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Nurture
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In a world of technology, it’s easy to become disconnected or forgetful of the people we live with and the places we live in. Video games can be a part of this dislocation as screen time diminishes engagement with the real world. But they can also offer ways to reconnect with those around us and find a fresh (helpfully disruptive) perspective on our neighbourhoods.

This list has been created with the help of Cormac Russell, Managing Director of Nurture Development. For 25 years Cormac has helped communities, agencies and governments solve urban and rural development problems not by focusing on the deficiencies of neighbourhoods, towns, and villages but by understanding that people, their families and communities, have unique competencies in building community. As Cormac puts it. “Communities can’t know what they need from outside sources until they know what they have themselves internally. And we get this the wrong way round.”

The video games here offer a range of experiences that reshape and challenge our thinking in this direction:

  • Reimagine Space: Games like Eco and Terra Nil underline our relationship with the land. Not that we need to minimise harm, but that we need to understand our presence and impact so we can balance benefits ecologically.
  • Reimagine Community: Games like One Hour One Life invite us to contribute to a community for the benefit of future players. Others, like Pilgrims, invite us to understand the interrelated needs of a small community and then use their existing resources to meet these needs. Then there are games like Thousand Threads and Fable that shine a light on inter-related tensions in groups, where helping one person may negatively impact another.
  • Community Memory: Games like Heaven’s Vault, Treasures of the Aegean and Deep Time Walk illustrate the power of community memory and tradition, and how these things are lost (and recovered) through language.
  • Community Planning: Games like Mini Metro, Townscaper or Conduct Together put us in the role of planning transportation and provision as opposed to experts. Then there are games like Buildings Have Feelings Too, that disrupt the usual remote dispassionate planning of the lived environment by giving voice to it. Or games like Everything, that invite us to physically inhabit space in a massive range of bodies – from pollen to mountains, antelope to power pylons.

Another interesting voice on the intersection between play and place is Benjamin Stokes. His book, Locally Played, encourages us to “collaborate in the creation, deployment, and study of playful ways to build local connection and restore a critical sense of vitality and even possibility to our civic lives.”
 
This list includes 67 games from the last 20 years, with 1,695 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to rediscover community.

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Animal Crossing: New Horizons

Release Date: 25/04/2020

Out Now: Switch

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World, Persistant World and Weather

Animal Crossing: New Horizons is a role-play collecting game where you live on a small island teeming with life. Insects, fish, trees, vegetation and fossils are represented with cute cartoon visuals. Rather than the scale or grandeur of other game...

Stardew Valley

Release Date: 26/02/2016, updated in 2018

Out Now: Amazon Fire, Android, Mac, PC, PS Vita, PS4, Switch, Xbox One and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid, Open World and Pixels

Stardew Valley looks like a farming simulator. That’s partly what it is, but you also develop relationships with the other townsfolk and delve deep into the mines. Its quirky labyrinthine attention to detail is inviting for young players to try their...

Townscaper

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

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch, Web, Xbox One, Xbox X|S and iOS

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Hand-Made

Townscaper is a creative town-building game where 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.

Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon, Day and Night and Open World

Mythwrecked: Ambrosia Island is a friend-making adventure game where you help the Greek gods remember their past and unravel a mysterious curse. As you explore the tropical island, you encounter rare treasures and interact with the gods, helping to...

Everything

Release Date: 21/03/2017, updated in 2019

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 3+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Everything is an unusual game that simulates a world where you can become any object. It sounds strange and not much fun, but the enjoyment is in discovering how small or how big a thing you can become. From tiny atoms to whole planets and everything in...

Fable (Series)

Release Date: 14/09/2004

Out Now: Mac, PC, Xbox, Xbox 360 and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night and Open World

Fable 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.

Conduct Together

Release Date: 06/12/2018

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Cartoon

Conduct Together is a strategy game where you control toy trains along overlapping train tracks. Each train can be started and stopped with a specific button. Other buttons change different points. The aim is to transport people from one station to the...

Mini Metro

Release Date: 06/01/2015

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC, PS4, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Grid

Mini Metro is a sequencing strategy game where you create an ordered, efficient underground train system. It sounds like hard work, but the simple Tube-map visuals, calm music, and streamlined interactions make this relaxing, like sudoku. Dip your toe...

Wood and Weather

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC

Components: 3D Third-Person, Day and Night, Hand-Made, Open World and Weather

Wood and Weather is a simulation game where you play god in a wooden toy city. You interact with the world using your floating blue hand to change switches and control the weather. It's an intriguing game that offers all manner of ways to play but...

Terra Nil

Release Date: 28/03/2023

Out Now: Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Open World

Terra Nil is a strategy game where you use clean technology to bring back life to a barren world. It's a city-building game where you aren't building a city at all, but a clean thriving ecology. It raises interesting themes of how humanity plays an...

Pilgrims

Release Date: 07/10/2019, updated in 2022

Out Now: Apple TV, Mac, PC, Switch and iOS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Cards, Cartoon and Hand-Made

Pilgrims is an adventure game where you collect cards to help the characters you meet. As you progress you assist them to complete their little stories by offering the right cards to the right people. It's a little like Scribblenauts but with less focus...

Orchids to Dusk

Release Date: 03/12/2015

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 13+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Open World

Orchids to Dusk is a short wandering adventure. You are an astronaut stranded on an alien planet, with only a few minutes of oxygen. You explore the world and discover fantastic gardens on the planet.

Station To Station

Release Date: 03/10/2023

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Blocks and Pixels

Station to Station is a railway-building puzzle game about connecting commerce and community to create a beautiful rail network. Play is about making connections between buildings to move materials and people around the world efficiently. It stands out...

Sword of the Sea

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC and PS5

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person and Cartoon

Sword of the Sea is a traversal game where you are a Wraith resurrected to restore life to a desolate world. Play involves exploring submerged ruins to discover the cultures that built them. It stands out for the flowing movement and beautiful vistas...

Loddlenaut

Release Date: 16/11/2023

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon and Open World

Loddlenaut is an ecological adventure where you are sent to clean up a polluted ocean planet. You explore the sea, cleaning up waste products and repurposing marine debris while taking care of friendly alien creatures. It stands out for its laid-back...

Rootown

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

Rootown is a traversal strategy game where you guide tree roots down through the soil. You play by planting a tree and then steering its roots to find good soil and avoid stones. The better you do the bigger the tree and the more resources you have to...

Animal Crossing: New Leaf

Release Date: 08/11/2012, updated in 2016

Out Now: 3DS and 2DS

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World, Persistant World and Weather

Animal Crossing: New Leaf is a life simulation game where you design your dream village in a world filled with anthropomorphic animals. Like other Animal Crossing games, you design and decorate your home, collect and sell items, chat and play with...

Heaven's Vault

Release Date: 16/04/2019

Out Now: PC, PS4 and Switch

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Heaven's Vault is a communication adventure game you play an archaeologist translating an ancient alien language whose decrypting weaves through an unfolding drama. While doing real linguistic work you interact with companions and locals. Your choices...

The Excavation of Hob's Barrow

Release Date: 28/09/2022, updated in 2023

Out Now: Mac, PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 14+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Pixels

The Excavation of Hob's Barrow is a point-and-click horror adventure where you unravel a dark mystery in the Yorkshire moors. You investigate locations for clues, talk to the strangely hostile locals, and solve puzzles to gain their favour. It stands...

One Hour One Life

Release Date: 27/02/2018

Out Now: Android, Mac, PC and iOS

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made, Open World and Persistant World

One Hour One Life is a civilisation survival game where each player lives a whole life in an hour of play and then passes away. Born as a baby into the care of anonymous other online players, you initially depend on them for food. Quickly growing, you...

Thousand Threads

Release Date: 30/07/2020

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Hand-Made and Open World

Thousand Threads is an open-world game of consequences. You are free to interact with the world, animals and people however you like, give, take, save, kill, inform, hide, befriend, and betray. But how you do this will have ongoing and unavoidable...

Animal Crossing: Wild World

Release Date: 23/11/2005, updated in 2016

Out Now: DS and Wii U

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Day and Night, Open World, Persistant World and Weather

Animal Crossing: Wild World is a quirky life simulation game where you live in a small village and build your dream home. You develop relationships with the animal townsfolk, collect fossils, fish and insects and build a home to help the village grow...

Eco

Release Date: 06/02/2018

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 3D First-Person, Blocks, Day and Night and Open World

Eco extends the resource-collecting and building of Minecraft by introducing environmental implications to your actions. Using resources like trees will erode the soil; mining might pollute the river; and each animal depends on another.

Disney Dreamlight Valley

Release Date: 06/09/2022, updated in 2023

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person

Disney Dreamlight Valley is a world building game about restoring a broken Disney world. You interact with famous Disney Characters and decorate the valley with a wide variety of items and famous locations. Like a cross between [link to...

Buildings Have Feelings Too

Release Date: 22/04/2021

Out Now: PC, PS4, Switch and Xbox One

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Hand-Made and Open World

Buildings Have Feelings Too is set in a city where buildings can walk and talk. Not only that, but each has aspirations, hopes and fears. Your job is to create a city that works for all the buildings, a task that will see your city planning pulled in...

Parkasaurus

Release Date: 13/08/2020, updated in 2022

Out Now: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid and Weather

Parkasaurus is a strategy simulation game where you create a dinosaur park for people to visit. You need to construct well-designed exhibits, research specialised technology and maximize profits so you can expand with more dinosaurs. It combines pet...

Potion Permit

Release Date: 22/09/2022

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid and Pixels

Potion Permit is an adventure game about a chemist working to help village inhabitants get better from various ailments. You explore the world for ingredients and craft medicine by completing puzzles and mini-games. It stands out for the tension it...

Mail Time

Release Date: 27/04/2023

Out Now: Mac, PC, PS4, PS5 and Switch

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 3D Third-Person, Cartoon and Open World

Mail Time is a running and jumping adventure where you play a novice Mail Scout on their first delivery. With only a name to identify the recipient, you explore the wild Grumblewood Grove, helping the animal inhabitants in exchange for clues. While the...

Dépanneur Nocturne

Release Date: 26/05/2020

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 10+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On

Dépanneur Nocturne (which means Nighttime Convenience Store) is a short narrative adventure about the value of conversation and local shops. You explore a store late at night, to find a gift for your partner. What unfolds is a gentle search-and-suggest...

Before We Leave

Release Date: 08/05/2020

Out Now: Mac, PC, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 12+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Day and Night, Grid, Open World and Weather

Before We Leave is a city building simulation and strategy game. Humanity has been living in bunkers after a great calamity, and are emerging to start a new life by building farms, industry and trade routes throughout the solar system. It's an unusual...

Fae Farm

Release Date: 08/09/2023

Out Now: PC and Switch

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Cartoon

Fae Farm is a simulation game where you build a farmstead, harvest your crops, and go adventuring. It's an increasingly common set-up for a game. Here though, you use magical spells to grow your plants, defeat enemies and interact with a varied cast of...

Foundation

Release Date: 01/02/2019, updated in 2021

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 8+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead

Foundation is a city-building simulation game where you create networks of supply and consumption in a medieval village. You not only develop structures, gather resources and create your own unique settlement, but also manage the individual needs of...

Beacon Pines

Release Date: 22/09/2022

Out Now: PC, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 7+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On and Hand-Made

Beacon Pines is a storybook adventure game where you play as a small fawn named Luka trying to solve a mystery in a creepy town full of intrigue. You play by collecting words that change the story, so you can go back through the book to play out...

Revenant Hill

Release Date: Coming soon

Coming Soon: PC, PS4 and PS5

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Revenant Hill is a narrative adventure set in 1919 where you play a cat called Twigs where animals and people lead lives next to each other. Play involves making connections and earning friendships from interactions, social deduction and some light...

Roadwarden

Release Date: 12/09/2022

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 9+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Pixels and Text

Roadwarden is a narrative text-adventure where you work as a sheriff trying to keep the peace (and trade) on the central roads of their community. What you do is similar to other adventure games (explore a dark fantasy world, interact with locals) but...

Lost Nova

Release Date: 11/05/2022

Out Now: PC

Skill Rating: 6+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Hand-Made and Open World

Lost Nova is an adventure game where you explore an alien planet searching for resources to fix your spaceship. With no enemies or time limits, you take your time interacting with the local sentient vegetables, completing side missions, and exploring...

Seabeard

Release Date: 12/05/2015, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android and iOS

Skill Rating: 5+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead, Cartoon, Day and Night and Weather

Seabeard is a simple adventure game where you follow in the footsteps of the great sea captain to explore and civilise. Play involves working on each island, tapping to move around, collecting items, talking to locals and developing your economy. It's...

Steamworld Build

Release Date: 01/12/2023

Out Now: PC, PS4, PS5, Switch, Xbox One and Xbox X|S

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Overhead and Grid

Steamworld Build is a strategy simulation game where you build and manage a city and underground mine with monsters lurking in the deep. You place buildings, fortify defences, lay roads and then direct civilians to do jobs above ground and in the mines...

Oxygen Not Included

Release Date: 30/07/2019

Out Now: Mac and PC

Skill Rating: 11+ year-olds

Components: 2D Side-On, Day and Night and Pixels

Oxygen Not Included is a creative strategy game where you build an underground colony for survivors of a spaceship crash-landing. You need to manage everything, placement and planning for oxygen distribution, energy, plumbing and living arrangements. It...

The Simpsons: Tapped Out

Release Date: 29/02/2012, updated in 2022

Out Now: Android and iOS

Components: 2D Overhead, Grid and Pixels

The Simpsons: Tapped Out is a city-building game based on the popular and long-running cartoon. After Homer causes the destruction of Springfield, you complete quests to earn money, unlock buildings and characters, and rebuild the town. The free to...

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.

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