9 Seriously Fun Boy Games That Don’t Involve Guns
You can trick your son into learning coding, physics, and even a little bit of history with these popular games.
Boy games will be boy games
Before we tell you about the awesome boy games that won’t gross you out with gratuitous violence, we want to state for the record that we get that not all boys are the same, and not all of them like the same kinds of games. The reality, however, is that boys and girls do tend to gravitate toward different games. It’s a function of both nature and of nurture.
With regard to the “nurture” portion of the equation, societal conditioning plays an enormous role in boys’ versus girls’ likes and dislikes. “Gender is a cultural construct,” explains gender expert, Riki Wilchins (by gender, she’s referring to the social and behavioral differences associated with one sex or the other). With regard to the “nature” portion, science has demonstrated objective and observable differences between male and female brains. For example, studies have shown that anatomical differences between the male and female eye drive boys versus girls to sense, perceive, and learn differently from one another. For example, the male eye is more attuned to motion (think: spaceships, cars, and trucks) whereas the female eye is more attuned to details (think: people, faces, houses).
That being said, our academic expert on video games, Jordan F. Slavik, an instructor at the University of Maryland at College Park, whose research on video games, their place in the business world, and their usefulness in the education system has been presented around the country, believes the notion of “boy games” to be somewhat of a misnomer. Professor Slavik’s work has led him to conclude that mainstream games tend to have far more general appeal than perhaps we give them credit for. That said, we shall keep the focus here on games our experts tell us boys like, with an even more specific focus on games for boys online.
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Released in 2009, Minecraft has quickly become one of the most popular games in the world, perhaps because parents love it as much as the kids. “Minecraft actually involves creativity,” says Michael Assante, who is happy his ten-year-old son enjoys playing with it. “It doesn’t have rules or instructions. It looks and feels a bit like Lego, so kids can build and explore however they want.”
Minecraft describes itself as a “sandbox game,” which means it’s a virtual “sandbox” where users can create their own worlds and experiences. They do so using “building blocks,” and other resources discovered on the Minecraft site, as well as their own creativity. It’s available on multiple platforms, including computer, smartphone, tablet, X Box, and Playstation. There are fees associated with the use of Minecraft, including a download fee, and they vary depending on the platform.
“Users can recreate an existing fantasy world or build a new one from scratch,” explains Parent Info, a collaboration between Parent Zone (a parenting advice and support site) and CEOP (the child protection command of the National Crime Agency in the United Kingdom). “They can fight villains and seek adventure, and they can play alone or with friends. It can also be played at any level. In Minecraft, children can create their own adventures at any level of play.”
Parent Info notes that these qualities add up to an experience that is so much fun for kids that they don’t even realize they’re honing their problem-solving, planning, and organization skills, and for those who play with friends, it enhances their teamwork skills.
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Technically, The Oregon Trail is part of the Minecraft product line, but it’s worth mentioning for a few reasons:
- It sounds totally cool, and your kids will probably think so too: It’s a complete storyline of The Oregon Trail journey, from Missouri to the Pacific Coast, allowing users to experience the journey in the open Minecraft world.
- It’s stealth-educational: It teaches kids about programming, math, and science. For example, in one portion of the game involving traversing a river, kids learn physics principles (even if they don’t realize that’s what they’re doing), such as buoyancy. It also encourages the making of actual real-world science models (kids can create flotation devices using aluminum foil and paperclips, for example).
- Your kid may be asked to download it as part of a classroom experience: That just sounds like a win-win for everyone (including the teacher)!
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Before we move on to all the other awesome boy games out there, we must pause to talk about a smartphone app that lets kids get their coding on in conjunction with Minecraft. It’s called Tynker, and it also contains its own set of free games and courses. According to a representative for the company, “Tynker helps kids get into coding and other education activities by wrapping them in games that are genuinely fun.”
Tynker costs nothing to download, and joining includes a free Minecraft-related coding course plus free tools to modify the Minecraft world (including creating new characters). There is a monthly subscription needed, however, for more in-depth Minecraft lessons and modifications.
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Like Minecraft, Terraria is a sandbox game, and Professor Slavik recommends it highly. “The very world is at your fingertips as you fight for survival, fortune, and glory,” Terraria’s website boasts. “Delve deep into cavernous expanses, seek out ever-greater foes to test your mettle in combat, or construct your own city. In the World of Terraria, the choice is yours!”
Blending elements of classic action games with the freedom of sandbox-style creativity, Terraria features a unique journey and gaming experience that provides stealth education in the style of Minecraft but with different art, different objects to craft, different characters, and a look that is unique unto itself. Like Minecraft, Terraria charges a download fee, and it varies by platform.
League of Legends
Professor Slavik describes League of Legends, as a “MOBA” (a multi-player online battle arena) and a “pseudo tower defense game” (meaning that the goal of the game is to defend one’s territories and/or possessions by obstructing enemy attackers, usually acheived by placing defensive structures on or along the path of attack). In League of Legends, players assume the role of an unseen “summoner” that controls a “champion” with unique abilities and battle against a team of other players or computer-controlled champions. The goal is usually to destroy the opposing team’s “nexus”, a structure which lies at the heart of a base protected by defensive structures, although other distinct game modes exist as well. Each League of Legends match is discrete, with all champions startingoff fairly weak but increasing in strength by accumulating “items” and “experience.”
Yeah, we know it sounds kind of scary, and it does happen to be rated “T for Teen”, but Professor Slavik says its violence quotient is relatively low, and it has mitigating benefits.
First, it’s team-oriented. Second, it involves a high degree of imagination. Psychologically speaking, there are those who say that it’s a game about “mentality” above all else. “You have to have your head in the right spot. Well, two right spots really. In the game, and in a positive mindset.
Like the other well-recommended games discussed thus far, League of Legends comes at a cost. Here is one League of Legends’ addicts’ breakdown of how that works.
Like League of Legends, Dota (which stands for Defense of the Ancients) is a MOBA. It’s played in matches between two teams of five players, with each team occupying and defending their own separate base. Each of the ten players independently controls a character (a “hero”), each of whom has unique abilities and differing styles of play. During each match, players collect points for acquiring items and experience (just like in League of Legends). A team wins by being the first to destroy a large structure located in the opposing team’s base, called the “Ancient.”
Dota has the advantage over League of Legends of being “free to play,” meaning exactly what it sounds like: there is no fee to play the game. However, there may be fees for add-ons and to eliminate ads. (This person was shot, but still doesn’t hate guns.)
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Here’s one that Professor Slavik may not have heard about just yet, but Reader’s Digest got the inside scoop. “Roblox is a social gaming platform for kids across the world to imagine, create, and play together. Roblox helps power the imaginations of people around the world,” a company representative tells us.
Roblox is in wide use, with over 64 million monthly active players. Its game-worlds are immersive and imaginative, and it’s free for download on smartphones, tablets, desktops, Xbox One, Oculus Rift, and HTC Vive. “The age range is about 6 years old and up with the sweet spot being about 8- to 12-years old,” the rep advises.
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You may have played with Pokemon cards, but, most likely, your kids have moved onto virtual trading card games such as Hearthstone. According to Professor Slavik, “Hearthstone involves collecting cards and building decks to play against other players. The game features only a very small amount of cartoon violence and it also teaches players a great deal about statistics and other practical math skills.” He recommends it for boys ages eight to ten.”
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Come on, you know you love this game. And what’s wrong with encouraging your kids to love it too? It’s free. It’s non-violent (unless you’re concerned about violence to candy). And it’s actually good for your brain, at least for the first 30 minutes. (And should your kids really be playing any game longer than that?)
Please note, however, that Candy Crush is highly addictive. That said, a recent survey found that the more you play Candy Crush, the more unhappy it starts to make you feel. So perhaps, Candy Crush’s benefits and detriments are self-limiting.
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