Start-up delivers therapy through gaming

Game aims to train children on the autistic spectrum identify emotions from different facial features

A computer game aiming to help autistic children is being developed by a Northland start-up. The Flash game, called Click the Clam, will be available as a download from January.

The game aims to train children on the autistic spectrum identify emotions from different facial features, says Fraser Hurrell, who started the company together with Yvette Ahmad, a clinical psychologist and co-director of The Starfish Clinic in Whangarei and Auckland.

The player selects facial features that make up, for example, a happy, surprised or upset face, says Hurrell. The different sets of features are highly randomised, containing 1,800 different combinations.

Click the Clam, created by Flux Animation Studio in Auckland, is first and foremost a game, says Hurrell. There are other games for autistic children out there, but they are often clunky and academic, he says. This game has characters, environments and common gaming elements, such as collecting things, he says. Hurrell and Ahmad started out with immersive computer gaming principles and then built the learning objectives into it, he says.

The idea for the game was born out of Ahmad’s frustration over that children should be able to learn things outside therapy sessions, says Hurrell.

The game will be launched to the worldwide English-speaking market in January. It is currently in beta-testing by some 70 autistic children, he says.

The target market are parents of autistic children aged four to eight, he says.

The company is forming relationships with Asperger’s and autism associations around the world to market the game.

Hurrell also has ideas for future products that could help children with other conditions, such as depression. He describes the games as “therapy wrapped in action gaming that kids actually want to play”.

Click the Clam won $10,000 in start-up capital in the 2008 final of the Spark Entrepreneurship Challenge.

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