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Games Children Play


Disciplines > Game Design > Games Children Play

Boys | Girls | Discussion | See also


How do children play games? What games suit children?


Children at different ages prefer different types of game depending largely on their ability to understand and to work out the best things to do to succeed within the game.

Types of games children enjoy include:

As children develop, gender stereotyping has a strong influence as boys play with boys' games and girls with girls' games. Parents support this when they buy gender-based presents and encourage them into gender-based sports. Schools likewise continue this differentiation when they separate boys and girls and guide them into gender-based games.


Boys will turn into men and are programmed to learn and practice the actions that men would take in ancient times, including fighting, hunting and competing for tribal position.

Boys fall more easily into competitive games like football, marbles and physical games where they can expend their energy and show off their developing strength. Weaker and smarter boys may prefer intellectual games to exercise and show off their mental skills. Boys often like construction games, perhaps in preparation for a later life as a practical home-builder.


Traditional girls games like skipping and hopscotch are less competitive and more social in nature.

This is not to say that girls are not competitive and boys are anti-social. On average, however, boys tend far more to competition and girls to relationships, which is certainly understandable from evolutionary perspective.

Girls are more likely to prefer simulation and role-playing games, where they can develop and use their social skills. They will often prefer dexterity games to physical games.

While girls and boys both play team games, girls are likely to find the social aspects more significant to the boys, who may take a more tribal and competitive approach.


There was an experiment done once where a couple of young boys were put in a room with a number of toys. They happily played, but spoke little, and when they did it was about the things they were building or playing with. For boys, games are ways to compete and build male skills.

When the experiment was repeated with young girls, they talked a lot, often about other people. They used the toys more as social facilitation devices more than simple play objects. For girls, games are often a way of relating to others.

Game designers should take account of the principles outlined above, for example by adding social elements to games for girls and competitive or constructive elements for boys. In particular, evolutionary thinking can be very helpful as this is at the root of much play.

See also

What Men Like In Games, What Women Like In Games


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