PsychNology Journal, Volume 11, Number 3, 191 – 211

LIFEisGAME Prototype: A Serious Game about Emotions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders

Samanta Alves, Cristina Queirós
Faculty of Psychology and Educational Sciences, Porto University, Portugal

António Marques
Porto Polytechnic Institute, Portugal

Verónica Orvalho
Faculty of Sciences, Porto University, Portugal


This paper presents the LIFEisGAME prototype-Ipad version – a serious game that proposes to enhance facial and emotional recognition skills in children with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). We assess the prototype game regarding motivation to play and game usability, and also participants’ emotional recognition abilities and technology usage. People with autism are less likely to gaze at faces and are also impaired in face discrimination tasks. Recently, technology plays an active role in helping these individuals to understand emotions and recognise facial expressions. LIFEisGAME prototype was played during a 15 minute game session by 11 children with ASD, with ages varying from 5-15 years old (M=9.27, SD=2.97), 91% were male and 9% were female, 82% were verbal ASD and 18% were non-verbal ASD. We video recorded each child and the footage was analysed according to game usability and motivation to play. Parents (n=11) filled out a parental consent form and a questionnaire about their child´s technology usage and their emotional understanding. Therapists' opinions (n=8) about the game were given during an unstructured interview. The game was presented on an Ipad 4 (9.7 inches, 2048x1536). Participants enjoyed the prototype but it still needs to be simplified. All participants had experience with computer games. Fear, disgust and surprise were the most challenging emotions to recognise. Parents suggested adding musical stimuli to promote motivation and therapists recommended to include visual game instructions. Technology is a useful resource for autism and LIFEisGAME utilises technology to promote emotional understanding, bringing positive outcomes to quality of life for children with autism.

KEYWORDS: Autism, emotions, prototype-game, children, Ipad.

Alves, S., Marques, A., Queirós, C. and Orvalho, V (2013). LIFEisGAME Prototype: A Serious Game about Emotions for Children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. PsychNology Journal, 11(3), 191 - 211. Retrieved [month] [day], [year], from

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PsychNology Journal Volume 11, Number 3