Is it possible to grow up with video games? Despite decades of dismal predictions by numerous Cassandras, video games have been around for quite some time now, and we’re all pretty sure they don’t hurt. Indeed, according to several studies, video games are even good: not only do they test reflexes, which benefit from the virtual shootings of Fortnite and associates, but also because they help train the mind, play in the company and discover new worlds. Of course, you have to choose the right video games.
As there are hundreds of thousands of novels, and only a few are well written and suitable for an audience under 18, video games can offer different experiences. According to the writer, here are ten video games that could provide interesting ideas for your children/grandchildren/siblings. And the opportunity to have fun with them is never bad!
Before starting, an “educational” tip: practically every video game can be played in English, often with subtitles in Italian or the same Albion language. Many can be played in French, German and Spanish. Playing is one of the best ways to learn, and it might be a good idea to set your little ones’ favourite games in a foreign language – a great way to help them get their ears and discover unusual terms.
One cannot always be happy. And in fact, the little protagonist of Never Alone does not have an easy life: her village on the Alaska ice is destroyed, and she must escape – the only survivor – from the evil presence responsible for the tragedy. She finds a friend – a fox that helps her overcome the many obstacles – but the road is long: a true Odyssey among the ice and Eskimo myths. I Never played Alone with my daughters (they were 8 and 12 years old at the time).
They enjoyed it very much: a very different platformer from the usual Super Mario, in which not only can the protagonist be killed in practically every painting, but the player must face the “mourning” for the death of his friends (in the prologue, when the village is destroyed) and above all of the fox, who at a certain point turns into a spirit. You can even play with your child, controlling the fox while he/she moves the protagonist. A video game that teaches you to understand that sometimes pain and melancholy must be faced, not being able to be avoided forever.
Available for: PC, Mac, iOS, Android, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Wii U.
Trust me, war is bad. Fortunately, we have been living in peace in Europe for 70 years – except for painful local conflicts – and our duty as parents/uncles / older brothers is to remind the new generations not to fall into the temptation to think that a war can be “clean. “Or” resolutive “. Video games generally introduce us to the “action” side, impersonating super soldiers who destroy evil enemies and who, if they die, restart from the last save point.
Not all, however: Valiant Hearts is an almost poetic work, an adventure set in the Great War that effectively explains that war is disgusting. Several characters are controlled, even the German “bad guys”, and how devastating, meaningless and relentless the two conflicts of the early twentieth century were. Play it together with your children.
Available for: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Switch, Android, iOS
Practice logic and writing. Scribblenauts is one of the very few video games where you have to “write” in the game. Each painting, each level of this series (except the last episode, Showdown)) The player must “write” to get an object and solve the puzzle. Is there a bell to take over a building? Write “ladder”, and this object will magically appear, with which you can climb to collect the coveted tool. Children learn to write correctly in Italian, but only one adult will have to help them. On the other hand, the kids learn to use logic and imagination to find increasingly imaginative solutions – the game rewards those who think of abstruse and uncommon objects.
Available for: PC, PS4, Xbox One and Switch
Discover, by playing, the history of civilisations. The Civilization series is almost as “ancient” as the video games. The first episodes were super complex strategy games, but the fourth and fifth chapters also marked the arrival of consoles and a much more intuitive control system. What do you do in Civilization? Quite simply, a civilisation is founded and prospered. It starts from a single city and ends up conquering the world. Thus the boy (let’s say, 12+) discovers that building a unit on horseback allows him to explore the area around the capital faster 5,000 / 5,000
Studying a form of currency helps society’s economy and that democracy works better than dictatorship. Furthermore, although it is impossible to play without ever having to defend yourself, and therefore it turns out that war is an almost inevitable risk, it is possible to win by conquering the neighbours culturally, by building wonders and thriving cities, or by arriving first at the most important scientific goals.
Available for: PC, Mac, iOS, Switch
When math and logic problems are fun and held together by a cartoon, Prof Layton is an expert on puzzles and puzzles. As we told you in our review, each game in this saga is a collection of 100+ puzzles held together by a fascinating storyline told with a simply excellent quality cartoon. Puzzles of all kinds: mathematical, logical, with matches, with balloons, with the pieces to move.
There is also a hint system, but that’s a game, too: you have to find the coins hidden in the game’s boxes, then ask – only if it’s really necessary! – a little help or two on particularly tough puzzles. Until recently, Layton was an “exclusive” of Nintendo consoles, but it has recently landed on mobile phones, so you can also play it on Apple or Android smartphones
Available for 3DS, iOS, and Android
Sim City (and associates).
Discover the rules of the city. Why should the police station be placed in the centre of the city? And why is it better to put the factory and the coal-fired power station (a lot) farther away? Sim City is the city architecture simulator: as the mayor of the virtual city, you will have to decide where to place roads, green and residential areas, and commercial and industrial activities. All while keeping an eye on a budget that is always too small for your dreams. The last Sim City is from a few years ago.
Still, its legacy has generated dozens of “clones”, such as Tropico 6 or Cities: Skyline – also available on consoles, but not all in Italian. They are games where your children not only learn the logic of cities – dictated by problems such as pollution and traffic, for example, and how to solve them – but also deal with them with a very limited amount of money. So maybe they will learn how to make better use of the weekly allowance.
Available for: PC and Mac
The buildings, but also the good education. Minecraft is a millionaire game: not only because Microsoft bought it from its author for a figure close to the GDP of a small state (two and a half billion dollars), but because millions of players have installed and played it. In practice, it is the “construction” game: there are “missions” to be accomplished, but the game’s beauty is to build. We start from a small house with a square bed and a sketched table, and we arrive at magnificent creations: there are players who, block after block, have built the Titanic or Middle-earth.
Available for: PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Switch, iOS, Android
Portal and Portal 2.
Playing with physics and logical puzzles. The history of Portal is fascinating: the managers of Valve, who have not only created one of the best video games ever (Half-Life) but also the main digital store that we all use on PC (Steam), have discovered the prototype of this game to a “school competition” in which students showed off their creations.
Between one potato battery and another, there was Narbacular Drop, which exploited a very original idea: a videogame without weapons but with portals. From this was born Portal (and its sequel Portal 2, which can also be played in pairs): you are inside a laboratory of some megacorporation, and you will have to solve a series of enigma-rooms with a gun that shoots two portals, one blue and one orange.
You don’t need reflections (just a little bit in the more advanced pictures); here, only grey matter is used: to solve the puzzles, the player will have to understand how to position the portals and take advantage of the physical rules, such as gravity and sliding.
Available for: PC, Mac, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PS3, PS4
A New Beginning
The risks we are running with the environment. We only have one planet, and – as is often said these days – there is no plan B. A New Beginning is an old-fashioned graphic adventure, like Monkey Island and co. Perhaps less perfect and cared for, but it deals with a topical issue: in the distant future, the Earth will be devastated by pollution and climate change, and humanity is dying.
The only solution is to send someone back in time and hope they can convince 21st-century humans that they need to change their attitude. It is a semi-independent production, with more than dignified graphics and “comic” interludes. Excellent to play with your child, finding solutions in pairs. And maybe he will understand why he shouldn’t abuse plastic and consume less water.
Available: PC, Mac
Bullying, homosexuality, end of life. Video games often keep a safe distance from the hottest social issues. No problem in slaughtering tons of enemies with Gatling blows, but everything changes when it comes to bullying. In Life is Strange, we will follow the adventure of the teenager Max, who returns to the remote town of Arcadia Bay and finds friends and … fewer friends. To solve the “situations”, he can count on a super-power: he can rewind time and make different decisions.
Little spoiler necessary: during the adventure, for example, she ends up in an alternate universe in which the father of her best friend is saved from a fatal accident, but her friend has quadriplegia and asks her to help her. To die. One of the few truly “mature” adventures on these issues, obviously suitable for an audience of 16+. To play together or let them play and then discuss the choices made together at the table.