Close search results
:
Layout - grid Layout - list

Transgress Intended Play

Video games are a great way for children to play. However, they are also contested spaces often created with profit as well as play in mind. How do we empower children to play, break the rules and self-determination in light of other pressures and owners of these digital spaces?

We worked with Sara Grimes on this list of games that offer new and emergent ways to provide play possibilities to children. Her book, Digital Playgrounds explores the key developments, trends, debates, and controversies that have shaped children’s commercial digital play spaces over the past two decades.

The politics of children’s play aren’t something we often talk about. This is more than decrying big business muscling in on childhood. It’s about understanding digital play in a holistic sense so it can be all it needs to be in the life of a child. Sara describes this as an embrace of the complexity of children’s online playgrounds, virtual worlds, and connected games.

It comes down to something at the heart of our database: seeing games more than mere sources of fun and diversion. “Games serve as the sites of complex negotiations of power between children, parents, developers, politicians, and other actors with a stake in determining what, how, and where children’s play unfolds.”

We’re excited about games in this list as they are not only digital spaces where these things meet, but that children use them in ways they weren’t intended. These games can be places where children push back at the powers-that-be and take ownership of these digital public spheres in unexpected ways.

  • Metaverse rule making and breaking in games like Roblox and Fortnite, where the context offers more than competition. Children often invent their own rules and ways to play not instigated by the developer.
  • Citizenship their own way in games like Alba, Cozy Grove or Unpacking where children have agency to influence and contribute (or not) to public spaces. Then there's games like and Please Touch The Artwork and Sloppy Forgeries that invite usually discouraged behaviour.
  • Undirected play can lead to unintended scenarios in games like Pok Pok Playroom, Kids, A Short Hike or Townscaper where play isn’t directed or capitalised upon, but left alone to be an end in its own right.
  • Purposeless Exploration in games like , Proteus and Ynglet can be used as a way to waste time, not progress and refuse direction.
  • Misbehave in games like Untitled Goose Game, Donut County, Carrion, Fable, Scribblenauts and Beholder is expected. But how children stretch and reinvent (or refuse to partake in) this usually frowned on behaviour opens unexpected possibilities.

The Let's Game It Out YouTube channel is a great example of games you can play in ways (very) unexpected by the developers. These aren't all child friendly, but are fascinating examples of play transgressing intended rules.

This list includes 45 games from the last 18 years, with 2,159 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to subvert developer's intentions.

DetailsList Details

PEGI Ratings: PEGI 3 to PEGI 18
ESRB Ratings: ESRB EVERYONE to ESRB MATURE 17+
Australian Ratings: G to R 18+
Genres: Action, Adventure, Brain Game, Collecting, Creative, Fighting, Narrative, Open World, Platform, Point-and-Click, Puzzle, Race, Role-Play, Sequencing, Shooting, Simulation, Sports, Stealth, Strategy and Traversal
Total Likes: 2,159
 

 

Apico

Release Date: 20/05/2022, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Apico is a simulation game where you play a beekeeper and conservationist. You explore environments, breed rare bees and release them into the wild, while growing your business. There are no enemies, time constraints or set objectives so you can focus...

Balan Wonderworld

Release Date: 26/03/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Balan Wonderworld is a running, jumping and exploration game. It draws on classic 3D platform games, but with simpler controls and a more laid back challenge. Like Mario Odyssey, much of the gameplay revolves around getting temporary abilities (here it...

Proteus

Release Date: 30/01/2013

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and PS3

Skill Rating: 4+ year-olds

This game takes you to a pixelated island. As you explore you discover that your presence changes the seasons and time of day. Delving deeper, there are rudimentary interactions with the creatures that inhabit the land, and rain clouds that blow in from...

Graveyard Keeper

Release Date: 15/08/2018

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Graveyard Keeper is a funeral-themed role-playing game where you are the caretaker of a local cemetery. You make choices about how to lay out the plot, what services to offer and generally how to make money from your unusual enterprise. The pixilated...

Flower

Release Date: 12/02/2009

Platforms: PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4 and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Control the breeze blowing across fields of grass and blow petals into other flowers to make them bloom. Flower is simple and single-purpose in evoking the feeling of the wind. What starts as an awkward struggle to control the breeze soon turns into a...

Fable (Series)

Release Date: 14/09/2004

Platforms: Mac, PC, Xbox, Xbox 360, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

This is an adventure role-playing game set in a fantasy world where your interactions with the world and villagers, and decisions about your use of magical power, substantially alter the story and the environment.

Sea of Thieves

Release Date: 20/03/2018

Platforms: PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Sea of Thieves is an online game where you are a pirate searching for treasure and adventure. Cast into a large open sea you work with other online players to crew your ship and find treasure. The game has a main story but really focuses on creating...

Unpacking

Release Date: 02/11/2021

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Unpacking is a meditative puzzle game where you unpack belongings into a series of either spaces, each representing a stage in life. You get to know the owner of the objects by their possessions and circumstances. To finish a level you need to work out...

Say No More

Release Date: 09/04/2021

Platforms: PC, Switch and iOS

Say No More is an adventure game where you learn to say "no". You play as an intern at a new job putting up with colleagues being unpleasant. The twist is that in this world it's illegal to say "no". Eventually pushed to your limit, you discover the...

Kids

Release Date: 31/05/2019

Platforms: iOS

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

Kids is an unusual game where you tap to interact with groups of monochrome cartoon children. Seeing the little kids run around and respond to each other creates a playful and intriguing game that only lasts half an hour but will be played many times.

Papers, Please

Release Date: 08/08/2013, updated in 2017

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS Vita and iOS

You play the role of a border-crossing immigration officer in the fictional dystopian Eastern Bloc-like country of Arstotzka. You review each immigrant’s and returning citizens’ passports and paperwork according to an increasing list of changing...

Carrion

Release Date: 23/07/2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, Switch and Xbox One

Carrion is a horror game where you play the amorphous alien as well as human protagonists. This reverse-horror scenario puts you in control of an organic tentacled monster to make your way through the facility, stalking and killing humans in your path.

Among Us

Release Date: 16/11/2018, updated in 2020

Platforms: Android, PC, Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Among Us is a strategy game where crew-mates prepare their space ship for launch by completing tasks. However, one of the players is an impostor intent on sabotaging the ship and killing the crew. As the game progresses in real time the impostor...

Sneaky Sasquatch

Release Date: 30/07/2019, updated in 2021

Platforms: Mac and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Sneaky Sasquatch is an adventure game where you sneak around in campsites and try to find food from coolers and picnic baskets without getting caught. There's a large variety of things to do. For example you can race, play golf, ski, find buried...

Toca Life: World (Series)

Release Date: 01/01/2019

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

The Toca Boca, Toca Life, series of games comprise what are essentially toys in electronic form. They build on the Sago Mini games for 6-10-year-old children. Recreating interactive everyday settings like shopping, hospital,...

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

Release Date: 11/12/2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iPhone, iPad

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure is an adventure game where you play as a young girl who starts a wildlife conservation club. When Alba visits her grandparents on a Mediterranean island, she is excited for a summer of exploring with her friend Ines. But when...

Townscaper

Release Date: 30/06/2020, updated in 2021

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Web, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Townscaper is a town building toy. You pick colours from the range available and click to put down a house in the sea. As you continue to add houses of different colours the game automatically orientates the architecture for you.

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator

Release Date: 01/04/2019

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Totally Accurate Battle Simulator (know as TABS) is a fighting game where you choose different armies and troops to battle each other in an automatic simulation that models their offensive and defensive abilities. Once setup, the fight is largely...

Don't Starve

Release Date: 23/04/2013, updated in 2017

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS3, PS4, Switch, Wii U, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Don't Starve is an open-world survival game. Here it’s the environment and enemies, rather than other players, that you work with. You need to find and develop food, weapons and shelter to survive. It’s enjoyable because it’s hard, so repeat-plays...

Sago Mini (Series)

Release Date: 09/06/2017

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

Sago Mini games are designed for 3-5 year old pre-school children. Like Toca Boca games for younger kids, they offer interactive storybook characters with light narratives and open-ended play. Superheroes, space explorers, boat...

Cozy Grove

Release Date: 19/03/2021

Platforms: PC, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iPhone, iPad

Cosy Grove is a life-simulation where you camp on a hand-drawn island. You play a scout and explore the ever changing island's forest to find secrets and help the local ghosts. Like Animal Crossing, it has a children's story-book look, but is a...

Grounded

Release Date: 28/07/2020, updated in 2022

Platforms: PC, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Grounded is a survival game where you are tiny and find yourself in someone’s back garden. It’s like Honey I Shrunk The Kids meets Fortnite. Ants, cockroaches, and bees pose a threat along with environmental hazards like water, tall grass and large...

Baba is You

Release Date: 13/03/2019

Platforms: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Baba is You requires some lateral thinking. Each level is controlled by rules written on the screen, such as ‘Lava is Hot’, ‘Wall is Stop’ and ‘Flag is Move’. By moving the words around with your pixilated character, you subvert the...

Beholder (Series)

Release Date: 09/11/2016

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Beholder is a detective game where you spy on tenants in a building, discover their secrets and report violations of laws to the authorities. As the game unfolds and you see more of the controlling totalitarian state, an uneasy tension develops between...

The Stanley Parable

Release Date: 31/07/2011, updated in 2022

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox Series X|S

The Stanley Parable is an interactive drama with no combat or action to speak of apart from walking around and interacting with everyday objects. You guide a silent protagonist, Stanley, while discouraging narration plays in your ear. As you discover...

Scribblenauts (Series)

Release Date: 15/09/2009

Platforms: 3DS and 2DS, Amazon Fire, Android, DS, PC, PS4, Switch, Wii U, Xbox One and iOS

Scribblenauts is a series of puzzle games where you solve by typing the names of everyday objects so they appear in the game and let you progress. What's surprising is the sheer number of items included in the game. This means you can solve problems in...

Hypnospace Outlaw

Release Date: 12/04/2019, updated in 2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Hypnospace Outlaw is a puzzle game where you explore a simulation of the internet in the 1990s. Your role is to enforce good behaviour by finding misconduct on the pixelated pages. It's not only a unique piece of historical fiction but because its web...

Work At A Pizza Place (Roblox)

Release Date: 28/03/2008, updated in 2021

Platforms: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Work At A Pizza Place is a strategy game where you take on the role of a team member in a pizza restaurant. When you start you choose a role and work with other online players to fulfil orders, cook pizzas, manage stock and other aspects of the business.

Please, Touch The Artwork

Release Date: 26/01/2022

Platforms: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Please, Touch The Artwork is a puzzle game that tells a story with real abstract paintings. Unconventionally it asks, what would happen if we did touch the artwork in museums? The answer is revealed over three stories each focusing on a different...

Wobbledogs

Release Date: 11/03/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Wobbledogs is a pet simulation where your dogs not only need care but are rapidly mutating different behaviour and appetites. You breed new dogs (from eggs), create and decorate a home for them, feed them and see how they evolve.

Pok Pok Playroom

Release Date: 20/05/2021

Platforms: iOS

Skill Rating: 2+ year-olds

Pok Pok Playroom is a storybook game, filled with interactive digital toys for children to discover and explore as they scroll through a series of settings. It's for children 2-6 years-old and offers open-ended play where the focus isn't on right and...

Rain on Your Parade

Release Date: 15/04/2021

Platforms: PC, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Rain on Your Parade is a slapstick puzzle game where you play a mischievous cloud ruining everybody’s day. "You are a cloud jerk," says the trailer. In each of the varied levels you have to work out what it is you need to do to make people's lives a...

Sloppy Forgeries

Release Date: 26/04/2018

Platforms: PC

Sloppy Forgeries is a painting game where you race an opponent at copying a famous art piece as quickly and accurately as possible. You win by having the largest percentage of paint in the correct areas. The game randomly selects a painting to copy and...

Sunless Sea

Release Date: 06/02/2015, updated in 2020

Platforms: Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Sunless Sea is a sea-faring adventure where you pilot a small steamship to explore a Victorian-era London that has been moved beneath the earth's surface. You take on the role of captain but select different ambitions that determine how you will play.

Kenshi

Release Date: 06/12/2018

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 15+ year-olds

Kenshi is a single player role-play game where you have complete control over your character and how they live their life. With no central story, it allows you to go anywhere and play however you like, be that as a city dweller who never ventures into...

Sludge Life

Release Date: 28/05/2020, updated in 2021

Platforms: PC and Switch

Sludge Life is an open world adventure where you play as Ghost, a graffiti artist determined to put his tag all over Sludge City. You play in an adult world full of lived-in locations and intriguing characters. It requires some caution, but beyond the...

Ynglet

Release Date: 05/06/2021

Platforms: PC

Ynglet is an exploration game where you jump between bubbles that float in the sky making sounds as you interact with the doodled environment. Part platform game, part dynamic soundtrack, it's a game designed to let you flow through the world to...

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC and Switch

Bomb Rush Cyberfunk is a city adventure and parkour jumping game. Drawing on Jet Set Radio, you play self-styled crews equipped with personal booster packs and graffiti aspirations. Your aim is to get your tags and art all over each neighbourhood.

Ctrl Alt Ego

Release Date: 22/07/2022

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Ctrl Alt Ego is a puzzle game where you a disembodied character taking control of robots and electronics to move around, interact and solve the puzzles. Using a combination of stealth and problem solving to progress the story and get to the bottom of...

Palworld

Release Date: Coming soon

Platforms: PC

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Palworld is a role-play game where you befriend and collect Pal creatures in a vast open world. It takes the Pokemon formula in a new more violent (gun-touting) and bizarre-capitalist direction as you put your pocket monsters to fight, build, farm, and...

Taming Gaming Book Written by parents for parents, the database complements the in-depth discussion about video game addiction, violence, spending and online safety in the Taming Gaming book. We are an editorially independent, free resource without adverts that is supported by partnerships.

Subscribe to our free newsletter

Subscribe
PlayStation
Carina Initiatives
Xbox
YouTube
Facebook
Twitter
Discord
Contact Us
About