14 Video Games That Tackle Important Social Issues

What Are The Best Video Games That Tackle Important Social Issues?

by TeachThought Staff

While they have the connotation of children’s toys and time-wasting ‘interactions,’ video games and simulations provide useful and compelling platforms for narratives (think Uncharted 4), problem-solving (think Portal 2), experiential learning (think The Sims), simulations (read more on learning simulations), ‘tinker-learning’ possibilities (think Minecraft), and more.

Below, we’ve gathered 14 video games that tackle social issues, from mental health and environmentalism to bullying, war, cancer, and more. Serious stuff. Not all will likely find a place in your classroom–many are too violent (Watch Dogs 2 and Deus Ex, for example), and some may require PlayStations Xbox systems that can’t readily be accessed in your classroom.

The point of this list, however, is to illustrate what video games can be–what they’re capable of as a medium, and what potential they may have big picture in the learning experiences of your students.

For related reading, see Exactly How To Teach With Video Games In The Classroom.

14 Video Games That Tackle Important Social Issues

1. That Dragon, Cancer

Platform: PC

Related Social Issues: Cancer

2. Whisper of a Rose

Platform: PC

Related Social Issues: Bullying

“Melrose is trapped in a life of hardship. Her parents are mean to her and she gets bullied at school. She can find no one who understands her. To cope with her sorrow, Melrose turns to her imagination. She dreams up a world of unimaginable beauty and happiness, but sadly — like all dreams — it ends, and Melrose must return to real life.”

3. Papers, Please

Platform: PC, iOS (more info)

Related Social Issues: War, Migration-Refugee Exodus

4. This War of Mine

Platform: iOS, Android, PS4, Xbox, PC

Related Social Issues: War

Note: Rated M for Mature

“This War Of Mine provides an experience of war seen from an entirely new angle. For the very first time you do not play as an elite soldier, rather a group of civilians trying to survive in a besieged city. During the day snipers outside stop you from leaving your refuge, so you need to focus on maintaining your hideout. At night you get a chance to scavenge nearby locations for items that will help you stay alive.

Make life-and-death decisions driven by your conscience. Try to protect everybody from your shelter or sacrifice some of them to endure the hardships. During war, there are no good or bad decisions; there is only survival. The sooner you realize that, the better.”

5. Deus Ex

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC (more info)

Related Social Issues: Terrorism, Bio-modification (not a big deal today, but will be in the next 10+ years)

Note: Rated M for Mature (18+ only)

6. Flower

Platform: PlayStation 3, PlayStation 4

Related Social Issues: Environmentalism

7. Elude

Platform: Browser-based

Related Social Issues: Mental Health

“Elude aims to raise awareness for depression and to inform about this dangerous illness. It is specifically intended to be used in a clinical context as part of a psycho-education package to enhance friends’ and relatives’ understanding of people suffering from depression about what their loved ones are going through.

Modeling what depression feels like by contrasting it with other mood states (normal and happy), Elude portrays depression metaphorically. The various parts of the game-world represent emotional landscapes that correspond to different moods with the gameplay changing according to mood changes. The core gameplay (i.e. “normal mood”) happens in a forest filled with “passion” objects that resonate and act as power ups when one calls out to them. Only when infused with passion is it possible to overcome the obstacles on the way to the tree tops, where one reaches “happiness.”

8. Watch Dogs 2

Platform: PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, Xbox One, PC

Related Social Issues: Privacy, Big Data, Government Overwatch

Note: Rated M for Mature (18+ only)

9. Unravel

Platform: PS4, Xbox One, PC

Related Social Issues: Interdependence/Friendship

“Yarny’s mission is to mend broken bonds and the yarn represents the love and connection between people. “

10. The Last of Us: Left Behind

Platform: PS4

Related Social Issues: Homosexuality

The Last of Us: Left Behind is an add-on to the original, post-apocalyptic, zombie-fueled game–but rather than Ellie (the protagonist) and her father-figure traversing the deadly terrain together, this tale explores Ellie and her best friend doing the same–and discovering love in the process.

Note: Rated M for Mature (18+ only)

11. Papo y Yo

Platform: PS3, PC

Related Social Issues: Child Abuse

12. Depression Quest

Platform: PC

Related Social Issues: Mental Health

Note: The video below is a full playthrough of Depression Quest–very useful to see what the game’s like before deciding whether or not to play it yourself.

13. Shelter

Platform: PC

Related Social Issues: Environmentalism

Note: There is also a Shelter 2 video game out as well.

14. The Way of Life

Platform: PC

Related Social Issues: Empathy/Perspective

“The Way of Life makes the player relive the same life’s experiences from the point of view of three characters of different ages: an adult, an old man and a child.”

14 Video Games That Tackle Important Social Issues; These links may be affiliate links–read more here.