Today is the 6th anniversary of Autcraft, the first Minecraft server for children (and adults) with autism and their families.
It started out with one simple premise, to keep autistic children safe from bullies and trolls. However, it's grown into something so much more than that.
Autcraft grew quickly right from day one as word spread through the autism community like lightning. People joined by the hundreds each day. Now, 6 years later, we have over 11,000 names on the whitelist from over 50 different countries.
It became clear very early on that it wouldn't be just a simple task of keeping children safe as players began to open up about their depression, their struggles and even their thoughts of suicide. Over time conversations grew to include abusive parents and most notably, a very large number of players struggling with their sexuality.
The news media caught on to what was happening and began to write articles, send television crews out and call me for interviews. We found ourselves in Buzzfeed, PCGamer, Mashable, Good Morning America, The Today Show and much more.
I was invited to give a talk at a TEDx Talk event and shortly thereafter, featured by TED Talks themselves.
Even now, I just returned from a trip to New York where I presented Autcraft at the 16th Annual Games For Change Festival to educators and gaming experts.
Throughout all of this though, one thing remained consistent... the community spirit. Players care about each other. They encourage, support and even celebrate each other. When one player is hurting, everyone rallies around that player. When one player achieves something great, everyone celebrates it.
It's this spirit that has made the real difference as researchers have been approaching Autcraft quite consistently to see what it is that we're doing that works so well.
Nonverbal children are learning to speak, children are learning to read and write, children are making friends for the first time ever and even going off to find jobs... in 6 years time, we've seen children start and finish high school and then go off to university.
One of the top answers to our Whitelist Application question "Where did you hear of Autcraft?" now is therapist, or pediatrician. They're referring children to us.
Autcraft started because of a need with one simple premise but what it became is so very much more than that.
Autcraft is making autistic children feel proud to be autistic, not ashamed. It's encouraging autistic children to reclaim our identity and to be proud of it and not let bullies use "autistic" or "autism" as an insult anymore. It's celebrating our diversity and showing the world just how wrong it's been about autistic people all along.
Autcraft is 6 years old today. And it's changing the world.