the group played 2 hands of the game and told jokes (I know! Isaiah telling AND understanding jokes with people who are not his family!!) before moving on to the next booth of interest.
By the time the card games ended, it was two o’clock, and Isaiah was ready to leave for the day. Isaiah recognized within himself that he had reached the limits of what he was able to do and chose to leave while he was still in a good mood.
I have said before that Isaiah is “Conquering the World One Convention at a Time,” and today was no exception. Stay tuned for more of Isaiah Goes to SXSW Gaming and the ongoing adventures of Isaiah Unmedicated.