Review by Ericka D, Common Sense Education | Updated September 2019

Prism

Experiential game teaches empathy toward those with autism

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Character & SEL
Grades This grade range is based on learning appropriateness and doesn't take into account privacy. It's determined by Common Sense Education, not the product's publisher.
2–6
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Pros: Puts players in the shoes of those with neurological differences.

Cons: Gameplay feels a bit lacking and doesn't have as much accessibility as expected.

Bottom Line: Lessons on inclusion and community in the classroom require post-game facilitated discussion for deep learning.

Educators can use Prism in a combination of small groups and whole-group discussions. Because the purpose of the game is to experience and practice inclusiveness, teachers would benefit from modeling acceptance and participation by students of all levels during the game. Classroom teachers or school counselors can invite students into the computer lab as part of social and emotional learning (SEL) content time, where they can each play the game individually or in pairs. For younger students, they'll likely need a few consecutive days of play to complete the tasks. Afterward, consider having students partner up to talk about the choices they made as Fox before convening as a class.

As a classroom teacher, feel free to incorporate Prism into other areas of instruction by having students write a descriptive paragraph about the animals they met in the forest. Have students rank the animals on a chart from smallest to largest, or graph the number of interactions on a bar chart. While Prism is meant for SEL, including empathy, it's likely best taught during dedicated guidance time with intention rather than as an extension activity.

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Prism is an online-based game that follows the story of Fox, who meets several animals on his quest to save the forest from a flooded river. The game puts the player into the shoes of students with autism and assists players in empathizing with the lives of kids who experience differences from their peers. The player navigates the game with mouse/arrow keys and keyboard. Once the game begins, players control Fox (who's guided by Wolf and Owl) and must navigate the nuances of the forest while getting the animals to work together to build a dam to save their home. Wolf and Owl also caution Fox that he'll need to be out in the daytime when it isn't always easy (since he's nocturnal). If the surroundings get too intense with lights and sounds, Fox can howl to help lessen the intensity.

Along the way, Fox meets a bear named Charlene who doesn't speak in his typical language because she's overwhelmed. After using nonverbal and emoji cues, Fox learns that Charlene needs honey before she can respond to his request. Fox continues to meet other characters, like a stag and doe who have lost their fawn, a boar who needs help building a dam, and more. These interactions involve characters who respond in atypical ways and demonstrate different ways of communicating.  

Once the game is complete, educators can guide students through a group debriefing activity, which is provided for free by the developers. The facilitated discussion is based on moments in the game and asks questions to spur empathy and compassion.

Prism's intent is pretty clear, even without the facilitated discussion questions. Students might even grasp on their own the concept of celebrating and working with people who experience the world differently than they do. However, the extension questions really dive deep into learning about autism and create a greater sense of empathy when presented to a class of students from the lens of community and partnership. The lesson of inclusion and respecting differences is enhanced with the facilitated discussion, which shouldn't be left out.

Prism could integrate more lessons related to empathy and acceptance; the game definitely leaves the player wanting more. It might be nice if some of the discussion questions and activities were embedded into the gameplay to encourage small-group partnership discussion, rather than waiting until the end when some players may have forgotten lessons they learned. Also, a more accessible experience, such as text-to-speech options, might reach a wider audience.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Playing in a setting of forest animals draws students in. The design is clean and purposeful, although its simplicity may be a drawback to some.

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Lessons of empathy and communication differences are baked into the experience and could easily be transferred to daily life. Gameplay would be more impactful if students could interact with each other throughout.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

Students are guided with on-screen prompts for assistance, although there's no voice-over or text-to-speech option. Students who need accommodations may require help to access the game.


Common Sense Reviewer
Ericka D Counselor, psychologist, or social worker

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