Violent Video Game a Treatment for Asperger’s?

There’s been much debate over the link between violent video games and real-life displays of aggression/depression. Next month, in fact, the Supreme Court will decide if selling certain titles to minors should be downright illegal.

Rockstar Games’ recently released L.A. Noire — with its gritty, 1940s backdrop of corruption, drug deals, and murder — is a likely ban candidate. Though widely praised for its gaming-meets-cinema style and storyline, rave reviews don’t have much clout with the judges. But here’s something that might: At least one expert contends L.A. Noire may provide a new treatment for Asperger’s Syndrome.

Part of L.A. Noire’s appeal is its realistic subject-interrogation process: The game’s animation technology captures every nuance of its characters’ facial reactions during “witness interviews,” to help players determine if they’re lying (and if they are, build cases against them).

Because people with Asperger’s often experience impaired ability to identify social cues and conventions, and the impaired use of non-verbal communication behaviors, they may at first have difficulty discerning L.A. Noire witnesses’ lies from the truth, says Professor Tony Attwood, author of The Complete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome.

But Attwood recommends the game to those with Asperger’s — ideally, he says, playing it with a relative who could “give feedback and guidance on the characteristics to look for to determine whether someone is lying or not” — as a way to develop and strengthen human-interaction skills.

In an interview with Joystiq, Attwood also notes the possibility of replaying scenes “to confirm whether the response was correct or identify the characteristics should a mistake have been made.”

“I think those with Asperger’s Syndrome would actually find the game quite fascinating,” he says.