It’s well known that Minecraft is popular in the spectrum community– in fact, there is even a version of Minecraft specifically geared toward the community, Autcraft, which was created by Stuart Duncan, who is himself on the spectrum and has a son who is as well. People with autism engage with Minecraft in all sorts of ways, but we hadn’t heard of Minecraft being used as an art studio– that is, until we met Hannah. Hannah’s grandmother and caretaker, Angie, shared with us some of Hannah’s remarkable works of art, and explained how she creates them:
“She used to draw (replicate) cartoon characters perfectly but now spends most of her time on Minecraft. She doesn’t start with a drawing. She actually visualizes a pattern on a grid and can superimpose it from her mind onto the computer screen and fill in the grid accordingly. It’s quite a gift.” Some of Hannah’s creations are built from the inside-out, beginning with accurate renderings of their internal organs.
Minecraft has offered Hannah a space not only for creation but for sociality, which, as for many spectrum kids, can be overwhelming to her in the face-to-face realm. As Angie describes,
“It’s been about 2 years since Hannah’s been building on Minecraft. She’s an avid Minecrafter and plays with others and is very well respected in the Minecraft world. She comes alive there– her world is on the computer. People would term her high-functioning, but she’s very Aspie. If we have a deep personal conversation it has to be by text as she does not like to talk to me or be hugged or kissed.”
Thanks in part to Minecraft, Hannah is thriving. That this comes on the heels of significant difficulty at home makes Angie very grateful:
“The tragic part of Hannah’s life is that her ‘disability’ was used by Child Protective Services as a means to adopt out her baby sister. This turned Hannah’s world upside down. They insinuated that she might someday hurt her sister – nothing could have been further from the truth. She adored her baby sister and was destroyed by their removal of her from our home. As I am merely a grandmother I had no standing, and no rights to my own grandchild as I had not yet gotten legal guardianship of her.”
Angie hopes to someday bring Hannah to “MineCon,” the annual Minecraft convention, and to write a screenplay about Hannah’s life. But first, the goal is to get Hannah through her teenage years. As Angie says, “She is so talented but still isolates so much and comes alive on the computer. Adolescence is now our challenge!”