Professional pathway and social development for neurodivergent youth through game design
Visit Mesa – ASU Herberger Institute – Mesa Arts Center
Endless Studios – Copa Health – Mesa Regional Foundation for Accessibility, Diversity & Inclusion
Increasingly accessible and easy-to-use tools have made it possible to build completely virtual worlds filled with intricate story tapestries – we see this in the booming video game industry, in contemporary cinema, and in emerging media for virtual realities. Neurodivergent youth on the autism spectrum and beyond have incredible and unique perspectives to bring to this era of fantastic worldbuilding, but in many cases they lack the opportunities and communities to support their development of these skills. The prevalence rate of autism has recently increased to 1 in 36 people, and young adults with ASD have the lowest early career employment rates among all disabilities. Only about 50% of young adults with ASD have ever worked for pay by the time they reach the end of their 20s, and various studies estimate that the unemployment rate for adults on the spectrum hovers between 50% and 75%. Two of the primary factors in this issue are lack of professional education in sectors that accommodate neurodivergent identities and a lack of explicit (conscious) confidence in their own abilities.
The gaming industry provides a uniquely aligned opportunity for neurodivergent youth to find professional success alongside an opportunity for personal expression.
Camp Level Up aims to address these challenges for the neuro-divergent youth of Mesa and neighboring communities by providing an immersive summer camp that will develop professional-level skills in game design, while also embedding them in a community of support and neurodivergent peers which will help build the confidence needed to express themselves in this new medium.
The camp is offered to youth grades 6th through 12th and will be located in the brand new ASU Media and Immersive eXperience (MIX) Center at Mesa City Center. Three weeks of sessions (June 26th through July 19th) will be led by social impact and educational gaming company, Endless Studios, and faculty and students from the MIX Center along with onsite therapeutic support from Copa Health.
The teens who join Level Up will emerge able to create their own games and media experiences and with a community of like-minded peers.
Each day’s session will be three hours of instruction and mentored collaborative work, mixed in with guest talks from industry-leading professionals and fun enrichment experiences. Parents and caregivers are more than welcome to attend with their students. After-care activities, including gameplay and art-making experiences, are available for an additional four hours for interested families*. Our generous sponsors and partners allow us to provide this opportunity well below cost, with the tuitions for each student only $300 for the full three weeks. Scholarships to reduce those costs further are available for families in need. At the beginning of the three weeks, families should plan to attend a virtual orientation session for all participants, and at the end of the camp, everyone is invited to view the Level Up Showcase celebrating the work of all of our participants!
*after care is an additional $150