- One of the main attractions of PC gaming is that it uses equipment that you already more than likely have. While higher-end games will require more of an investment in hardware, there are many games that will run perfectly well in a browser.
Scratch - Scratch is a tool that MIT has released for free, and it allows kids (or anyone) to make games with a simple block-based interface.
Minecraft - This construction game, called "Lego for computers," can be used in a variety of ways.
Roblox - With robust tools for creating worlds within the system, this is an incredibly popular game for kids and teens, but its monetization elements have been called into question in the past.
Virtual Stock Exchange - Created by Marketwatch, this lets participants invest fake money into the real stock market. An excellent educational tool for developing financial literacy skills.
Massillon Public Library in Ohio has done a lot with Steam, including set up a Steam group for LAN gaming.
PC games are primarily purchased digitally now.
- Steam - The premier gaming site online.
- Epic Store - A newly established competitor to Steam that has been competing fiercely with them for market share.
- Good Old Games - DRM-free older games, a model that dovetails nicely with library values.
- MinecraftEdu - If you as a library are planning to get involved with Minecraft, this is the place to do it. It is possible to get a significant discount on licenses here.
Good Free Online Games
Everyone at a public library's reference desk has had kids asking where games can be found online. This list describes many good choices. All are free to play (although some offer bonus content for microtransactions), and generally have content suitable for public libraries. In addition, some require certain browsers to work, and others require the user to download software.
Many patrons will (hopefully) find this list useful - one recommendation would be to print it out and make it available.
- The Internet Archive now has several options available:
- Online jigsaw puzzles - Free online jigsaw puzzles, beautiful pictures.
- Lexulous - Play a Scrabble-esque online alone or with others. A login is required.
- Sudoku - Your favorite sudoku puzzle game online.
- Kingdom of Loathing - A hilarious browser-based RPG with stick-figure art, and such character classes as Pastamancer and Seal Clubber.
- Urban Dead - Survive a zombie swarm for as long as you can with the help of other players in this browser-based MMO, or try to hunt down the survivors as a zombie.
- Desktop Tower Defense - A fun little time-waster that lets players set up turrets and other defenses to protect their work space from little "creeps."
- Runescape - A long-established, but still popular free fantasy MMORPG. A good starting point for people interested in the genre.
- Adult Swim Games - This site has a number of games in varying levels of tastelessness. Definitely not for kids, but there are some interesting ones here.
- Kongregate - This site hosts a large collection of Flash games of varying quality and of various genres. Users can rate games, and contests are available, as are leaderboards for those wanting to track their scores in comparison to others.
- Crazy Monkey Games - Like Kongregate, this site hosts a large variety of games, and lets users rate those they play.
- JSPuzzles - If you like jigsaw puzzles, this is the site to visit. The program slices up a picture into pieces, and lets you put it together. You can even upload your own photos to be made into puzzles.
- New York Times Budget Puzzle - Can you balance the nation's budget?
- iFiction - A collection of interactive fiction games (e.g. Zork) that can be played in a browser.
- TypeRacer - Test your typing speed and race against other people at the same time!
- Ikariam - A browser-based game reminiscent of Civilization, with a focus on resource management.
- Neopets - Described as an online cross between Pokemon and Tamagotchi, users can create and raise their own virtual pets, and compete against others. The discussion board is heavily moderated in order to make it safe for kids. A premium service is available for a fee.
- Renaissance Kingdoms - Basically an online Renaissance Faire, this game does its best to replicate life in early modern Europe. Be a peasant, a lord, a politician, or an innkeeper, and everything in between.
- OGame - Start with your own planet and create an interplanetary empire by exploring and collecting resources.
- PBS Games - A collection of games appropriate for small children. A good recommendation for parents.
- Disney Games - This site provides a number of safe games for small children. Again, parents will appreciate this recommendation.
- Cartoon Network Games - Like the above two sites, you can find a number of games for children here, although the target age range is slightly older in this case.
- Virtual Apple 2 - Relive the halcyon days of the Apple II with this browser-based repository of games like Sherwood Forest and Oregon Trail. It may be necessary to download a plug-in for your browser to make it work, however.
- NationStates - Create and manage your own utopia and see how well it fares on the world stage.
- Utopia - Another nation-builder, this one set in a fantasy medieval world. Explore the world, amass resources, and war with your neighbors in real-time to acquire land and honor.
- Horseland - Breed and train your own horses and dogs and compete in events in this unique MMO. An excellent recommendation for girls. A children's version is also available.
- Cool Horse Games - A collection of horse games for kids to play and enjoy.
- Goal Line Blitz - Own and customize your own football team, sign players, and compete against other teams from around the world in this browser-based simulation.
- Puzzle Pirates - This pirate MMORG comes in two flavors -- free adventures with no download, or a more complex game with download and micropayments for added content. The cool thing about this game is that combat and other actions -- from swordfights to sailing your ship -- are carried out by playing puzzles. Graphics are little Lego-like people. -- LizD
- The Tombs of Asciiroth - A browser-based RPG with ASCII graphics that rewards exploration.
- Dino Run - Try to outrun extinction as a dinosaur. Fast-paced, and reminiscent of one of the old Sonic games.
- Fantastic Contraption - Solve puzzles by making impromptu machines that use realistic physics. A very thought-provoking game.
- 99 Bricks - What if Tetris used realistic physics? Would it be possible to stack them very high? Find out for yourself with this game.
- Cursor*10 - An interesting brain-teaser that gives you ten mouse cursors, each with a finite lifespan, and keeps track of what the previous cursors have already done.
- Abobo's Big Adventure - A wonderful homage to the 8-bit NES era.
- Frog Fractions - One of the weirdest things you will ever encounter, and a tribute to the Apple IIe era.
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - The 30th anniversary edition of the classic text adventure, now free online.
- Interactive Fiction - A selection of well-crafted text adventures
Software download required
- Maple Story - A popular 2D MMORPG platformer with cutesy anime-style graphics. Costuming options are available for your character through micropayments, as well.
- NetHack - NetHack is one of the most famous of the "roguelikes," dungeon-crawlers with randomly created levels and punishing difficulty.
- Dwarf Fortress - An extremely ambitious game with ASCII graphics, Dwarf Fortress has two parts - one involves creating and defending your own dwarf kingdom, and the other lets you create an adventurer and journey through a huge, randomly generated world. Definitely worth checking out.
- I Wanna Be the Guy - This game is an homage to the days of the NES, and gamers will probably see a lot of things they recognize - if they're good enough to survive the game's massive challenge and many, many instant deaths.
- Universe Sandbox - This fascinating game lets you move around the very stars and planets themselves, and the physics engine simulates what would happen in real life. Great for science-inclined folks.
- Mabinogi - A Korean MMORPG, Mabinogi has very good anime-styled graphics and a fairly large and deep game world. While it is free to play, the free game is limited, and people who pay for a subscription get more content.
- Knytt Stories - This minimalist platformer series is very well-done, and certainly worth a look.
- Barkley: Shut Up and Jam Gaiden - Set in 2053, this post-apocalyptic RPG stars Charles Barkley, ex-NBA star, who must uncover who performed the Chaos Dunk that destroyed Manhattan. Yes, you heard correctly.
- Flowers of Errors - A very relaxing game that uses poetry instead of a scoring system. Difficult to describe, but great for those looking for something different
- Teeworlds - Best described as a cross between Kirby and Worms, where characters blast each other from platforms.
- Virtual Stock Exchange - Run by MarketWatch, this "game" is more of an educational tool that lets you invest fake money in real stocks and see how well you do.
- N - An addictive puzzle-platformer featuring an extremely agile, yet fragile, ninja. Can be extremely difficult, but rewarding, and comes with a level editor. Released to home consoles as "N+."
- Titanion - An old-school shooter in the vein of "Space Invaders."
- Echoes - The game's creators describe it best as "Yeah, it's a bit like Asteroids' hyperactive, drug crazed brother displayed in blur-o-vision and viewed through psychedelic sunglasses in a cheap nightclub."
- NEStalgia - A free MMO that has old-school 8-bit graphics and an interface similar to the old NES Dragon Warrior games.
- MegaGlest - Real-time strategy using seven different factions.
- Desktop Dungeons - A bite-sized roguelike that has small dungeons that make for a great time-waster. Average play length for any of them is about ten minutes.
- Dungeon Crawl: Stone Soup - A very well-regarded modern roguelike.
- The Battle for Wesnoth - Turn-based strategy with a large campaign, many additional expansions, and online multiplayer.
- Developing games for Steam goes through their website, Steamworks.
- As mentioned above, MIT's Scratch website is excellent for encouraging game development in kids.
Books and Links
News and Reviews: