A man with a gray beard

There is a common misconception that all videogames are inherently violent. This simply isn’t true. Just like books or television, there are some games that are violent for the sake of violence, others may be art with violent elements, yet others are outright manifestos stressing the power of community.

Like other capitalist ventures, mainstream video game companies are primarily concerned with what sells. Unfortunately, violent games make bank. Thus, Big Video Game puts tremendous energy into gore and death. However, indie games, like indie films, are typically produced outside of the main stream video game industry. As a result, there are some incredibly artful Indie games that challenge our assumptions of what gaming can be.    

The remainder of this article is dedicated to suggesting games for people who prefer less violent entertainment. These games are a few years old and are available on the Steam Network. In the world of videogames, old = cheap. And, honestly, the point of most Indie Games are innovative game play and story, not spectacular graphics, so the newest games are not inherently the best.  

Stardew Valley

Stardew Valley is a farming simulator (unlike Farmville, which wasn’t a videogame, it was a pyramid scheme.) If you are not familiar with that genre, it is exactly what it sounds like, you are planning out and taking care of a farm. You can have chickens, you can have cows, you can watch the corn grow. The whole farm experience without the smell of chicken poop.

Stardew Valley is about community. The game features seasonal community festivals. At those festivals, you can make friends and form relationships. You can get married, and your marriage doesn’t have to be heteronormative!

To be fair, a significant part of Stardew valley takes place in a mine where you fight with a sword, so it is not strictly non-violent. However, these monsters are clearly not humans, and most of them look like multi-colored boogers. Certainly a far stretch away from Grand Theft Auto. 

Stardew Valley is truly casual. You can put it down and come back to it months later; this isn’t always an option in so called “causal” gaming. You won’t get worse at it, because the game is as easy as you want it to be. And time is not a factor. Of the three games suggested, Stardew Valley is by far the least stressful.

Sol 0: Mars Colonization

In much the same vein as Stardew Valley, Sol 0 is a Mars Colonization simulator. There is dramatically more science in this one; if I were a slacking high school science teacher, I would just assign this game and tell students to write a 500 -word essay.

The game starts with your landing on Mars. There is no food, there is no water, there is no oxygen. You CAN start off trying to send humans in your first voyage, but they will almost certainly die. The best strategy is to start off with a robot who can scout the terrain and start with basic tasks, like stock piling oxygen and water. When you are ready to start building, you bring in humans to do that work.

Your supplies from Earth are limited by the weight constraints of the vessels. Additionally, you are limited to launch once per 180 sols/days. This can make the last couple of sols before launch very hungry if your grow operation is less than optimal. In a way, Sol 0 is much like Stardew. However, you have to grow your oxygen and your food too. If you don’t, you and everyone with you will die (You can’t die in Stardew.)

This War of Mine

The final game is certainly the bleakest of this list. This War of Mine explores what happens to the non-combatants in a war. You almost never see soldiers, you don’t have access to active war zones, and your worst enemy is the weather. Think, “The Sims” in a war-torn city.

Defending yourself is part of the game and does involve finding weapons. However, combat in this game does not glorify violence. In fact, if you want to win (i.e., survive) avoiding violence is your best bet. I have played this game quite a bit, and every time my strategy involved getting in situations with shooting, I have lost.  (Because getting shot in a place with no hospitals does tend to kill you…)

Jeremy teaches sociology and is on the Board of the Columbus Institute for Contemporary Journalism. In Summer 2020, he will be teaching a course on Environmental Justice at OSU Marion that will focus on applying solarpunk thinking to societal issues created by Climate Change. More information about his projects can be found at www.sociology.pizza  

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