The creation of a digital game simulating high-functioning autism spectrum disorders to induce empathy in neurotypical players

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Computer Science, Straight


Information Systems & Computer Science

First Advisor

Rodrigo, Ma. Mercedes T., Ph.D.


Despite autism spectrum disorder (ASD) being present in approximately 1-2% of the world's population, people with ASD are greatly stigmatized, leading to an overall lower quality of life. In order to address this, empathy must be induced in non-autistic, neurotypical people. As such, the aim of this study is to create a game which would allow neurotypical players to experience how it is to have ASD. In doing this, the following questions are answered: (1) Which aspects of autism spectrum disorder can be effectively gamified? (2) Which game elements best simulate aspects of autism spectrum disorder? (3) Which game elements best induce empathy towards ASD in neurotypical players? (4) To what extent is a game effective in inducing empathy in neurotypical players? And (5) Would neurotypical players respond more positively towards a game as compared to a video for autism empathy? If so, by how much?For this study, clinicians and people with ASD were interviewed to determine which aspects of ASD should be included in the game to convey to neurotypical players. After which, a game with two (2) levels was developed on Unity 5.5.x. The game was then played and evaluated by five (5) clinicians and thirty-three (33) neurotypical players through questionnaires. The clinicians evaluated the extent to which aspects of ASD were simulated. Meanwhile, the thirty-three (33) neurotypical players answered Power's Attitudes to Disability Scale before and after playing the game. They also answered a self-report, indicating which game elements they found most inducive of empathy. The self-report also measured the players' empathy towards ASD. This was compared to the results of thirty-three (33) neurotypical people who watched an informative video about autism instead of playing the game. This is to determine if the game is significantly more effective in inducing empathy than a video.All in all, most ASD behaviors could be simulated in a game, and there was no particular game element which is more effective than the others in portraying ASD behaviors or in inducing empathy in neurotypical players. In terms of the extent by which it can induce empathy, however, the game was not significantly effective, though an informative video was also not significantly more effective in inducing empathy than the game was.


The C7.T44 2017