Are you the parent of a gamer kid who’s obsessed with Fortnite? Do you wish you could expand their universe beyond game-land — or at least beyond this one game? Read on.
A vast universe of innovative adventure, puzzle, battle, and narrative games exists beyond the horizon of Fortnite. The best ones out there come highly recommended by leading educators, game designers, and researchers. We got the recs below from: Joel Levin, creator of MineCraftEdu; Barry Joseph, head of digital at Girl Scouts USA; Matthew Farber, author of Gamify Your Classroom; and Dr. Karen Schrier, mom and founding director of the Games & Emerging Media program at Marist College, and author of Knowledge Games.
Although 2019 research published in the Royal Society Open Science failed to find any link between the time teens spent playing violent video games and any subsequent aggressive behaviors, 2018 research published in Nature Partner Journals found that mindfully designed video games can boost empathy by changing neural connections in the brain. The innovative games on this list have been purposefully designed to foster empathy and support social emotional learning.
Prism is a single-player game in which players assume the role of a nocturnal fox who seeks help from other animals to save the forest. The game promotes empathy and teaches children about the experience of an autism spectrum disorder. (Elementary School)
Prism, free from CMU.
A Normal Lost Phone
A single-player “investigation” game, A Normal Lost Phone lets you use a missing person’s phone to solve the puzzle of what happened to them. (High School)
A Normal Lost Phone, $0.99 on iTunes.
Don’t Starve Together
Just like it sounds, Don’t Starve Together is a multi-player game in which players navigate a mysterious land while trying to maintain their health, sanity, and, yes hunger levels, keeping away from darkness and deadly creatures. (Middle/High School)
Don’t Starve Together, $14.99 on PS4.
Elude takes place in a forest, where a single player climbs trees and engages with varying moods metaphorically represented by colorful birds. (Middle/High School)
Elude, free from Singapore-MIT Gambit Game Lab.
Night in the Woods
A single-player narrative adventure game, Night in the Woods centers on the angst of being a young adult entering the real world. (High School)
Night in the Woods, $19.99 from Finji.
Parable of the Polygons
Based on the work of Nobel Prize-winning game theorist Thomas Schelling, Parable of the Polygons is a single-player playable blog post that explores how harmless choices can lead to a harmful world. (Middle/High School)
Parable of the Polygons, free from Vi Hart & Nicky Case.
Please Knock on My Door
This one is a single-player narrative game in which players attempt to help someone suffering from depression and social anxiety as they try to cope with life, work, and friendship. (High School)
Please Knock on My Door, $12.99 at STEAM.
A multi-player live action role-play game (played with direction cards), Sign is based on the experience of 50 deaf children in 1970s Nicaragua. (Middle/High School)
Sign, $20.99 from Thorny Games.
Starbound, $14.99 on STEAM.
Way is a two-player game where anonymous strangers play together using only nonverbal communication. (Middle/High School)
Way, free from MakeOurWay.com.
A single-player, web-based game that puts the player into the shoes of a high-school girl who discovers she has superpower abilities. (Middle School)
Wonder City, free from PBS.
So go ahead and share these games with the young people in your lives, and even make time to play together this summer — because contrary to popular myth, recent research from Arizona University shows that playing video games together is not just good for your kids; it’s good for the whole family.