10 Pro-Social Games

Research on teen media points to a clear divide between boys and girls. Girls like to relate and boys like to shoot guns, crash cars and blow things up. In the digital world, this means girls spend more time on social media and boys spend more time on video games. A recent report from Pew Research, 91 percent of boys have a video game console. A recent New York TImes article references surveys that found

“...about 80 percent of high school-age boys say they play video games, most of which are thought to be violent...”

Like we talk about in Screenagers there is a mix of opinion about whether violent video games actually lead to violent behavior. But there plenty of studies that show right after kids play a violent video game they exhibit more aggression. In addition there are studies that show longer lasting impact. Fortunately the impact is small, but it is real nonetheless.

There are alternatives: prosocial games that encourage the gamer to do something positive with their avatars. One, The Stanley Parable, even got the nod from my 16-year-old son, who called it “cool.”

Here is a list narrative-driven, non-combative games I like:


There are no bosses, enemies, punishment, or failure in this world. It’s all about solving puzzles and stopping to smell the roses.


Dear Esther

Walk along a beautiful deserted island with no enemies or anyone else--only the words of the narrator to you company. Curiosity and love of narrative drive the game forward.


Gone Home

You come home on a stormy night after being abroad for a year and no one is home. Piece together letters, memos, and pieces of your sister’s diary to find out what’s happened.


Ether One

You can walk right through this entire game and not do a single thing — just observe. Experience the story as a casual observer or test your wits against the game’s optional puzzles.


The Stanley Parable

Escape the 9-to-5 corporate job by winding your way through office halls, deciding whether to take the road planned for you from the beginning or a more unconventional route.



Journey toward a light that sits at the top of a mountain. As you make your way across the ancient ruins of a prosperous world, journey with an anonymous player perhaps even building a relationship through this three-hour game.



The massively popular game  allow players to build a digital replica of your house, down to the plumbing and light switches, and relocate the Arc de Triumph to the backyard. In Minecraft, you create the world you want to live in.



This game offers mind-bending gameplay that works your puzzle-solving skills and memories of eighth-grade physics, so much so that the sequel, Portal 2, is popular with K-12 physics teachers as a teaching tool.


Animal Crossing

Move into town a populated by anthropomorphic raccoons, penguins, and goats and a constantly changing world with plenty of hidden surprises to find. Critics have praised the simplicity and addictiveness of the game, even the parts that are essentially chores.


This game allows you to rewind time and redo actions, even if your character dies. You face difficult challenges and must collect pieces of different puzzles that will eventually explain the main character's affecting backstory and motivations.