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Retro Gaming: An Excellent Tool for Neurodivergent People?

The benefits of retro games are numerous for all walks of life. The lo-fi retro gaming experience can evoke nostalgia and can be an excellent tool for a family to get together and make the most of a simpler gaming experience, but there’s also a number of benefits for neurodivergent individuals, particularly those who have autism or ADHD. The retro or 8-bit approach to gaming can often be overlooked, but let’s show you some of the most beneficial reasons and why it may be worth downgrading your gaming experience from time to time.

They Are Calming

One of the most obvious aspects of retro gaming is the predictability and repetitive patterns. The mechanics are far simpler in comparison to modern games, and the sense of linear progression and repetitive gameplay can reduce anxiety and decision paralysis. It’s important to remember that the graphics of modern games can easily tap into a sense of overstimulation, and this is why sometimes we can all benefit from taking a step back and even play simple games like online chess with bare basic graphics.

Developing Focus and Motor Skills

When you compare classic games like Space Invaders or Pac-Man to the modern iteration of games, you can see how focus and concentration can be improved over time. Games in the modern era could often be overwhelming due to their complexity. The standard control pad will have at least eight buttons in addition to the D-pad, and therefore going back to something simpler can reduce frustration while also capitalizing on the simple movements that can, over time, benefit attention span and focus. The simple button configurations can help in developing fine motor skills, which for many people who instantly have a PS5 as their first gaming console, can struggle with the complexities of the controls. It’s certainly a beneficial challenge to take on board, but for those who get overwhelmed and anxious easily, taking a step back and opting for simpler and more refined gameplay mechanics can help in so many ways.

A Sense of Control

We can all feel anxiety in life over the things that we have no control over, and for people with autism, retro games can offer a comforting predictability. Games like Fortnite, where you are going into a whole heap of unpredictability can, over time, cause anxiety, and the various senses involved from the touch to the sight as well as the online chat aspects of the game can cause anybody to feel overstimulated. This is where retro games can be a perfect solution, as they follow fixed rules and patterns which allow individuals to develop mastery over the game environment, which can boost their confidence and reduce anxiety associated with unpredictability. Classic platform games like Super Mario Bros and puzzle games like Tetris offer predictable mechanics and patterns with clear objectives.

Offering Social Connections

Retro video games are a massive hit with the autistic community because of the lack of stress involved. They provide calming retreats from sensory overload and are an engaging leisure activity, but additionally, the retro collection can be fantastic social bridges that enable neurodivergent or autistic individuals to connect with others over shared interests. The retro gaming community itself is known for its supportive environment because many people are looking to escape into retro gaming for a number of therapeutic reasons. Many people play retro games because of the comfort they provide. They evoke a sense of nostalgia, and this familiarity can be appealing to those seeking stability and routines. Therefore, a retro game can be an excellent tool for those who identify as neurodivergent.

There is an argument as to whether modern games are too stimulating. While there’s a variety of games that are providing cognitively stimulated experiences by replicating real-world systems and activities, for people seeking simplicity in life, retro gaming can be an invaluable solution. Lo-fi and retro games are transporting people back to the games of their childhood but can also provide a unique experience for younger children and teenagers who are looking for something different. Playing retro games offers a tranquil retreat from sensory overload where people can engage in more rewarding activities. It can be easy to think of retro games as a relic of the past, but they can actually provide a suitable tool for the future. We live in an age where we are constantly switched on and therefore overstimulated, which means that we can burn out on occasion. Taking a step back in time and making the most of what retro gaming has to offer doesn’t just provide a simpler experience, but it can also offer a therapeutic one as well.