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Games Like Adventure

That video games can be like playgrounds for children is clear from even briefly observing how children move and interact in online play. Hone in on Adventure Playgrounds specifically and there's a deeper match in how children used fixed equipment for imaginative play, made-up games and (sometimes) its intended purposes. Go further to consider their history in Junk Playgrounds and the ongoing role of Playworkers and we are way beyond a qualifying metaphor to a new way of valuing play(-frames) in video games.

Talking about playgrounds and video games in the same breath can seem like a category mistake. The former we are used to feeling good about. The latter, not so much. But if we are to credit children with the ability to direct their own play and respect their choices, then video games are very much front and centre alongside adventure and junk playgrounds.

In a world that often neglects to offer play sufficiency to each child, many children are solving this problem (in part at least) with video games.

A set of Playwork principles (created by the Playwork Principles Scrutiny Group and then ratified by SkillsActive) are a useful guide on how adults might support children to gain the "broadest range of environments and play opportunities" that might guide how we support children's video game play:

  1. All children and young people need to play. The impulse to play is innate. Play is a biological, psychological and social necessity, and is fundamental to the healthy development and well-being of individuals and communities.
  2. Play is a process that is freely chosen, personally directed and intrinsically motivated. That is, children and young people determine and control the content and intent of their play, by following their own instincts, ideas and interests, in their own way for their own reasons.
  3. The prime focus and essence of playwork is to support and facilitate the play process and this should inform the development of play policy, strategy, training and education.
  4. For playworkers, the play process takes precedence and playworkers act as advocates for play when engaging with adult-led agendas.
  5. The role of the playworker is to support all children and young people in the creation of a space in which they can play.
  6. The playworker's response to children and young people playing is based on a sound up-to-date knowledge of the play process and reflective practice.
  7. Playworkers recognise their own impact on the play space and also the impact of children and young people's play on the playworker.
  8. Playworkers choose an intervention style that enables children and young people to extend their play. All playworker interventions must balance risk with the developmental benefit and well-being of children.

Of course, this raises a number of questions. How do you support a child's play when they determine the content and intent of their play is on a screen or online? How do you apply these principles to virtual play rather than physical play? Who and where are the playworkers in this space? Which games offer the best chance for children to be able to freely choose and direct their play?

This list aims to offer some answers to that last question. We have collected together a range of games that offer similar opportunities to those found in junk or adventure playgrounds.
This list includes 52 games from the last 11 years, with 3,356 likes. They come from a range of different genres and play-styles and are all good games if you want to make your own playground adventure. We break them down into the following areas:

Related Lists
We have 13 Digital Play lists of games, like these:

Den Building and Breaking

High Jumps

Loose Parts

Pick Up Where You Left Off

Play with Fire

Zip-Line Around

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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