‘Broke our hearts’: boy with autism inspires relaunch of popular game

·4 min read

Jack, 8, became enamoured with Joe Danger but Apple iOS updates left mobile game defunct, prompting his father to seek developer’s help

An eight-year-old boy has inspired a developer to relaunch a popular mobile game after it became defunct, leaving his father desperate to find a solution.

Jack, who was diagnosed with autism, became enamoured with the game Joe Danger – a motorbike-riding daredevil who takes players on a race across the desert – as a source of joy and a way to cope with stress.

However, updates to Apple’s iOS operating system rendered it defunct and prompted his father to write to the developer for help.

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“Jack is 8 years old, about the sweetest kid on the planet, and has been diagnosed with autism,” the father wrote in a plea to Hello Games, more widely known as the makers of No Man’s Sky.

“Jack LOVES Joe. He loves everything about him. He has a collection of toy motorcycles that are his ‘Joe Dangers’; every motorcycle we see on the street is ‘Joe Danger’,” the letter continued.

“One of the things that has enabled Jack and I to bond is our shared love of video games, specifically Joe Danger,” the father says before recounting how one of the first things he hears every day when walking in the door after a day at work is: “Come on, Daddy, let’s go play Joe Danger!”

“Just being able to say that sentence is a MASSIVE deal for a child with autism,” the letter adds.

As well as a source of “endless hours of entertainment and joy”, the game has enabled his son to interact with friends and family, provided a coping mechanism and reward for getting through stressful situations and allowed Jack to “experience normal kid stuff”, his dad says.

His letter asks the developers if they can bring the game back online. “It would mean the world to at least one little boy.”

Company founder Sean Murray said the letter “broke our hearts and made us want to set things right”.

“As game devs [developers] it’s so easy to underestimate the impact even your smallest games can have,” he said in a Twitter thread where he shared the father’s letter online.

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Murray said the team had undertaken a “hobby project” to bring the game back to life online, “slowly rebuilding it piece by piece through eight years of technology changes”.

“It blows my mind that something you make can be someone’s first game they played, hit at an important time or even be their favourite thing for a while.”

The game, relaunched on iOS on Thursday, has been remastered with improved visuals, high frame rate, ProMotion and Gamepad support, according to the developers.

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It was also the first game the team developed when “we were still four guys in a shed, trying to get noticed”, Murray said. “Joe helped us get a break and it’s also where we learned to make games … It’s sad that games slowly rot and many disappear.”

News of the relaunch has been welcomed by the gaming community, eager to download what some described as their “favourite mobile games of all time”.

Signing off his letter to the game’s founders, the father said: “As a parent, it’s hard to put into words the feeling I get seeing the pure joy on Jack’s face Joe Danger brings, knowing the other struggles he experiences everyday. But I can assure you, the feeling is a good one.”

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