Sometimes mental health providers, parents and educators get so caught up in the debate about video games and violence that we imagine all video games have violent content. They don’t.
So when I am feeling proactive (like now) I point out that there are dozens of nonviolent video games. In this case, I’ll give you a rundown of some of my favorites available on smartphones and/or tablets. You may ask, “Mike, how do you find all of these games?” I find them for free in several places, and you can too! One place in the real world is a certain coffee chain we all know and love which often has App of the Day cards to try for free. Another good source of freebies is App Gratis. App Gratis has 1-2 daily deals on free apps for iPhone, iPad, and Android. The app itself is free, so download it as soon as you are ready to go bargain hunting.
Without further ado, here are some games I’m enjoying lately:
Ok, so the tag line is violent: Puzzlejuice is billed as a game “that will punch your brain in the face.” But there’s no punching or violence beyond that blurb. Puzzlejuice combines the spatial skills of Tetris with the wordplay of Scrabble. You rotate blocks to line up 3 or more blocks of one color, which turns them into letters. Spell words with the letters by dragging your finger across them and the blocks disappear. Sound simple? Please come back and comment on this post once you’ve tried it, heh.
Circadia is all about timing and pace. The graphics are simple enough, where you try to tap expanding rings in order to time their intersection with a dot and other rings. But this game is all about impulse control, patience and learning from your mistakes. Different colors and musical tones indicate different speeds of ring expansion, and once you are through the tutorial you find yourself timing 3 or more rings, dots that move, and increasingly complicated sequences.
This is a perennial favorite of mine. Move blocks with the swipe of your finger to connect all of the same color, avoiding obstacles that will get you stuck. Add to that timer challenges, special shapes and bonus mystery rounds and you have a simple, playful puzzle game that will challenge you for hours.
Based on the German-style board/card game, you can now play TTR on your smartphone or tablet. TTR combines strategy, planning and blocking other players as they race to build train routes connecting different cities in the US, Europe or “Legendary Asia.” Play against the computer or online with other players, and if you’re feeling social, the built in chat feature allows you to chat with other players between turns.
Who would have thought a black and white (ok, and gray and red) game could be so beautiful and elegant? The website explains the basic premise of the game, but just dive right into the tutorial like I did and see what it’s like to learn a game from within it. Did I mention how beautiful it is? Minimalists take note..
Playful, but with a strong ecological message, this offering from game designer and thought leader Nicole Lazzaro makes use of the smartphone or tablet’s accelerometer to make Flip the tadpole help fight the Blight that has affected Shady Glen by eating carbon and planting seeds. The game is tied to a real world impact: For each milestone of player points in the world, more trees get planted in Madagascar. More than 10,000 trees have been planted to date, and players can see a real-world impact calculator here.
Based on the classic tile game, Carcassonne is a game of building medieval towns, castles and monasteries. Build your cities, place your Meeples, and try to get the most points by the end of the game. Best part, you can share points with other players, so the game is about strategic alliances as well as blocking another player’s move. Play by yourself or on networked multiplayer. Note to therapists: The basic game can usually be played in the 10 minutes between sessions, just sayin’..
If you like your games with ambience and an organic dreamlike quality, try this one out. In Osmos you play a single cell Mote who jets around and absorbs smaller motes to become the biggest cell on the block. But be careful, because the jet propelling you is made by expelling your own matter, so the farther you go the smaller you get! This game emphasizes patience and planning over speedy acquisition. Accompanied by some great electronic music.
I disagree with the developer Joybean describing this as “a beautiful game for girls,” and exhort you to play this game regardless of gender! Tap on one of the small floating buds to cause a flower to burst open, touch a nearby bud and start a chain reaction. Easy when the early levels only require you to hit 2-3 flowers, but when you have to get a chain reaction of 50, choose where and when you tap carefully!
The Japanese term “nintaii” means “patience, perseverance, or endurance,” and you’ll need it to get through all 100 levels of this puzzle. Flip a rectangular block through a 3-D platform landscape to get to the end of the maze. Each level is accompanied by trippy music and seemingly random titles like “Joy,” “Bravery,” and “Wealth.” This game has a high “Huh?” factor, but is a compelling experience and best of all, non-violent.
Versions of these games range from free to $9.99 for most smartphones and tablets, and nothing is shot or slashed, not even watermelon (sorry, Fruit Ninja.) Many of these games emphasize one or more social and cognitive skills, from cooperation to word-building to problem solving and impulse control. But don’t let that discourage you–have fun!
Have a favorite non-violent game? Let us know below!