No AccessAmerican Journal of Speech-Language PathologyResearch Article3 May 2018

“To Be Quite Honest, If It Wasn't for Videogames I Wouldn't Have a Social Life at All”: Motivations of Young Adults With Autism Spectrum Disorder for Playing Videogames as Leisure


    Leisure activities are underutilized as a context for intervention in the field of speech-language pathology despite the fact that leisure can be an important context for skill development. The current study investigated the perceptions of individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) who play videogames as their primary leisure activity regarding the role of videogames in their lives and their motivations for playing videogames.


    Qualitative interview methodology was used to investigate the experiences of 10 18–24-year-olds with ASD. Information was collected about the role of videogames in the lives of adolescents and young adults with ASD and the perceived benefits of playing videogames.


    Results indicated the participants perceived playing videogames to have a positive impact on their lives and their development. The motivations for playing videogames described are similar to those reported by typically developing populations.


    Videogaming is a popular leisure pursuit for adolescents and young adults with and without ASD. Speech-language pathologists should consider how videogame play may be a useful context for teaching new communication, social, and language.


    • American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Association.
    • Asher, S. R., Parker, J. G., & Walker, D. L. (1996). Distinguishing friendship from acceptance: Implications for intervention and assessment.In W. M. Bukowski, A. F. Newcomb, & W. W. Hartup (Eds.), The company they keep: Friendship in childhood and adolescence (pp. 366–405). New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Barber, B. L., Stone, M. R., Hunt, J. E., & Eccles, J. S. (2005). Benefits of activity participation: The roles of identity affirmation and peer group norm sharing.In J. L. Mahoney, R. W. Larson, & J. S. Eccles (Eds.), Organized activities as contexts of development: Extracurricular activities, after-school and community programs (pp. 185–210). Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
    • Bauminger, N., & Kasari, C. (2000). Loneliness and friendship in high-functioning children with autism.Child Development, 71(2), 447–456.
    • Bauminger, N., & Shulman, C. (2003). The development and maintenance of friendship in high-functioning children with autism: Maternal perceptions.Autism, 7(1), 81–97.
    • Bernard, H. R. (2012). Social research methods: Qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
    • Bollmer, J. M., Milich, R., Harris, M. J., & Maras, M. A. (2005). A friend in need: The role of friendship quality as a protective factor in peer victimization and bullying.Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 20, 701–712.
    • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1979). The ecology of human development: Experiments by nature and design. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
    • Bronfenbrenner, U. (1988). Interacting systems in human development. Research paradigms: Present and future.In N. Bolger, A. Caspi, G. Downey, & M. Moorehouse (Eds.), Persons in context: Developmental processes (pp. 25–49). New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes.In W. Damon (Series Ed.) & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (5th ed., pp. 993–1028). New York: Wiley.
    • Carletta, J. (1996). Squibs and discussions: Assessing agreement on classification tasks: The kappa statistic.Computational Linguistics, 22(2), 249–254.
    • Carrington, S., Templeton, E., & Papinczak, T. (2003). Adolescents with Asperger syndrome and perceptions of friendship.Focus on Autism and Other Developmental Disabilities, 18, 211–218.
    • Charmaz, K. (2006). Constructing grounded theory: A practical guide through qualitative analysis. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
    • Charmaz, K., & Henwood, K. (2008). Grounded theory.In C. Willig & W. Stainton-Rogers (Eds.), The SAGE handbook of qualitative research in psychology (pp. 240–262). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
    • Chen, Y. C., Li, R. H., & Chen, S. H. (2013). Relationships between adolescents' leisure motivation, leisure involvement, and leisure satisfaction: A structural equation model.Social Indicators Research, 110, 1187–1199.
    • Creswell, J. W. (1998). Qualitative inquiry and research design: Choosing among five traditions. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
    • Davis, J. M., & Finke, E. H. (2015). The experience of military families with children with autism spectrum disorders during relocation and separation.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 45(7), 2019–2034.
    • Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2000). The “what” and “why” of goal pursuits: Human needs and the self-determination of behavior.Psychological Inquiry, 11, 227–268.
    • Durkin, K. (2010). Video games and young people with developmental disorders.Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 122–140.
    • Durkin, K., Boyle, J., Hunter, S., & Conti-Ransden, G. (2013). Video games for children and adolescents with special educational needs.Zeitschrift für Psychologie, 221, 79–89.
    • Dye, M. W. G., Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2009). The development of attention skills in action video game players.Neuropsychologia, 47, 1780–1789.
    • Electronic Software Association. (2016). Essential facts about the computer and video game industry. Retrieved from
    • Ferrar, K. E., Olds, T. S., & Walters, J. L. (2012). All the stereotypes confirmed: Differences in how Australian boys and girls use their time.Health Education & Behavior, 39, 589–595.
    • Finke, E., Drager, K., & Serpentine, E. C. (2015). “It's not humanly possible to do everything”: Perspectives on intervention decision-making processes of parents of children with autism spectrum disorders.SIG 1 Perspectives on Language Learning and Education, 22(1), 13–21.
    • Finke, E. H., Drager, K. D., & Ash, S. (2010). Pediatricians' perspectives on identification and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders.Journal of Early Childhood Research, 8(3), 254–268.
    • Finke, E. H., Hickerson, B., & McLaughlin, E. (2015). Parental intention to support video game play by children with autism spectrum disorder: An application of the theory of planned behavior.Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools, 46, 154–165.
    • Finke, E. H., Wilkinson, K. M., & Hickerson, B. D. (2017). Social referencing gaze behavior during a video game task: Eye tracking evidence from children with and without ASD.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 47(2), 415–423.
    • Gee, J. P. (2009). Video games, learning, and “content.”.C. T. Miller (Ed.), Games: Purpose and potential in education (pp. 43–53). New York: Springer Publishing.
    • Grandin, T., & Duffy, K. (2008). Developing talents: Careers for individuals with Asperger's syndrome and high-functioning autism. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing Co.
    • Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2003). Action video game modifies visual selective attention.Nature, 423, 534–538.
    • Green, C. S., & Bavelier, D. (2006). Effect of action video games on the spatial distribution of visuospatial attention.Journal of Experimental Psychology: Human Perception and Performance, 32, 1465–1478.
    • Gould, J., Moore, D., McGuire, F., & Stebbins, R. (2008). Development of the Serious Leisure Inventory and Measure.Journal of Leisure Research, 40, 47–68.
    • Hoff, E. (2006). How social contexts support and shape language development.Developmental Review, 26, 55–88.
    • Hughes, C. E. (2017). Focusing on strengths: Twice-exceptional students.In W. W. Murawski & K. L. Scott (Eds.), What really works with exceptional learners (pp. 302–319). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin.
    • Jarrold, C., Boucher, J., & Smith, P. (1993). Symbolic play in autism: A review.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 23(2), 281–307.
    • Koegel, L. K. (2000). Interventions to facilitate communication in autism.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 30(5), 383–391.
    • Kuo, M. H., Orsmond, G. I., Coster, W. J., & Cohn, E. S. (2013). Media use among adolescents with autism spectrum disorder.Autism: The International Journal of Research and Practice, 18(8), 914–923.
    • Landis, J. R., & Koch, G. G. (1977). The measurement of observer agreement for categorical data.Biometrics, 33, 159–174.
    • Law, M., & MacDermid, J. (2008). Evidence-based rehabilitation: A guide to practice (2nd ed.). Thorofar, NJ: SLACK Incorporated.
    • Lenz, B. (2001). The transition from adolescence to young adulthood: A theoretical perspective.The Journal of School Nursing, 17(6), 300–306.
    • Markey, P. M., & Markey, C. N. (2010). Vulnerability to violent video games: A review and integration of personality research.Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 82–91.
    • Mathur, R., & Berndt, T. J. (2006). Relations of friends' activities to friendship quality.Journal of Early Adolescence, 26, 365–388.
    • Mazurek, M. O., & Engelhardt, C. R. (2013). Video game use in boys with autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, or typical development.Pediatrics, 132, 260–266.
    • Mazurek, M. O., Engelhardt, C. R., & Clark, K. E. (2015). Video games from the perspective of adults with autism spectrum disorder.Computers in Human Behavior, 51, 122–130.
    • Mazurek, M. O., & Wenstrup, C. (2013). Television, video game and social media use among children with ASD and typically developing siblings.Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders, 43(6), 1258–1271.
    • McNaughton, D., Light, J., & Groszyk, L. (2001). ‘Don't give up’: Employment experiences of individuals with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis who use augmentative and alternative communication.Augmentative and Alternative Communication, 17, 179–189.
    • Meline, T. (2006). Research in communication sciences and disorders: Methods, applications, evaluation. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
    • Morse, J. M., & Field, P. A. (1995). Qualitative research methods for health professionals (2nd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
    • Olson, C. K. (2010). Children's motivations for video game play in the context of normal development.Review of General Psychology, 14(2), 180–187.
    • Olson, C. K., Kutner, L. A., Warner, D. E., Almerigi, J. B., Baer, L., Nicholi, A. M., & Beresin, E. V. (2007). Factors correlated with violent video game use by adolescent boys and girls.Journal of Adolescent Health, 41(1), 77–83.
    • Pellicano, E., Maybery, M., Durkin, K., & Maley, A. (2006). Multiple cognitive capabilities/deficits in children with an autism spectrum disorder: “Weak” central coherence and its relationship to theory of mind and executive control.Development and Psychopathology, 18(1), 77–98.
    • Petrina, N., Carter, M., & Stephenson, J. (2014). The nature of friendship in children with autism spectrum disorders: A systematic review.Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders, 8(2), 111–126.
    • Raymore, L. A., Barber, B. L., & Eccles, J. S. (2001). Leaving home, attending college, partnership and parenthood: The role of life transition events in leisure pattern stability from adolescence to young adulthood.Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 30, 197–223.
    • Rosenthal, M., Wallace, G. L., Lawson, R., Wills, M. C., Dixon, E., Yerys, B. E., & Kenworthy, L. (2013). Impairments in real-world executive function increase from childhood to adolescence in autism spectrum disorders.Neuropsychology, 27(1), 13–18.
    • Shah, A., & Frith, U. (1993). Why do autistic individuals show superior performance on the block design task?.Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry, 34(8), 1351–1364.
    • Sherry, J. L. (2004). Flow and media enjoyment.Communication Theory, 14(4), 328–347.
    • Squire, K. (2005). Changing the game: What happens when videogames enter the classroom?.Innovate: Journal of Online Education, 1, 1–20.
    • Stebbins, R. A. (1982). Serious leisure a conceptual statement.Sociological Perspectives, 25(2), 251–272.
    • Steinkuehler, C., & Squire, K. (2013). Video games and learning.In K. Sawyer (Ed.), Cambridge handbook of the learning sciences (2nd ed, pp. 387–396). New York: Cambridge University Press.
    • Tuggle, F. J., Kerpelman, J., & Pittman, J. (2016). Young adolescents' shared leisure activities with close friends and dating partners: Associations with supportive communication and relationship satisfaction.Journal of Leisure Research, 48, 374–394.
    • Vaughn, S. R., Schumm, J. S., & Sinagub, J. M. (1996). Focus group interviews in education & psychology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Ltd.
    • Vitaro, F., Boivin, M., & Bukowski, W. M. (2009). The role of friendship in child and adolescents psycho-social development.In K. H. Rubin, W. M. Bukowshi, & B. Larsen (Eds.), Handbook of peer interactions, relationships and groups (pp. 301–321). New York: Guildford Press.
    • Waldrip, A. M., Malcolm, K. T., & Jensen-Campbell, L. A. (2008). With a little help from your friends: The importance of high-quality friendships on early adolescent adjustment.Social Development, 17, 832–852.
    • Winter-Messiers, M. A. (2007). From tarantulas to toilet brushes: Understanding the special interest areas of children and youth with Asperger syndrome.Remedial and Special Education, 28(3), 140–152.

    Additional Resources