I first heard of Autcraft early in 2014 when it was featured in an article about being a safe place for children with Autism to play Minecraft, where players were not allowed to steal from or bully each other.
My son at that time did not play Minecraft. I thought it was a laudable thing, and filed it away in my memory.
Then the Navigator found Minecraft. At first it was just playing creatively alone on our computer, and he had no interest in connecting to an outside server and playing with others.
As he grew more sophisticated in the game, he realized that there were opportunities to play with others and asked if he could join in.
I remembered Autcraft and told him that was the server he would be playing on.
During the first six months that he played, he was muted for 15 minutes for typing a bad word, and put in “jail” for three days for taking someone’s stuff (this is all virtual, of course).
I really liked this. I liked how the server was overseen and how infractions were dealt with thoughtfully and definitively. There was a “we know you made a mistake, there are consequences, and then we’re done” mentality.
It worked well for the Navigator and he learned a lot.
Then he asked me to join the server. It took a while to get used to it, especially the back-and-forth conversations that take place among the players in a running stream of type at the bottom of the screen.
For a long time I did not have the mental coordination to focus on what my character was doing as well as read the discussion and be able to respond.
When I did start reading the discussion, what I saw was wonderful. The peer-to-peer support among the players was amazing and mirrored the support demonstrated by the site administrators.
When a new player arrived there were multiple greetings, offers for tours and places to live and build. I saw players talk about how sad or lonely they were and other players were right there looking to cheer them up. They might invite them to play a game or help with a build.
I saw players talk about their home lives, being grounded, how hard school is, how much they hate homework, or about their parents splitting up, and there were understanding and sympathetic voices ready to listen.
One player came back to the server having left because he felt bad about his behavior. The others welcomed him with open arms and told him it was ok to make mistakes, that everyone makes mistakes.
They talked about their Autism, freely and openly. One player talked about how he worried that since Asperger’s was no longer considered Autism, he was going to be kicked off the server. He was reassured that would never happen.
Another apologized for not being able to figure something out, saying he had a hard time processing information. Immediately, there was a chorus of others telling him they had the same problem and not to worry about it.
There have been times that I have been tempted to wade in with blah blah blah adult platitudes to try to make a player feel better about something, and I have been glad that my butterfingers and technical slowness have prevented me from doing so, because invariably one of their peers stepped in and did it in a way that was much more meaningful and more genuine than I could ever do.
Yes, there are arguments, misunderstandings, and hard feelings – they are people after all, conflict comes with the human condition.
But Autcraft is more than just a place for children on the spectrum to play Minecraft safely with other kids.
It is a place where they can learn from each other how to treat one another, learn good social behavior, and provide to each other their own unique and special support and understanding.
Autism Mom is a proud supporter of Autcraft via monthly donation on Patreon. Click here to learn more about Autcraft and how you can support this extraordinary resource for children on the Autism spectrum.