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New TS video game 'Tourettes Simulator'

Posted Wed 25th Jan 2023 at 11:28
by Ashley Spencer-Phillips


Game developer creates a fun, interactive game to spread awareness of TS

My name is Ashley Spencer-Phillips, I’m 31, I’m an indie game developer from Birmingham and I have Tourette Syndrome. My interests include retro games, particularly Pac-Man. I collect Pac-Man merchandise and run a Pac-Man blog. I also like pigeons and pizza.

At the age of 8, I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome by a clinician in Birmingham. Due to the complex nature of my tics, I was referred to Professor Mary Robertson and Dr Jeremy Stern in London, who confirmed the diagnosis and offered support and guidance.

I have both vocal and physical tics, ranging from shouting “puffin” to trying to break my own arm. I tic sporadically throughout each day, however my tics get more frequent with any heightened emotion such as anxiety or excitement; there are times when I’ll tic repeatedly non-stop for over an hour. I have had to see a chiropractor after some of my more self-injurious tics, as they have caused me to have shoulder misalignment and back pain which interrupts my sleep. Not only can my tics physically stop me from doing what I want to do, but the fear of having tics in public makes me anxious to leave the house a lot of the time. 

I develop video games as a hobby; and after finishing my last game, Screaming Loaf, I wanted to make something which had a social impact. After discussing ideas with my girlfriend, I decided to develop Tourette’s Simulator.

I wanted to help spread awareness and understanding of Tourette Syndrome by allowing the player to experience it in video game form. I wanted the game to reflect that a task as simple as going for a walk can be difficult. As their character walks automatically through a park, the player must navigate their way through the crowds using the up and down keyboard keys; I kept the controls simple to not alienate non-gamers. At random unpredictable intervals, the character will have a tic which is completely out of the player’s control. If the player tics too close to another person, they risk accidentally elbowing them, offending them, or getting into other mishaps which will end the game. The frustration of losing the game due to things which are out of the player’s control mirrors how it feels for people with Tourette Syndrome to be inconvenienced by their own tics. 

After posting a gameplay video on TikTok, it went viral. The positive feedback I received helped affirm that the game would not only be helpful to spread understanding, but also to give other people with Tourette Syndrome something to relate to. 

Play Tourettes Simulator here


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