Action planning games for 8 year old
March 14, 2020 8:13 AM   Subscribe

My 8 year old daughter has a SPD and executive function difficulties. Her occupational therapist recommended "action planning" computer games. None of us play games and all we have is a Windows laptop. Do you have recommendations for games?

She's a storytelling and world building person who gets attached to characters in stories, rather than a a builder or constructor. She might like food or cooking themes. She's not a big fan of puzzles. That's all I've got! Thanks!
posted by Omnomnom to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (16 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Source: SO is a gamer. "My Sims" or "Animal Crossing" might be good and age-appropriate. SO suggests getting on Steam and browsing by "simulation" or "strategy" (maybe) and sort by rating.
posted by Schielisque at 8:38 AM on March 14, 2020

Minecraft can used this way, either as a survival style game (collecting resources and using them judiciously to achieve specific goals) or in the creative world building mode (oppurtunities to build and explore one's imagination which can be augmented by real world planning out on graph paper or Lego). Violence is minimal. It is available for Windows machines.
posted by Ashwagandha at 8:43 AM on March 14, 2020

There are some good recommends over on the blue in this current thread: Here’s a list of games you should play while you’re stuck inside avoiding the coronavirus.
posted by Fizz at 8:45 AM on March 14, 2020

List of games I'd personally recommend:
• Dragon Quest Builder 2
• Minecraft
• Terraria
• Stardew Valley
• Any of the older Final Fantasy games from the NES era are worth finding (consider an emulator if you are comfortable with a little bit of fiddling and some piracy)
• Don't Starve
posted by Fizz at 8:50 AM on March 14, 2020

So this is an interesting question, because for "action planning" my first thought is building/construction/programming. That rules out most survival-type games, the Zachlikes, and a bunch of other stuff.

Schlielisque's suggestion of Animal Crossing is actually pretty good, but you'd need to buy a game console (either 3DS or Switch; probably Switch would be better at this point). For AC, the planning would be around day/night/seasonal activities and would be pretty self-directed (I want to catch this fish, so I have it for Isabelle's party tomorrow, so I need to go down at sunset when that fish bites more, and maybe KC will be down there and I can talk to him at the same time...)

A Switch would open you to a lot of easy game options as well.

If you need to stick with the laptop for now, I think Overcooked is worth a look. It's an action game and there's no real story, but it's certainly action-planning. It can get pretty hard/stressful so I don't know if that's a problem. Bonus is that if you buy a couple of cheap USB controllers, you can play with her, and that could be pretty fun.

Stardew Valley is wildly popular.

My Time At Portia is a possibility. All the promo art shows a male main character but there is pretty good customization available. This is arguably a little more builder-focused but not dramatically moreso than Stardew Valley (or DQ Builders which I see a few have recommended above).

If you're concerned about the laptop not being able to run a game, Steam does full refunds now if you play something for less than 2 hours. So, you could buy something, download it and see if it runs (if there's not a demo available), and then return it if that's a problem. Everything lists minimum/recommended specs, too, and we can help figure that out.
posted by curious nu at 8:53 AM on March 14, 2020 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Yes I'm specifically looking for action planning games, which, as I understand it, involve having a goal and then having to make a plan and organise the steps to reach it.
posted by Omnomnom at 8:55 AM on March 14, 2020

Dragon quest builders 2. It’s like Minecraft with quest and rpg elements. There is a very extensive free demo on steam right now. Plus it’s cute and has a good story and characters.
posted by capnsue at 8:56 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

As I understand the brief, Banished is perfect. It's also maybe the best and most accessible game I've encountered. It's the only game where my wife walked by and asked what I was playing. Then walked by again and sat down and started watching. Then started asking how it all works. Then spending weeks at a time sitting together planning our little village. Nothing even remotely close to that has ever happened.
posted by humboldt32 at 9:01 AM on March 14, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am not positive it is "action planning" but I think it might be: A Boy and his Blob. It is maybe my favorite game my kids ever played.
posted by ReluctantViking at 9:49 AM on March 14, 2020

Minecraft FOR SURE.
posted by nkknkk at 10:44 AM on March 14, 2020

Sims is great if she likes making her own characters and stories. The building part is fun but not necessary. And plus the older versions are good too-- Sims 2 and 3 are still widely played-- and you can probably find a version that will run on your laptop. And it's all about having a goal and taking steps to get it.
posted by Pastor of Muppets at 12:42 PM on March 14, 2020

I don't know if it's exactly up your alley given your child's age and that it's combat based, but with a lot of the games being mentioned being building/community based games, I thought I'd throw out something different, Into the Breach.

The planning part comes from that the enemies come out of the ground and then show you exactly what they're going to do, and you have to figure out on your turn how you're going to use your three mechs to protect the people. You can move one of the enemies so it hits another enemy instead of a building, or move your mech in the way of a projectile, or drop a smoke bomb so it can't attack, etc.
posted by cali59 at 1:03 PM on March 14, 2020

I would recommend Lumino City or Monument Valley.
posted by PurpleNico at 1:10 PM on March 14, 2020

+1 to curious nu's point that the "action planning" thing is somewhat at odds with the "characters in stories, rather than a builder or constructor" thing. The games that are heaviest on action planning tend to be building and constructing types of games (Minecraft, Kerbal Space Program, Bridge Constructor, etc.) rather than character-driven, story-based games. Many great puzzle games (Portal, The Talos Principle, The Witness) are both heavy on action planning and involve fairly rich and interesting stories, but you said no puzzles.

So how about something like Subnautica? I think that might be a good match for your criteria.
posted by Syllepsis at 2:06 PM on March 14, 2020

My kids treat Pokémon games as action planning - building a team to beat a specific opponent or reach a certain goal. But they are also up to date on Pokémon arcana which seems pretty overwhelming to me.
posted by q*ben at 2:39 PM on March 14, 2020

+1 for Dragon Quest Builders 2. My 8 y.o. (with her own sensory & executive function challenges) loves it.

But it seems like everybody plays Minecraft so that may offer additional social benefits.
posted by stowaway at 10:22 PM on March 14, 2020

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