Artist. Zinester. Game Dev/Designer. Graphic Designer. Hobbyist Programmer. LARPer. Creative Person.
Olivia Montoya

Neurodiversity in Games Jam

The Neurodiversity in Games Jam is a yearly game jam focusing on representations of neurodiversity in gaming, whether in the players of games, characters in games, game accessibility, or meta on the topic of games. It’s run once so far, and I plan to continue.

What does this mean?

A Somewhat Long-Winded Explanation of Neurodiversity:

First, for the purposes of this game jam, “neurodiversity” is used to describe both the reality of neurological diversity and the goal of human rights and dignity for people of all neurotypes (types of brains). It refers to the natural existence of a wide range of brains and ways of thinking, as well as the belief that people of all neurotypes deserve acceptance, inclusion, and accommodation, and all have the rights to life, freedom of choice and action, and communication in the form that works best for the individual. Also, people of all neurotypes deserve to live lives free of discrimination, dehumanization, or forced conformity. Proponents of neurodiversity generally believe all of these things, and often take action through activism or education to defend the human rights of people whose neurotypes are targeted in discriminatory ways.

This isn’t to say that impairments don’t exist across various neurologies. That’s not what neurodiversity advocates are saying. Ultimately, whether a particular way of thinking is good or desired is up to each person with that way of thinking. Neurodiversity doesn’t prescribe any value judgements about neurotypes, but it does open up the possibility for people to consider neurotypes traditionally labeled negative to be neutral or positive for themselves. Generally neurodiversity advocates wish to make information available to dispel harmful stereotypes that lead to material harm and let people know that there are other ways of thinking about the ways we think, ways that don’t lead to self hatred. Neurodiversity advocates also take actions to keep people of marginalized neurotypes from being abused or going unsupported.

Goals for this Jam:

So, this game jam will hopefully do both of these things, to some degree. It’s about including neurodiverse players in tabletop games, video games, and LARP. It’s about representing neurodiverse characters accurately and positively, showing that they have strengths and weaknesses like any other person. It’s about creating accessibility tools for games. It’s about writing about the current state of neurodiversity in games, or even just about your own experiences of being a neurodiverse person who plays games or makes games. All of these are valid ways to participate in the jam. Or come up with something else!

If you’re confused as to what counts as a marginalized neurology/neurotype, here’s a broad list:

  • Neurodevelopmental differences/disabilities, such as autism and ADHD
  • Psychological/psychiatric differences/disabilities (lots of terms are used here, such as “mental illness”, “psychiatrically disabled”, and “Mad”, depending on the person), such as schizophrenia, chronic depression or anxiety, and bipolar
  • Personality disorders, such as Borderline Personality Disorder
  • Learning differences/disabilities such as dyslexia
  • Neurologies altered by trauma, such as PTSD or dissociative disorders/conditions
  • Neurological disorders/conditions that affect cognition, such as multiple sclerosis
  • Neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s and ALS
  • Intellectual and developmental differences/disabilities, such as Down’s Syndrome
  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Any other difference in brain function that leads to being set apart from the “neurotypical”