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Development of a game design framework to create safe online social environments for children with Autism


   Faculty of Engineering and Technology

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  Dr Nigel McKelvey  No more applications being accepted  Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

This is a Masters by Research project.

Supervisors: Dr. Nigel McKelvey, Ms. Karen Bailey

Project Summary:

People with autism experience, interact with, and interpret the world in unique ways. One of the characteristics can be difficulties in developing social and cognitive skills. Diverse characteristics such as verbal and non-verbal communication skills, sensory issues and heightened feelings of anxiety in unfamiliar busy environments can be challenging for people with neurodiversity. The challenges however vary considerably from one person to the next. Therefore, people potentially have a large diversity of needs.

It has been found that virtual play can be used as a teaching tool for prosocial behaviours. The child can explore complex roles, rules, concepts regarding identity and general social interaction. Playing online games brings feelings of competence and making social connections. Games provide opportunities for children to engage in activities that reduce social isolation and increase overall wellbeing.

However, computer games can also present some challenges for children with autism such as challenges of surprise or fear and overly complex rules and options can make some games unplayable for them. The challenge is in removing aspects of the game environment which may be stressful without diluting the gaming experience.

The solution is to develop a game design framework to show the developers of games for neurodiverse people how to develop game social spaces which meet their needs in a safe and positive environment.

Therefore a key object of this study would be to create a safe supportive environment to master social skills using computer games and then generalise the lessons learned to the design of social spaces in a wide range of game types using an appropriate framework.

Candidate Qualifications/Requirements:

A Level 8 Honours Degree (or equivalent) in a Computing-related discipline. Experience of working in an educational setting would be advantageous.

Application Process

  1. To apply for this Masters by Research projects, please send your CV and cover letter to the [Email Address Removed] by 5:00pm, Thursday 9th June. Please include "MR.2" in the subject of your email.
  2. Candidates should hold or expect to hold at least an Honours Degree in a relevant discipline and meet the University’s English Language requirements (minimum IELTS Level 6.5 or equivalent)
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