We have seen repeatedly that the social skills and confidence that members gain at NOCS, with patient support and  through their shared passion for games, are transferable to other contexts. Our ‘gamers’ become more socially confident and less anxious. This is remarkable and is a particularly cost effective form of support.

We aim to promote research into the role that games can play in the development of social skills, with the aim of helping others to replicate our experience and benefiting larger numbers.

As a diverse inclusive community – many members with additional needs and some without –  there are challenges for us in monitoring our members’ needs and the outcomes of our work. We are addressing these in order to produce systematic data. Whilst a relatively high proportion of our members are open about their issues – reporting anxiety and difficulties with socialisation – some have diagnosed needs, others do not; some, understandably, simply don’t want to be ‘labelled’, and some have no additional needs.

NOCS’ success to date can be expressed in the size of the community being reached with no targeted outreach (and, unfortunately, in the numbers who approach us that we cannot accommodate). Success is most evident in the lives of people who have so conspicuously benefited from what NOCS offers, as the case studies below outline.

NOCS Chair, Lorraine Paddison, says “NOCS has been life changing for my nephew Paul. Since going to NOCS his intense social anxieties have reduced immeasurably. He is more comfortable talking to people and he copes much better with challenges and setbacks, all while making friends and having fun!

 He started with card games and very gradually progressed onto skirmish and role play games, receiving fantastic support from Noc and his fellow players along the way. Paul has Asperger’s and his acute anxieties meant he used to spend most of his time at home… I want others with his difficulties to benefit too.”

“Claire first came to NOCS on a pretext. She was extremely shy and on her own. Following this first contact she started a regular ritual of spending her lunchtime in the venue once a week, sitting in silence and using strategies to avoid contact. She has learning and social difficulties and for a very long time she would only speak to Noc. But with time and the space that he made available for her to listen and familiarise herself with the venue she gradually grew in confidence.

Over time other regulars were introduced to her and conversation structures developed. Three years later Claire still maintains the weekly routine but now interacts willingly with members, sometimes initiating conversations and humour. She has attended the last two NOCS Christmas Meals. Claire has become part of the community and has visibly grown in confidence and in her enjoyment of socialising.”

“Richard is a highly intelligent boy who had very limited social contacts and found interacting with others difficult.  At the point at which he first made contact with NOCS he had developed an enthusiasm for games and gaming but was unable to locate other players.  Within weeks of first attending NOCS he was interacting confidently with a range of people of all ages. 

By finding a common topic of interest in which he had a well-developed knowledge, he found he could interact on equal terms with others and became comfortable both seeking and providing advice. The confidence he found in these interactions developed his general level of confidence and so his interactions in non-game related contexts.  Through NOCS Richard has developed a broad based social network, enhanced social skills and self-confidence”. 

Harry was introduced to the shop by an able relative. He had been ‘Not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)’ for many years and had a range of registered difficulties, including learning and social skills. He relied on his family for security and acceptance, having very few successful friendships. Harry was not happy and had great difficulty in interacting with anyone without causing upset, intruding on personal boundaries and space, or being demeaning.

It took some time to help him to accept that there are rules for behaviour when in NOCS, but with patience and the consistency of guidance from Noc and the other members, he started to develop a much more positive approach.

Noc took Harry through development of one-to-one games, modelling how to handle losing a game, gamesmanship etc. He also made a point of reading out the rules for conduct at the beginning of any tournaments, or times when there may have been increased excitement, as part of the development for Harry. Harry gradually began to build relationships that were positive and became part of the NOCS community, needing the presence of his family less and less.

Now Harry has secured a job, coped with moving away from family and developed his own transport, and is generally much more independent. He no longer needs NOCS but still drops in from time to time.”

“My son, who has Asperger’s and is highly anxious, first started going to NOCS 4 years ago after a life of much time spent at home, including a prolonged time out of school, which left him with very low self-esteem.  After finding NOCS, he is now, quite literally, a different person.  Finding friends of a like mind, a wonderful mentor in Noc and things to do that he really enjoys, he is regularly attending the various activities, a miracle in itself.  Now having so much more confidence, he helps out weekly at the shop, improving his self-esteem immensely. Noc’s support has been unwaivering and instrumental in helping him to achieve this.”

Our outcomes show that the social skills and confidence gained through the shared passion for games at NOCS, and with the right support, are transferable to other contexts. Our gamers become more socially confident and less anxious. This is remarkable and is a very cost-effective form of support.

We intend to facilitate research into the link between gaming and the development of social skills.   If you are interested in supporting this research please get in touch