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Ever wondered why autistic people find a home in pop culture? - by Thomas Kuzma

29 March 2018

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In a recent UK study, it was discovered that even though 90 percent of the country had heard the word autism, only 5 percent knew what it meant to live your life on the autistic spectrum and how to understand, accept or support someone.

Can you imagine for a second what it is like to be a stranger in your own country? Do you actually feel comfortable? Do people treat you with respect or differently/bad to everyone else? Would you be okay with trying exciting new things, or would you just be trying to get by with your day to day life?

I first really got inspired to think about being autistic, difference and diversity when reading a comic called ‘Transformers: More Than Meets The Eye’. Transformers are a Technological species, not robots. They have feelings, aspirations and are a part of societies too. Before the war, Megatron wrote political writings under the title “Towards Peace”. Below He talks about why it is important for Cybertronians to recognise the restrictions placed on them by society, encouraging others to take roles outside of those assigned to them.

In the series, Megatron gets beaten and assualted for his ideals all because he thought differently. It was that reason why he decided to do something about it and created the Decepticons. Sadly he was pushed to the point where he revolted Cybertron's society and became a galactic dictator.

Now i'm no space Stalin, but I can see Megatron's point of view in the page above. It is very difficult to be given time in today's society when you live as a teenager with a difference or disability, because those two words can be seen only as deficits and with specific assigned roles.

I am involved with two linked diverse communities, the video game community, and the conventions community. One of the best things about being in these communities is that it can be very welcoming of people from all kinds of places.

All I wanted was to meet people with similar interests. A stranger coming into this strange land, I was immediately welcomes by others who were in crazy costumes! As the years went on, cons become a second home to me,, with people I could to about Transformers and video games. Now here I was telling them about my experience and I was influencing the next set of newcomers and strangers. THe thing is, I was in my own crazy costume!

People from all walks of life go to cons. There is a saying that goes around the cosplay community that is very simple "Cosplay is for Everyrone." No wonder strangers find a come in the conventions

In 2016 Blizzard Entertainment released an online team based called Overwatch revolving around people of all walks of life coming together to face down evil. From a technological monk to an Aussie with several prosthetic limbs and a love for explosives, this game uses diversity and inclusivity as a way to help people have fun whilst playing. Amongst the many characters in an autistic Indian strategist and support hero by the name of Symmetra.

What makes her such a valuable member of any team whilst also being a person on the autism spectrum is in her arsenal. With her back story written here, we find that she has a passion for technology and through that she has developed her coping strategies for incoming fire.

Just like someone on the spectrum, her sensitive senses come into play, and can't take everything at once, that is why she sets up turrets and barriers, as a way to channel her focus in other directions.

I took some time out of my busy schedule to talk with Symmetra's voice actor, Anjali Bhimani and Dustin Blackwell Overwatch's PR Manager about Overwatch. Anjali's awesome video is above. This is what Dustin had to say.

'The dev team believes that in overwatch and outside of the game that "the world can always use more heroes." THey wanted to cast the heroes to be diverse and show that in Overwatch that the heroes of the game, like heroes in our world, could come from all these different places, including a character who's on the spectrum. More details found here.

Jess Kaplan, the game director of Overwatch, also held discussion on diversity in Overwtchh at the end of 2017 Game Developers Conference, where one of the games' goals was inclusivity and open-mindedness:

"We wanted there to be heroes that felt approachable to each person," Kaplan said at the conference. "We all like different things, we're all attracted to different things - that's one of the beautiful things about humanity and making a game on planet Earth: How awesome the differences are."

As for the voice actors, our sound tam does an amazing job finding extremely talented actors, whether veterans of their trade or newcomers to the craft. THe writing for these heroes, as well as the voice actors themselves, really help bring them to life. There are actors from around the world, recording these heroes' voice lines in many languages, allowing fans from all over the world to identify and enjoy the vast, unique heroes of Overwatch.'

Can I ask for one more minute to imagine being a stranger who's found a home, even if it is just for one day a year?. My dream, like Megatron's, is to break down societies expectations, to have everyone embrace diversity and inclusivity so I can feel valued every day of the year here I go, without needing to be a galactic dictator. That's why the world needs more heroes.

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