Moving on from Minecraft - Alternatives to Minecraft for Children.
Which Video Games can I use to ease my child out of Minecraft and into something more mature?
Although your child might never stop playing Minecraft (I'm not!) she/he will invariably crave variety and start to look for other games to play. You know where I'm going… eventually, they are gonna wanna shoot stuff (and have more advanced gameplay than Minecraft provides).
So how do you ease your young children into more complicated themes and video game violence? Not an easy question to answer. Here is what I did (rightly or wrongly) and why I did it. You don't need to agree with me, but I have been a hard-core gamer for over 30 years, so hopefully, you will find something here to use when your kids get to this stage. These are some ideas for when your children a ready to move on from Minecraft.
Don't insult their intelligence:
My kids are smart, I suspect your kids are too. Kids just are. Every one of them in different ways and I have always found that although you can pull the wool over their eyes due to their inexperience in life, you have to be wary not to manipulate them. Lies and deceit will inevitably be found out and it destroys trust. So when my son at 8 years old started to want something more than Minecraft and began to be interested in first person shooters, I decided to give him just that, with a couple of rules.
First, I talked to them about games and how they are made. Every game is an interactive program designed to be challenging and entertaining. At their most basic, they simply show images on the screen and allow us to interact with them. I taught my kids what a 3D object is and showed them screenshots low-quality 3D games so they could clearly understand what was a 3D world was. I taught them to understand video games are not real and they do not follow the rules of real life - not the physics of real life and certainly not the social rules of real life.
Define your own criteria for age restriction:
The next step for me was to decide how to choose which games my kids could or couldn't play. It occurred to me that age restrictions were definitely a good place to start, but I noticed that age ratings weren't the be-all and end-all, so I decided to add some modifiers.
They could play older games (especially retro games) where violence was more cartoon like low resolution or at least less realistic. I reasoned that as long as I was talking to him about how games are made, it would be ok to play games in which we could observe sprites and low polygon objects and characters to keep the lines between game a reality very clear. Although I didn't want him to particularly play games like Wolfenstein or Doom (so I wouldn't go out of my way to show these to him), to his eyes games like that had "bad" graphics anyway. I steered my kids away from those kinds of games (for now) and showed them really retro games like berserk on the Atari. He loved the idea as you can see in this video:
Look for games with less realistic violence:
If he absolutely had to shoot things I would prefer robots and aliens over people. A great game therefore for introducing a young person into third person shooters (for example) is Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare (he was already a fan after playing PVZ on the iPad). He also loved Portal and Portal 2. Yes, Portal definitely IS a game with mature concepts and violence (turrets shooting at you) but if the content was too mature it went over his head and he was far too enamored with the puzzles and concepts of passing through portals to focus on the violence. Plant’s vs Zombies Garden warfare is so distanced from real warfare that the kids don't relate the violence to real life, meaning they don see it as killing, more like elimination. It was a good game to use to introduce them to a "shooter".
Talk about games:
I made a deal with my kids that by talking about the games I would allow them to play an increased age rating. Although all he wanted to do was play, he knew that if he wanted to play a more mature game we would have to talk about it first. We talked about how the games were made and also talked about death and war and discussed the rights and wrongs and justifications for war. We also talked about how a video game wasn't at all like a real war and simply provided and playing field for trying to best your opponent (albeit with realistic weapons and graphics). A good example of this is Unreal Tournament 2000. It is in fact quite a violent shooter, but you could turn off the gore and it was old enough that, when compared to newer titles which he played (like PVZ Garden Warfare) it no longer looked real. Although apprehensive at first I soon realised this was just a competition to him, he challenged himself to beat his opponents and had a lot of fun doing it. We also bonded playing Unreal Tournament 2000 multiplayer!
Introduce them to other game types:
Sometimes the best tactic with a child is to distract them from the thing they are obsessing over. When my son caught sight of some first person shooter games on youtube it was all he could talk about. So I showed him some driving games and simulation games like Roller Coaster Tycoon and Sim City and he soon got too busy to think about shooting things. It didn't matter the age of the game. He loves older games as well as new games. He really had lots of fun and learned lots of new concepts and words. Along with driving games, platformers and puzzle games are great too. Any game which keeps him engaged intellectually he enjoys far more than a shooting game, a great example of this is ANY game with a level editor. He didn't care which, as long as he could build his own level, he was happy. Portal 2 was great in this respect because it comes with a level editor and you can build your own portal chambers.
Respect peer pressure and trends:
Although this is not a big thing with him yet, I know there will come a time when he wants to play GTA type games with realistic sex and violence. I am also aware they these game will be cool for him and his friends long before they are old enough to play them. That doesn't mean he won't be mature enough to handle them with the right guidance. Already some of his friends are playing games far beyond their maturity often without parental input (what sort of parent's let their kids do this?). While I'm not going to run out and allow him to play games just because his friends are doing it, I will try to make sure he plays some great fun games that his peers think are cool even if he's a few years under the age group. If I feel he might be the odd one out by not playing a game that's a little outside his age range, then we'll decide together, on a game by game basis making sure any mature concepts get discussed rather than simply saying "no".
Look for other blocky games:
There are plenty of other blocky alternatives to Minecraft with great gameplay that kids will love. They don't have to race in to playing Call of Duty. One that my son has been playing recently is called Unturned. It’s a blocky zombie survival game. The player has to scavenge and survive in a zombie infested world creating and farming to survive. It´s very good and follows the free to play model, so you can go straight to steam and get it free.
A few of my top picks for alternatives to Minecraft but with little violence or at least cartoon/blocky violence:
Yes, Minecraft is a great alternative to Minecraft. Makes no sense? Do you know about the multiplayer minigames you can play on a Minecraft server? Or how to downloading maps made by other players, play with your kids over a local area network (LAN) or install mods. If you’ve done all those things, then maybe you don’t need an alternative to Minecraft, but before your child is completely bored of Minecraft, take a look at all those options. Minecraft is a game for life.
Roblox is AMAZING. Just AMAZING. There is a vast amount of community built levels and games for Roblox which makes it a great game for Kids who have tired of Minecraft. Before you children rush off to play Call of Duty, try any of the amazing 1st person shooters or 3rd person shooters in Rowlocks. There are seriously good shooting games with robots, dinosaurs, armies, and aliens. Roblox has games with everything imaginable, many with sophisticated gameplay that won’t insult a teenager but also that don’t involve swearing or graphic violence. As a parent, I really am grateful for Roblox.
Marble Arena is a great game, completely free, no violence, you simply roll a marble around collecting stars, it’s great for kids and you should get it now. Oh did I forget to mention it has a great level editor based on the Sauerbraten engine? Go and get it now!
Somehow the gameplay of Lego Worlds isn’t as good as Minecraft or Roblox, but this is a solid game with a whole world of things to build and discover. The graphics are good and it was almost obviously designed to be an alternative to Minecraft.
List of Alternatives to Minecraft for Children:
Here is a list of Games you might want to research while looking for alternatives to Minecraft:
- Lego Worlds
- Lego Worlds
- Plants vs Zombies Garden Warfare (does contain cartoon violence)
- Terraria (kind of a 2D Minecraft)
- Unturned (Blocky zombie game with cartoon violence, but kids will love it)
- Sim City (old but gold, kids or all ages love it)
- Roller Coaster Tycoon (a real hit with kids, also old but great fun)
- Spore Creature Creator. (A cheap mini game which allows you to build creates for use in Spore the game, you don’t need the game the creature creator is fun as a stand alone game).
- Scrap Mechanic. A cute game you can build all sorts of contraptions.
- Kerbal Space Program. Not for the youngest, but teenagers will find this a real test of hitter mental skills. The player has to design and build their own rockets and make sure they make it into space, not as easy as it sounds.
- Simple Planes. A little bit easier than Kerbal Space Program and maybe with a broader audience, this game lets you build planes and try and fly them.
- Totally Accurate Battle Simulator. A lot of fun for 10 years and up, has cartoon violence, in fact, it’s all about violence, but the characters a funny rag doll characters and the game is anything but "totally accurate"
- Ravensfield: A game that’s somewhat like Battlefield or Call of Duty except it has two teams of blocky characters (red and blue). There is a lot of cartoon blood in this one, but if you are looking for an alternative to Minecraft that will be a bridge between Minecraft and more graphic first person shooters this is pretty fun.
Please make a comment if you have some other games you think might be good alternatives to Minecraft when a child is ready to move on.
I will always love Minecraft and my children and I continue to play it. But if your kids are growing up and need an alternative to Minecraft hopefully I hope they’ll find something here.