A quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

The Autism Research Review International is quarterly publication of the Autism Research Institute

Spring, 2024 | Number 2, Volume 38

Playing “serious” games may benefit children, teens with ASD

A new meta-analysis by researchers in Portugal suggests that playing “serious” games—that is, games that focus on teaching knowledge or skills rather than on providing entertainment—can have benefits for children and teens with autism spectrum disorders (ASD).

Tânia Carneiro and colleagues identified nine studies on the use of serious games by individuals with ASD that met criteria for inclusion in their analysis. Reviewing the studies, the researchers found “a positive influence of serious games on social skills and related domains, encompassing emotion recognition/encoding/decoding, emotional regulation, eye gaze, joint attention, and behavioral skills.”

They add, “One notable aspect of our findings is the role of serious games in addressing the specific challenges faced by individuals with ASD. Engaging with these children in face-to-face settings can often be difficult due to the lack of learner interest. Therefore, the characteristics of serious games, such as the use of visual cues, the incorporation of dynamic and appealing characters, the opportunity to choose among various activities and environments, the opportunity for autonomy within the gaming environment, and the possibility for caregivers to be present, benefit these children and cater to this population’s unique needs and preferences.”

The researchers caution that their findings are limited by factors including the potential for bias, the relatively small number of participants in the studies, and the wide range of interventions studied. In addition, they say, “While participative and collaborative games show promise for this population, concerns could also arise regarding the potential for increased isolation and other associated risks.” However, they say, “The promising outcomes suggest that serious games serve as effective interventions to enhance social skills.”


“Serious games for developing social skills in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder: a systematic review,” Tânia Carneiro, António Carvalho, Sónia Frota, and Marisa G. Filipe, Healthcare, February 20, 2024 (free online). Address: Marisa Filipe, Center of Linguistics, School of Arts and Humanities, University of Lisbon, 1600-214 Lisboa, Portugal [email protected]