Denial of a Common Language



Photo by gracey at


I wanted to take today to address something that I had alluded to yesterday. It was a brief reblog that I wanted to make about video games.

I happened across a blog post from the perspective of a mother of an autistic child. Her blog post gave the impression of a very strict environment, with little access to forms of entertainment. She specifically singled out video games, citing that they encourage antisocial behavior. While I would normally link it, I really want to talk about the thought process

I despise the term “antisocial” because it means two different things with very serious implications depending on which definition you use. The first definition is more accurately described as “introversion”, an inward focused mindset or behavior. The second definition, however, describes deliberate harm to social structures. Stealing, lying, and other bits of social nastiness. I do not know which definition this uses, but the lay definition tends to use the former, so I will assume that is the case.

This is not a specific reaction to this post, but the broader implications behind it. Obviously, she is not the first one to do this and probably not the last. Her comment section was overwhelmingly supportive of this decision, and I feel like offering a direct comment is not going to be productive. I am therefore doing this for my audience’s benefit, not the person who wrote the blog post that inspired this.

I have observed that there is a disconnect between parents of autistic children and autistic adults, and that is the disconnect I felt when reading that post. My cards are on the table, I am an adult on the autism spectrum. I’m also a self-confessed media junkie. Today I purchased four books, and two of them are incredibly thick. I watch Netflix on a regular basis, will trek out to the movies if properly motivated, own several game consoles, and have a massive library of movies and games.

There is an issue of evaluation of a piece of media. Often it is assumed that if one doesn’t understand the value of that media, then nobody else does. It’s a specific myopic viewpoint, one that is most commonly expressed as a generational gap. For many years I wondered about this gap, and it was only recently that I figured it out.

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate!

I’ve heard pop culture, or maybe any product of culture, is in and of itself a “language”. It is a form of communication, a sharing of ideas through a piece of art (and yes, I do count games as art thank you very much).

When I was taking art classes, I learned about the rules of aesthetics. There’s structure, thought, deliberation when picking a color palette to convey a mood. In my animation days, I learned about movement conveys information to the audience about a character. You can get an idea about who Bugs Bunny is just by the way he walks.

While my love life is full of ups and downs like every other person on the planet, I would often leverage my knowledge of culture to create conversation. I found that one interesting avenue of getting to know someone is to get their interpretation about a piece of media. These were my most successful dates when I could share interpretations about “Frankenstein” or relay the results of playing a board game like “Pandemic”.

Knowing the language of popular culture meant that I could more fully participate in the conversation that my peers were having. The original post acknowledges the possibility of being the odd one out but doesn’t really seem to grasp just how painful that would be for him.

Though I cannot speak for his circumstance, I can speak for my own. I never looked back on the days when I sat alone at the lunch table with anything other than woe.

It is because of Dungeons & Dragons that I have made some of my greatest friendships. We have formed bonds over games, especially Super Smash Brothers.  It is because of my incredible exposure to popular culture that I am able to construct new worlds out of my imagination. It serves as a mental catalog of stories that I can pluck out at will and repurpose into something new and exciting.

In my spare time, I write fiction, and I am hoping to finish NaNoWriMo with my first published novel (I self-published one a long time ago, but it’s so old that it was taken out of print). Just showing it to some other folks got glowing reviews in praise of my imagination.

I love taking apart stories and seeing how they work. I could talk for hours about the meaning behind Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s prognosis on human augmentation through cybernetics, I could share my thoughts about why I think Quasimodo from Hunchback of Notre Dame was such a relatable character. I could discuss the impact of Final Fantasy VII and why it was such an amazing game. I could articulate the emotional content of Silent Hill 2 and its portrayal of the main character’s loss.

All Greek To Me

But because parents don’t often speak this language, to them it seems like a waste of time. It is seen as an impediment to healthy development. It goes beyond things that I would consider sensible parenting, which would include imposing limits and making sure that it does not eclipse the rest of their lives.

My thoughts on parenting are slowly creeping up on me because I do want to be a father someday. Not immediately, but I do have that instinct. I want my children to have that same sense of joy that I felt when speeding through Sonic stages on my Genesis, the same sense of anguish when Aerith died in Final Fantasy VII, and that same sense of adventure that Dungeons & Dragons can provide.

Popular culture is a common language that we all speak. To deny that is to deny the tools that we can use to understand the world, other people, and ourselves.