Slenderman the game for neurotypicals to understand autistic people.
You start out in the corner of a playground. Around you are children playing on the equipment. Curiosity got the better of me, so I walked over to two of the children. As I got closer, the screen began to get fuzzy and I looked and saw that the children had no faces. Suddenly, someone starts screaming and then another person starts screaming. My screen turns into a Pablo Picasso painting of pixels as the screaming gets louder and the echolalic song of “ABCs” plays over and over. The only way to survive mentally here in the real world is to run away from people and seclude yourself away from every character that is not you.
This sounds like a horror game, right? In my opinion, it is. The creators were three non-disabled adults who decided to create a game that made neurotypicals “feel what it is like to be autistic” with regards to hypersensitivity.
Last semester, I read an article by Richard Colby entitled “Writing and Assessing Procedural Rhetoric in Student-produced Video Games.” In the article, he talks about procedural rhetoric. When we were discussing it in class, the teacher gave the example of SimCity. In SimCity, you manage a city and have to make decisions about taxes and programs. It’s your choice on what you do, but it was the game-makers choice for how you survive the game. In the game, you have to make decisions that follow a particular party line’s views. In order to continue to be the mayor of the city, you have to do Republican policies of not taxing the rich as much but taxing the poor.
So, each decision you make leads you to either a good experience and you survive (which will make you more likely to do it again) or a bad experience where you do not survive (which will make you more likely to not do it again). Therefore, games have a powerful rhetoric that is akin to behavioral intervention of reinforcing behaviors that are desired.
Now, let’s get back to this game. How do you survive? Well, you don’t die in this game, at least not yet (they are working on the game now), but the sensory overload of the screaming and visual pixelation make the player want to seclude themselves away from people. It is not much of a step further and neurotypicals who play the game are connecting what they just experienced with what an autistic person experiences every day.
But what’s more, how do you get away from the screaming? By secluding yourself. Therefore, the rhetoric of the game is autistic people seclude themselves. While this may be the case in some people with autism, it adds to this idea that they are to be seen, not interacted with. Not only that, but those people with autism who do not seclude themselves from others may be viewed by people who have played this game as not having autism because they don’t seclude themselves.