Magikarp Jump: Autistic Stimming In Plain Sight

I’m going to acknowledge right off the bat, Magikarp Jump is, on paper, not an interesting game mechanically. It’s a clicker game through and through, you tap on fruit, activate training activities on cool downs that are purely luck-based, and battle success is 100% based on whether or not you’ve played enough of the game to be allowed to progress. I don’t judge anyone who picks up the game for an hour or so and deletes it, it’s not a mechanically interesting game by any critical standard.

And yet, I have played it for at least an hour per day. For several weeks.

As a person living with an autistic spectrum disorder, I often engage in something called stimming, which is short hand for self stimulatory behaviour. The TL;DR is that I struggle with socialising, routine changes and sensory overload. Engaging in repetitive actions that have predictable outcomes helps me to cope, because it helps me ground my world in a sense of order and control. I feel like the world is predictable and understandable when I deliberately engage with actions that have known outcomes.

This is sometimes rocking back and forth, sometimes the same single song on loop for 8 hours, and sometimes playing a game like Magikarp Jump.

For me, Magikarp Jump has, over the past few weeks, acted as a covert way to engage in stimming behaviour in public. While I was initially drawn to the game for its cute narrative wrappings of pushing a Pokemon usually considered worthless to achieve its fullest potential and rooting for the underdog, I very quickly found myself engaging with it as a repetitive, obsessive and predictable loop with minimal variation from one playthrough to the next.

Where rocking, fidget cube use, hand flapping of making bleeping sounds with my mouth are noticeable things that stand out as abnormal to the world, using Magikarp Jump as a stimming tool has been helpful as it’s a stim I can explain with a degree of normalcy. “Oh, I’m just playing this Pokemon game that came to iOS, it’s pretty simple but I like watching this normally useless Pokemon reach its full potential via splashing around a bunch.”

Now, Magikarp Jump isn’t a cure-all for stimming. Sometimes I need specific stims tied to specific senses, things more tactile or audible or with a smell or texture attached. But for those times where I just need an obsessive loop to feel in control, Magikarp Jump has given me a stimming outlet I don’t sit worrying I’ll be judged for by non-Autistic people. That alone has made the game worth the time I’ve invested into it.

Categories: Disability, Gaming