Gaming and Writing: An Autistic Perspective

I do everything from the perspective of a writer, even if I’ve been gaming for most of my life. My first console was a Super Nintendo, and even then I was enamored with the story of games like Mega Man, and later Final Fantasy IV and cult classic Tales of Symphonia. I dedicated a lot of time to filling in the blanks of those stories, so to speak, focusing my fanfiction efforts on giving detail to the story that already existed or writing about events only hinted at in the narrative.

My obsessiveness, the large amounts of information I’ve memorized in order to craft worlds, has always been something of a double edged blade.

On one hand, it allowed me to write a few somewhat popular novelizations (that I never completed, but recently had the wild hare to edit and continue), Lunar Song and The Path Homeward. The first was a flat out novelization of Final Fantasy IV with loving detail added to the universe, my efforts with which many of the friends I met through Wayrift (By fellow blogger Aywren and her best friend) will remember.

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The Lunar Song cast; Cecil, Kain and Rosa.

The second, The Path Homeward, was a re-imagining of ideas I’d had for a story about the past of Kratos Aurion from Tales of Symphonia when I was 15 years old. It was much more popular than a dedicated fanfiction for a game that was20 years old the first time I played it, and still has enough of a following that I occasionally get asked about it three years later, believe it or not. It was essentially a “how I met your mother” story, actually, filled with intrigue, death, and fantasy. The story of one man’s journey from hopeful to hopeless — I’ve never liked happy characters or happy endings, there’s always something bittersweet in my favorites.

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Kratos Aurion from a 2013 calendar event.

That same obsessiveness, though, has always brought me problems. I have a tendency to be overly analytical and almost hoard knowledge, to the point where it’s a collection. For years I was shamed by everyone for what I did, for how interested I was with the worlds and characters I concerned myself with, including my own. People don’t like those who correct their facts out of well-intentioned naivety or who talk nonstop about characters like they’re real people. Well, until you get into fandom, and then people start policing the way you enjoy things, especially in transformative fandom, where I’ve always been told that I’m “ruin other people’s fun” for caring about acknowledging canon and the rights of the author.

I’ve been this way about everything, on top of having other weird tics — I rock and sway, tap my pen when my mind isn’t occupied, get overwhelmed by loud noises or strange textures. In fact, I can’t eat yogurt because it triggers my gag reflex, and I can’t wear anything that’s made of pure cotton because the texture makes me feel like bugs are crawling on my skin. I was known for my chronic inability to socialize easily or understand the body language of others until I forced myself to learn social cues and facial expressions, to the point that authority figures started calling me a “social retard”. For years, I didn’t have a word for myself, other than what my parents, teachers, and (former) religious leaders ascribed me — stupid, misbehaving, immature, terrible at paying attention or making eye contact. I thought that I was broken, and I always knew that I was different.

And then, recently, I got a word for it — Autistic.

Everything in my life makes so much more sense now, in light of that. I’m not any of the things those in my life told me I was, I’m autistic. You can’t imagine how liberating it is to finally know why I’ve always been inordinately passionate about the things I’m passionate about, why it’s been so easy for me to memorize details and compartmentalize them. I use them to analyze the characters, and to reach an intimate understanding of my topic that lets me right insanely detailed stories where the characters are all marginally in character and the details are mostly canon compliant (though I like to take creative liberty with novelizations to make them more interesting).

And though I’ve struggled a lot, I have to admit that I wouldn’t be the, writer (or gamer) that I am without my autism. My attention to my detail, even the way I think about my characters, is attributed to to my autism. It’s such an inexorable part of my that I can no more separate it from myself than I can my sense of fair play and desire to help every suffering person I see. Its shaped my personality, contributed to my desire to create worlds and characters for people like me — People who may not have had anyone they could rely on and who depended on characters to teach them the lessons they might have learned from their parents or teachers.

That desire has culminated in the way I create characters, characters who face isolation but overcome it to become better people, characters that I believe people can relate to. I want to have casts and stories where the characters I craft are undeniably different in some way, but still relatable and still people. Too often I feel like disabled characters fall into the trap of behaving in a special manner just because the author might not understand what it’s like to be disabled or to face incredible odds and have to fight against societal perception. We don’t exist to make people feel good, we exist to have stories of our own, which is why all the characters I’ve liked as much as I have had struggles relating to other people or communicating their thoughts clearly.

Rifted Full
The autistic Virsune and chronically-ill Lusiel.

I don’t want people to have to wonder if my characters are like them, I want them to know. Naturally, I recognize that means I’ll probably never reach a mainstream market, but I’m okay with that. The people I’m writing for, people like me, probably aren’t mainstream anyway. This isn’t political, it’s personal. It’s about an autistic person wanting to give to other people something they never had when it really would have helped to have it — someone to relate to.

That’s why the protagonists of Wild Core and Aurelia struggle with autism, ptsd, disorders that cause a lack of empathy, chronic illness, and physical disability — because those people exist and I feel compelled to write about them the way they deserve to be written —

Like people.

Autism has shaped me. It made me obsess over the things I did. It makes me dedicated enough to write as long as I put it into my routine. It made me want to help people who felt as alone as kids as I did. As much as I suffered for it, it was because other people didn’t understand me, not because I did anything wrong or was undeserving of understanding. Moving forward, I am at peace with myself, in part thanks to the characters I related to growing up.

At the end of the day, I want to make stories that everyone can enjoy, stories that people can see themselves in regardless of who they are. I want to provide inspiration, excitement, comfort, and hope. To me, writing is about spreading a message, even if that message is just that there is a place for everyone in the world, so please stay in it just a little bit longer. Bad things are going to keep happening, and it’s my hope that writing the stories I do can make those things just a little bit easier for anyone who needs them.

And I know I wouldn’t be here now if I hadn’t been obsessed with video games in my youth, that much is for sure.

 

 

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13 thoughts on “Gaming and Writing: An Autistic Perspective

  1. A deep and personal post — thank you for sharing this! I know it’s been a struggle for you, but the insight you gain for yourself (and of others) is a powerful understanding.

    I know you can use this unique viewpoint to tell stories of worth and turn something difficult into something positive in the long run. The world needs voices from all walks of life, including your voice. πŸ™‚

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    1. Thanks, Wren. Having the courage to be myself in a a world that’s continually told me that myself is broken is hard. I had to leave my childhood home and move across country to start over, but I find that the hard things are more than worth doing and that the experience I’ve gained from it has made me a better writer — and a better person.

      It’s good to know I have people who believe in me, no matter where I am. Just knowing that there are people out there are think I can use my experiences to make an impact on another person gives me the peace I need to carry on, no matter how hard life gets.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Be proud of who you are and what you can do.
    I appreciate when people can come up with stories that stick to the canon of the original material. Some official stuff even struggles with doing that. My biggest example would be Star Wars and how the comics, tv shows, and games all seem to make the characters in the movies do extraordinary feats that they never showed they could in the movies.

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    1. I’m into a certain era of Star Wars that isn’t canon (but might be, one day) and I personally enjoy them a bit more than the movies, though the original trilogy remains my favorite arc of the canon story. There’s something really enduring about Luke Skywalker and his fight to save his father — In fact, Luke is part of what inspired my novel’s protagonist to be a pacifist, so Star Wars has had a bit impact on my stuff.

      I’m not really sure how you’d feel about some of my fannish writing, because I do take some artistic license in order to make my stories read like novels and not transcribed video games, but I take a lot of care to honor the spirit of canon. It’s always been important to me not to change the source material so much that you can’t recognize it, and I never understood why so many people felt the need to do that.

      Thank you for your comment. I really appreciate it.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. People make fan stories all the time and add their twists to it. Nothing wrong with that. Most recent one I really liked was the dreemurr reborn stories a fan made from the Undertale game.

        It’s good that people take what they like and make it their own. I do know my own tastes though, and I usually allow a couple of liberties that doesn’t violate the hard set rules created by the original material, otherwise it breaks what I liked about the original too much for me to accept. For example, the Force Unleashed games. Starkiller showed use of the force so strong and unseen from even the prequels that I couldn’t accept it as part of the Star Wars universe, but it was fun to just rampage in it. πŸ™‚

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I agree. There’s some really creative stuff out there, and as long as it doesn’t break characterization too much, I’m more than happy to read Alternate Universe fic. It’s when stories pretend that they’re fixing canon that I tend to be a bit bothered — mostly on behalf of the author.

        Force Unleashed is fun, but I’m not a fan of Starkiller. The “breaking established rules” thing is actually part of why I really DO NOT like Knights of the Old Republic 2 as much as the original KOTOR (something I may make a post about now that I’ve finished the game). The Exile felt like they were breaking the established rules of the Force while Revan, though strong, never actually did anything that the movies hadn’t established he could do. I don’t think I know better than the authors, especially because the KOTOR 2 authors were so rushed, but part of me really would like to try my hand at making that story compliant with the rest of the KOTOR “series”.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. That would be pretty cool if you do make a post on that. It’s been a while since I last played both KOTOR and KOTOR2 and would be interested.

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      4. It would be my third time talking them to death, but honestly they were such a huge inspiration for Wild Core (to the point where WCC could literally not exist if I hadn’t played them), I probably should be featuring them multiple times.

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  3. I can relate to this to a certain extant. I do not have autism but I do have Generalized Anxiety Disorder (Or GAD for short). And with that it came some social phobia. So my whole teenager years and early adult life were spent trying to “fit in”, failing miserably and then feeling hurt and ridiculed for that.

    Nowadays I accept myself better and can even talk about it. I stilll have trouble dealing with people though plus my life has a series of other problems. But I figure as long as I am alive I can change things for the better.

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    1. Thank you for sharing your experience, Rakuno. I have an anxiety disorder, too, (though a very different one), so I at least understand the feeling of having panic attacks and not being able to help it at all. Sometimes, it’s hard to find people to support you, or to find other people who understand, so I’m glad that you commented.

      You’re absolutely right, though — As long as you’re alive, you CAN change things for the better. I’ve changed a lot in a short period of time, and grown as a person. Life has meaning, and sometimes finding that meaning is a bit of a trick, but it’s always worth it to try. Nothing is gained by giving up.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It takes courage to open up about this to other people; a blog is a wonderful way of doing so and finding others like you who will accept you without judgement. I have a mild form of Asperger’s and can relate to your obsessive focus on particular things. My compulsions revolve around MMOs.

    Out social inhibitions are cast to the wind in these online places where our words reflect our inner spaces. It’s liberating, isn’t it?

    I can’t eat clam chowder because I have trouble swallowing that particular texture. πŸ™‚

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    1. It really is liberating to be able to interact with other people on my terms. I still have difficulties interacting with other people, but not so much as I did before. The interactions I’ve had online have taught me a lot about how to approach people. I share what I can in the hopes that others can relate to my experiences.

      I can’t eat yogurt myself.

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