Gaming is now the largest entertainment industry in the world, pulling in 46.5 billion dollars in 2014. The global movie industry pulled in only seven billion dollars in the same period. Games are parts of the cultural zeitgeist. For parents who want to connect with their kids and be more involved in their lives and their interests, video games are a great place to start.
What if you’re uncomfortable with video game violence? Not a problem! Not every game is Halo or Grand Theft Auto. There are a bunch of great PC games that have no violence to speak of. Here are some of my personal favorites, in no particular order – including, among them, some of the best games of all times.
Audiosurf is a great combination of a racing and rhythm game, and one that inspired a million imitators. Players race space-ships down a procedurally generated racetrack that bobs and weaves in time to music. By collecting colored blocks in time to the music, players can gather points. The game can be relaxing, but it can also be very competitive on faster songs.
For multiple players, you can alternate back and forth trying to beat each other’s records on a given song. Or, for a more cooperative experience, you can use the “Double Vision” character that allows two ships to be controlled simultaneously, working together to get higher and higher scores.
Octodad: Dadliest Catch
Octodad, a game about a hapless cephalopod disguised as a suburban dad, is a short but wonderful experience. In the vein of games like Surgeon Simulator, the fun and humor is mostly derived from the slapstick of the clumsy controls. The expressive eyes of the protagonist do a lot to ground the antics with sad-clown helplessness.
The game also has a co-op mode, in which several players cooperate to steer Octodad through the challenges. In practice, it feels a lot like 3D collaborative QWOP. It’s a bizarre blend of fun and intensely frustrating, and the game manages to be a lot of fun while eschewing both the violence and game mechanics of traditional videogames.
Half Life 2 is a fantastic (if violent) game. Maybe the best thing about it, though, is what it did for the modding community; the modding tools for the Source engine are absolutely unparalleled in the gaming space, and a bunch of wonderful indie projects have come out of it.
One of the most fun is Garry’s Mod, a game that allows users to take the assets of Garry’s Mod, and remix them using a variety of tools. You can do practically anything in Garry’s Mod, and most of it is non-violent. You can build forts, vehicles, and roller coasters. It’s a great collaborative art tool, and can support a couple of dozen players if necessary.
The Sims games are great to play with friends and family. The game is something like a voyeur’s ant farm. It allows you to build a house and fill it with your own characters and then control their lives as they play out. As the game continues, you can build up their careers and relationships, and watch their petty dramas play out. It’s a Zen garden for the nosy.
The Sims franchise is a great game to play with others, because it’s easy to switch the controls out between people. You’ll pick favorites, make up stories, and compete over their lives.
As for which Sims game to play, 2, 3, and 4 are all viable options – later games introduce better graphics and more polished gameplay, but have generally weaker content. However, only the Sims 3 is on Steam, so that may simplify the decision somewhat.
Portal 2 is arguably the best game ever made, in the sense that if you argue with me I’ll fight you. The game is graphically beautiful, elegant in gameplay, and the single funniest piece of media I’ve ever consumed. It’s fantastic, and something you should absolutely try if you want to get into videogames. It’s also non-violent, if you don’t count occasionally knocking robots off of high places.
It’s also get a great co-op mode that puts the players in the role of two robots with a portal gun, collaborating to solve puzzles together. Seriously, play this game, it’s phenomenal.
Honorable Mention: Minecraft
While Minecraft isn’t technically a non-violent game, it deserves an entry on the list. By switching the game to peaceful mode, you can minimize interactions with the monsters – and the cartoon, blocky aesthetic renders the violence pretty inoffensive. The closest thing to brutality in the game is agriculture, where you need to raise and slaughter lifestock to get animal hides and meat. However, it is entirely possible to get through the entire game without killing anything.
It’s also a fantastic game to play with others, because of its potential for collaborative building. There’s something wonderful about creating something with somebody else, and Minecraft is a great venue for that creativity. You and your friends and family can create some amazing things.
A History of Non-Violence
Video games are the most diverse they’ve ever been, in many ways. The rise of good indie game tools like Unity have opened them up to people and ideas that the industry hasn’t before. These games pad out the list of good non-violent titles, mixed in with a few triple-A oddballs like The Sims. All of these titles are legitimately great games, and you’ll get a lot of value out of all of them.
What’s your favorite non-violent game? Did we miss a great title? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credits: Happy family via Shutterstock