Introduce me to computer games for my kid
April 19, 2017 2:36 PM   Subscribe

My six year old LOVES video games. I have extremely limited experience with them. I need some kind of introductory understanding. We have a desktop computer running Linux Mint and no real interest in owning a gaming console (like XBOX or whatever kids today use). Please help me help him.

At home, we play Minecraft. OH BOY DO WE. Parents & kids both. My 6yo son plays browser-based games, like the ones on PBS Kids. He plays some games that I think might come from Steam? at a friend's house -- Lovers in a Dangerous Spacetime; Ibb and Obb. He loves Pokémon Go and would love to play other Pokémon-inspired games. He's enjoyed Dragonbox.

My own experience with video games is limited to Minecraft and original Nintendo games -- Mario, Tetris, Zelda, Mega Man. And, like, Rock Band and the first Wii games from 10 years ago. I don't know where to find good computer games for my kid, or what tools we might need to play them -- do we need a USB controller?

Our available tools are mostly listed above -- he primarily uses the desktop. I have a 5yo MacBook Air and we have an original iPad, which is really only functional as a Netflix machine.

Can you point me at...I don't know, a guide to video games? Or to a specific place I should look for good games for my kid? What about handheld gaming devices? I don't really even know where to start with this!
posted by linettasky to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
If you install Steam on Linux Mint you have these games to choose from. I recommend Portal.
posted by dgeiser13 at 3:10 PM on April 19, 2017

Seconding Portal.
posted by Wild_Eep at 3:12 PM on April 19, 2017

Games are not a monolithic whole; imagine you'd asked the same question about books or movies. Some are objectively good or bad. Some games may be divisive (love it or hate it). Some may be good for an adult, but not something a 6yo is ready to process (e.g., Spec Ops: The Line, or arguably Portal).

The "Extra Credits" series on YouTube is a good intro to design for the layman. If you want to know about a specific title, look for a "Let's Play" video of that game.

Other than that, play lots of games with people who you like, and who play lots of games.
posted by sourcequench at 3:32 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Ah, Linux is tough- even Mac is tough, Windows is the de facto operating system for playing games.

I think a Nintendo 3DS would probably be the best bet for someone around that age if you're looking to get a piece of hardware. Honestly, Mario and Zelda and all those others you listed are still very popular, so you could start there (maybe with the modern iterations, although my brother (9yo) has played the classics and loved them). Computer and most console gaming, on the other hand, skews older and competitive.

Steam has pretty much all the games worth playing on desktop. You wouldn't need a controller for most of them (I've never needed one and I play a lot of games), although in some cases it is recommended.

Since neither he (nor you) have much experience I'd suggest trying to vary genres: platformers, puzzle, adventure, RPG (could be tough, as a genre it skews more mature on desktop) would be some to try off the top of my head. He's too young for FPSes and competitive gaming for now (and they tend to require more specialized hardware).

Eurogamer is my go-to for solid games recommendations. Here are their guides to the best games on the 3DS and PC. I also really like RockPaperShotgun's Games for Humanity list which contains an incredibly diverse list of great games. You're going to want to do your research on any games listed beforehand for appropriateness for a 6 year old.

Your son might be slightly too young for Portal actually (not in terms of inappropriateness, but difficulty + more complex humor), but it's a solid game that's worth trying.

The best person to ask is actually probably your own kid- his friends are probably recommending things to him.

Oh, one last thing- there's also some good stuff on mobile gaming, too, especially if you have an iPhone. I'm less familiar with it tbh but Metamorphabet and Monument Valley are solid bets.
posted by perplexion at 3:34 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, here's part two of that games for humanity list. And after reading through the Eurogamer PC list, while I can confirm all the games there are great pretty much none are appropriate for six year olds unfortunately. Looking through my steam library, Bastion (has violence), Brothers (major character death), Fez, Grim Fandango (maybe a bit complex), Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes (stick to the easy levels) are some possibilities for that age.
posted by perplexion at 3:41 PM on April 19, 2017

Oh man, one last thing sorry, my brother would absolutely beg me to let him play Scribblenauts when he was younger. It's incredibly fun and probably the recommendation I'm most confident about from what I've listed- no six year old (or anyone older tbh) can resist the magic of typing something in and having it appear. Not on Linux, though.

Also, Undertale, which is on Linux, is a very sweet JRPG that really blew up a while back. Might be a bit tough for your kid though (very reflex-based).
posted by perplexion at 3:54 PM on April 19, 2017

Portal? Undertale? For a 6 year old?

I'd recommend some kind of Nintendo Mario Kart type driving game.
posted by jeff-o-matic at 4:15 PM on April 19, 2017 [2 favorites]

Your son wants to play Terraria, which is very much like a 2D version of Minecraft. It's available on Steam for Linux.
posted by waffleriot at 4:54 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

Also, I didn't see the bit about your interest in handheld consoles right away. I would consider getting your son a Nintendo 2DS, which is a handheld designed to be a little cheaper and more sturdily built than the ones Nintendo makes for older audiences. It's got an excellent library of games available for young kids. Pokemon, Zelda and Mario are classics for all ages; the Harvest Moon and Animal Crossing series are also great and almost entirely nonviolent.
posted by waffleriot at 5:03 PM on April 19, 2017 [1 favorite]

For about $30, from Amazon, you can get a Nintendo DS. That, with a couple of Pokemon games will be the best value for money you will ever get in your life. My kids played theirs every day for years. It'll be the best investment you ever make. They're incredibly rugged and your kid will carry it everywhere. Over the course of 5 years or so, when my snappers were younger, they got through a couple each (due to accidents and whatnot) but even at the much higher original price they were still fantastic value for money.

(Don't bother with the 2DS or 3DS, they're just a gimmick.)
posted by veedubya at 9:08 PM on April 19, 2017

Seconding Monument Valley, my 5yo nephew loves that game - as do the rest of us, it's fun for all ages. Unfortunately it won't work on an original iPad, but if you ever get a newer model or an android device, check it out for sure.

Otherwise, yeah, Steam is about your best bet for Linux games, though there are some good ones in the repositories, too. Check out Emilia Pinball, Liquid War, SuperTux 2, SuperTuxCart, Burger Space, and Pingus. Emilia is a great pinball game but only has one working table, called Tux, and note that you have to load the table from the main menu before you can play, it's not obvious. But it is a great table and probably my nephews' favorite Linux game. Liquid war is kinda hard to explain and the menus are a little confusing, but it's very simple to play and lots of fun for one or several players on one computer. SuperTux 2 and SuperTuxCart are a Mario-esque side scroller and kart racer, respectively, and Burger Space and Pingus are pretty nice knockoffs of Burger Time and Lemmings. Those should all be available in the Mint software manager.
posted by MoTLD at 11:17 PM on April 19, 2017

How about building a retro gaming console with a Raspberry Pi? There are plenty of instructions on the web (here is one) and it'll cost you about $100.

Would be a fun project to do together and, afterwards, you can take him on a tour of the games of your childhood.
posted by mr_silver at 2:51 AM on April 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

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