Date of Submission



This descriptive ethnographic case study investigates the potentials and constraints of online multiplayer games for the social interactions of students with an autism spectrum disorder. Minecraft® was selected as the online multiplayer game platform of focus within the research context, given its popularity among primary-school students. The study also describes the multimodal forms of social communication that students with an autism spectrum disorder used as they engaged with online multiplayer games. It investigates students, parent, and teacher perspectives of the enabling and constraining features of online multiplayer games for the social interactions of students with autism spectrum disorder. This research is a response to the increasing prevalence rates in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder and the growing engagements of primary-school students with online multiplayer games.

The data were collected through video-recorded at-screen observations, video-recorded peer face-to-face observations, and video-recorded and audio-recorded semistructured interviews. Multimodal and D/discourse analysis of the data demonstrated that online multiplayer games supported social interactions through oral, written, visual, gestural, and audio forms of social communication, and within virtual and physical spaces. The data analysis revealed that, online multiplayer games enabled platforms to support social interactions, develop and sustain friendships, and enhance reciprocity. Regardless of these potentials and despite online multiplayer games being socially motivating platforms, social difficulties for students with autism spectrum disorder were still evident within this context. Additionally, regardless of the multimodal benefits afforded to the students, they engaged excessively with the semiotic resources of online multiplayer games and experienced difficulties in relationships. Furthermore, they experienced external constraints associatedw ith the games’ semiotic resources, technological and network difficulties, and adult and school restrictions on online multiplayer games.

The findings have implications for providing opportunities to support social interactions in multimodal ways that social spaces in face-to-face and offline contexts do not allow. A model of inclusive new literacies is offered to support all students’ capacity to engage in positive social interactions in inclusive educational settings. From this model, a framework of multimodal support to promote social interactions is created. It includes recommendations to target the potentials of online multiplayer games and support all students in inclusive, differentiated, and prosocial ways.


Institute for Learning Sciences and Teacher Education

Document Type


Access Rights

Open Access


419 pages

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Faculty of Education and Arts

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

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