Video games are fantastic teaching and learning tools. They entertain us, alleviate stress, foster creativity, problem-solving skills, reading comprehension---The list goes on and on.
According to Ph.D. and bestselling author Jane McGonigal, games and game designers are on a humanitarian mission: To improve real lives and solve real-world problems. She’s an outspoken advocate for games (of all kinds) as therapy, and regularly promotes the concept that games can help us connect with our world in creative and meaningful ways.
Here are 5 games we feel are perfect for individuals with learning disabilities.
Minecraft is a virtual sandbox available on most consoles that allows players to create and build with the click of a mouse button. It’s truly that simple! Each world is procedurally generated, which means that no two worlds are the same, and the world grows as it is explored. Players can expect to experience a myriad of different terrain and weather from lush rainforests amongst big cats and massive trees, to arid desert landscapes dotted with cacti and rabbits, and anything in between. Go spelunking in a cave, or sailing on the open sea. It’s your world, and you get to decide.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg! Minecraft is perfect for just about any age group or experience level. For those looking for a challenge, the game offers a survival mode, where players must face off against the elements and the creatures that inhabit the land. Collect resources, build structures, and survive, it’s that simple.
But for those looking for an even gentler experience, simply turn on Creative Mode and let your imagination run wild! Soft soothing music accompanies the player through their journey as they build and reshape their world brick by brick with a limitless supply of resources.
Minecraft is a great teaching tool, and even boasts an educational version for use in classrooms. But it’s really the cultivation of online communities that make it great. There are a variety of private servers that cater to those with special needs. For example, Autcraft, is a Minecraft server dedicated to children and adults that have autism, and their families. Created by Stuart Duncan, an autistic father with an autistic child, he wanted to create a safe space for people like him and his child to come together and play with others just like them. The community also includes other players designated as “helpers” who help foster kindness and demonstrate knowledge of the game to new players. Check out his TED talk below for more information!
Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a new title for the Nintendo Switch that is the sequel to a franchise that is internationally beloved by both young and old players. During a time when routine and everyday activities are being disrupted, Animal Crossing is the epitome of friendly, easy-going gameplay that is combating anxiety the world over.
In this game, players are whisked off to their very own (uniquely generated) islands, complete with a random assortment of cute, friendly neighbors, fruit trees, and other flora and fauna. Collect bugs, pick fruit, fish, and build your brand new home. You can even visit a real friend’s island for more social fun!
Animal Crossing is a great, accessible game. There are no “win conditions.” This means that while there is an endless stream of simple, easily accomplishable tasks, there is no bad guy or combat to worry about. The colors and art style are bright and friendly, and the game moves at the speed of the player. While there is some reading involved, the text is large and sans-serif, making it easy to see and consume. The best part of the game is that players don’t have to play the game “right” or “correctly” to get enjoyment out of this gentle little title. It’s open-ended, and user-directed, making it perfect for those who need to be able to step away from it at a moment’s notice.
If you’re looking for a way to get active, Ring Fit Adventure for Nintendo Switch has you covered! The Ring Fit is a new Nintendo accessory and game package that promotes healthy living via simple movements and prompts. Just snap a Switch controller into the included, highly durable and elastic ring, and strap the other to your leg, and get ready to sweat!
Ring Fit is great for those looking to track activity, calories burned, improve balance and muscle tone, and play a video game all at the same time. Players can select their difficulty level, and customize the exercises that work best for them. However, the game encourages certain types of exercises, and rewards those who can push themselves just a little further!
Lead by your magical companion Ring, players are prompted by on-screen examples to complete the exercises as shown. Fight silly, colorful monsters, help grateful villagers, collect coins and burn off some energy by jogging in place, performing targeted exercises like squats, lunges, shoulder presses, crunches, and even yoga poses. There are a whopping 171 exercises to unlock and use!
And if you’re not into the gameplay, Ring Fit has pre-set, instructor-guided exercise routines to follow. You can even keep track of progress over time, view those results, and even share them with friends!. Each session comes complete with a warm-up, and a cool-down routine, and reminds players to stay hydrated and to take a break if they’re feeling too tired.
The best part about this fitness game is that you don’t need any extra equipment (outside of the game and its accessories) and it’s all done in the comfort of your own home! We think that Ring Fit Adventure is perfect for any age group or ability range. After all, it’s important to work your mind and your body!
Originally a release for the PlayStation 3, Flower has been remastered for the current generation of consoles. In this beautiful, uplifting, and short video game, the player rides the wind (literally) rushing through lush fields of grass and flowers.
Flower’s controls are very simple. The player guides a delicate gust of wind through a variety of scenarios, opening flower blossoms, collecting petals, and experiencing the world for what it is. There are no time limits, and the game lets you experience it at your own pace. There’s no obvious conflict or combat. And yet the story is poignant with very light emotional shifts.
Ultimately, Flower is more of an experience than a game, which we think makes it a prime candidate for those who are looking for a certain level of stimulation, all while remaining as gentle as possible. The game is also fairly short, lasting only about an hour, though there are no consequences to taking longer. The game guides players along their path and comes to a satisfying finish, leaving you with a sense of calm happiness.
Dungeons & Dragons is the quintessential tabletop role-playing game. Heroic fighters, pious clerics, clever thieves, dragons, dungeons; it’s the whole nine yards! The reason we’ve selected this particular game to highlight is that, aside from being fun, it can be tailored to any ability level, and to any age.
In Dungeons & Dragons, a player takes the role of a class and race of their choice. They get to make their own decisions about who their character is, what they look like, what they do, where they go, and how they interact with the world. Then, guided by the “dungeon master (DM),” they embark on an adventure with other heroes to complete an objective, usually for a reward.
This game creates the perfect opportunity for both friends and family to join in so that they can help guide the story and encourage other players. Selecting an experienced dungeon master who understands the needs of his or her players would be highly beneficial, especially when it comes to bending the rules (which is completely allowed). Be as silly and as outrageous as you want. A good DM will know how to guide the story, or will be able to adapt and react in a way that satisfies everyone’s needs. D&D can be a great way to teach cause and effect, promotes creativity, can teach basic math, and problem-solving.
READ MORE: How Playing D&D Helped Me Face The Real World →
At The Baddour Center, we're dedicated to providing a fun and safe community for adults with intellectual disabilities and autism in an environment that promotes maximum growth intellectually, spiritually, physically, socially, emotionally and vocationally. Contact us today to learn more about our facility and schedule a tour!