Disability, Neurological Diversity, and Inclusive Play: An Examination of the Social and Political Aspects of the Relationship between Disability and Games


  • Sarah Gibbons University of Waterloo


This article explores existing connections between disability studies and game studies, and suggests how the two fields might greater inform each other. While existing research explores the use of games to reduce pain and achieve rehabilitative goals, new research on games from a disability studies perspective can also consider the persuasive messages that games advance about disability, and how these messages affect questions of identity, inclusion, and acceptance. By arranging the relationship between disability and games into four topics – therapeutic and educational tools, game simulations, accessible features and controls, and narrative inclusion and identification – this article explores, attempts to address, represent, and simulate autism in digital games. It focuses on Auti-Sim (2013), a simulation exercise, and To the Moon (2011), an adventure role-playing game. Drawing on the writings of autistic activists and existing scholarship on disability simulations, the author considers how these games may influence the player’s understanding of autism at social and political levels, and how these artifacts engage with the overarching goals of disability inclusion and autism acceptance.