Science and video games conference: The diversity of intelligences
Can video games help to empower people with autistic disorders and be a social connector? Tifanie Bouchara, Fabienne Cazalis, Benjamin Misiak and Pierre Escaich contributed their views and expertise on the issue of neurodiversity at the second annual conference of the "Science and Video Games" Chair.
Valuing the abilities of people with autistic disorders, who represent nearly 2% of the world's population, is a real social and economic challenge. Tifanie Bouchara, teacher at CNAM-ENJMIN and researcher at CÉDRIC, Fabienne Cazalis, CNRS research fellow at CAMS, Benjamin Misiak, doctoral student at the CHArt and CAMS laboratories, and Pierre Eschaich, Director of Development at Ubisoft in Sweden, shared their expertise on the subject. This exchange, organised as a round table moderated by Stéphanie Mader, teacher-researcher at the CNAM, took place during the second annual conference of the "Science and Video Games" Chair, supported by Ubisoft and hosted at the Laboratoire Leprince-Ringuet (LLR*).
Measuring the skills of neurodiverse people, i.e. people with a different intelligence, and understanding the particular perceptual system of autistic people is still a difficult task. While there are alternative measures of intelligence, such as Raven's matrices, researchers are turning to digital technologies to reach people with autism. Indeed, in addition to their appeal to this population, there are software programs designed for them, such as social skills rehabilitation games.
Benjamin Misiak's research also includes other disorders, such as visual problems. His work focuses on accessibility in games, which should be representative of the player's abilities. For some populations, this will mean rethinking the interaction between game and player, for example by offering alternative controls (such as controlling the game via eye-tracking thanks to advances in this field), or by offering different options to be activated or deactivated for the user's comfort.
"Adapting games to a variety of users is a delicate exercise," said Tifanie Bouchara. Indeed, some will be helped by the details displayed, while others will be saturated by an excess of information. It is also possible to design the sounds of games to guide the user, for example in case of visual impairment. Creating a game that is accessible to all therefore requires not only the ability to modify the game experience, but also intelligent and inclusive development. Another key to creating universally accessible games would be to include more people with disabilities in the development team.
Since the health crisis, mental health is becoming less of a taboo subject, and the use of video games has increased massively. At the end of 2020, the WHO recommended its use following a study by Oxford University linking online video games to well-being. Pierre Escaich concluded the discussion by praising the commercial and empathetic success of the game "Hellblade, Senua's sacrifice" (Ninja Theory, 2017), for which the development was guided by neuroscientists so that the player evolves in a world as experienced by people suffering from psychosis.
*LLR: a joint research unit of CNRS, École Polytechnique - Institut Polytechnique de Paris
> About the Chair
Organised as a Gamelab and supported by Ubisoft, the "Science and Video Games" Chair aims to enhance the realism, gameplay and accessibility of video games through science, as well as to use this medium to spread scientific culture. Led since 2019 by Raphaël Granier de Cassagnac, this Chair, which is interdisciplinary in nature, aims to facilitate the videogame integration of models (physical, economic, social, etc.) and addresses various techniques such as 3D modelling, sound spatialisation or artificial intelligence. Teaching is another innovative axis of the Chair, aiming to familiarise engineering students with the industry's methodologies and to train a pool of video game professionals.