You stand in a dirt field under a beautiful blue sky. A few meters away, a group of kids are shrieking and playing happily on a jungle gym. As you walk forward, though, you notice the kids are actually faceless statues, staring blankly back at you. Their shrieking gets almost deafeningly loud as you approach, layered on top of monotone schoolyard rhymes and songs. The idyllic visuals start to get fuzzy, too, like the world is caught between reality and the static on a dead analog TV station. Your only relief is to quickly retreat back to the safety of your starting place.
It might sound like a new horror game, but the experience above actually describes Auti-sim, a small but thought-provoking first-person indie game about hypersensitivity in autistic children. The game was recently created by a team of three during Vancouver's Hacking Health weekend hackathon. Besides being one of the creepiest indie "short subjects" you'll play this year, the game also gives players a brief glimpse into what it's like for the millions of autistic children suffering from sensory overload issues.
"I wasn't really aiming to simulate what hypersensitivity actually is," team lead Taylan Kadayifcioglu (who goes by Taylan Kay) told Ars. "My goal was to elicit the same kind of reaction from a neurotypical person. So the goal was basically to irritate the hell out of your senses."