I feel like I’ve wanted to say this for a while but didn’t because I feared the negative response it might get.
I have an 11 year old niece who is on the spectrum. Her school is closed right now, which is very hard for her because she struggles with being cooped up all day. I care for her on days when her mother must go to the hospital. We are both nurses, but she works full time and I have part-time overnight hours.
My niece loves overwatch so I’ve been allowing her to play more often to distract her, as she cannot go see her friends and we cannot go to museums or the theatre or do anything that enables her to interact with the world around her in a positive way.
She doesn’t quite have the team dynamic concept of the game down, but her skill is improving and that makes her so happy. I see her turn up the chat volume for the game as she attempts to understand the strategy that her teammates expect her to understand. But all too often when she makes a mistake I hear horrible, hateful comments from the other players.
She immediately gets discouraged and takes it very, very personally. She cries and she cannot communicate that she is sorry for letting you down and wants to understand how to do better. I cannot convince her that people just get angry and say mean things without thinking. I cannot communicate to her that the people saying these things don’t know her as a person and they aren’t attacking her personally. But she internalizes it all and it breaks me to see what damage mindless words can do.
She struggles so much already just to learn how to interact and be a kind person who people can relate to. It is so hard for her but she wants that love that we all so easily acquire without effort. The smallest positive comments, like “good ult, Pharah” can exponentially brighten her spirit for hours. But the hateful ones can ruin her entire day. ESPECIALLY now that she has fewer outlets to socialize and have fun.
Please… just be kind. At the end of the day this IS just a game. I can guarantee you that none of the other players in her rank are professionals or have anything real to lose if they don’t win the match. But she has a lot to lose and she really feels it when she lets her team down.
If you are one of those people who NEEDS to say something— just gently give your teammate advice for next time. I know my niece is not the only child who gets deeply hurt by the negative comments. But she, like so many other kids, turns up that chat volume because it allows her to work as a member of a team when she normally is unable to do that in the physical world, and she is invested in becoming a good teammate.
TL/DR; Please keep in mind that your hateful words in chat can ruin a child’s day or even do long-lasting damage to their core, especially when they are on the spectrum and it is their only source of fun during quarantine. Please just be kind.
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© Post "Just something I want to say during this crazy time. I would appreciate it if you read and keep my words in mind. I’m sorry it’s long." for game Overwatch.
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