The holidays can be incredibly stressful – cooking, shopping, decorating and, well, family.
Add to it the pets underfoot and your children complaining that they want to play on the Wii when grandpa wants to watch the Law and Order marathon on USA, and you have potential for a grumpy household.
So we decided to take a look at the projects here on Sourceforge that could help keep your children occupied over the holidays.
Whether you’re on Windows, Mac or Linux, there are many options. Something here is bound to be attractive to your kids and keep them interested for a while.
Teach Your Children Well
• As the mother of a kindergartner, I loved Tux of Math Command. It’s a form of one of my childhood favorites, Missile Command, where you answer math problems to prevent them from melting the igloos of penguins on the ground. I called my 5-year-old over to check it out and he got very excited, trying to add the numbers together as fast as his brain would allow, to save the penguins’ homes.
• Scrabble is always a good one to broaden your vocabulary. Scrabble3D allows you to play against your computer or against others on the game server. It’s only Windows and Linux at the moment, but has an experimental Mac OSX version. The board is configurable and it’s available in several languages, including Irish Gaelic and Swedish.
• Another old standby, Yahtzee, is still popular in its original and all the iterations out there, free, paid, social and open source. Open Yahtzee can be used to calculate odds, work on addition and even simple number recognition for the youngest ones.
• My boys love mazes. They enjoy figuring out where to go and how to get there. FunLabyrinthe gives them mazes to navigate and also enables them to create their own mazes. It’s Windows only, though.
• Race into Space can help give your children a healthy interest in history, politics and science. Granted, though the original this version was based on was said to be suitable for children as young as 10, it’s been criticized as being far too difficult. But if you tell your teens that maybe they shouldn’t play it because it’s too hard for them, I’d wager they’d figure it out pretty quickly.
• FlightGear is a very cool flight simulator, available in multiple platforms, including a separate Mac OSX version. There are a couple dozen related projects on Sourceforge, including GUIs for launchers and flight planners. Airplane options include seaplanes, warplanes and small craft. You can “fly around the world from the comfort of your computer,” the project suggests. Good for those who are afraid of heights, perhaps.
• SimuTrans is a SimCity-type transportation game. You can build networks of railroads, monorails, roadways and airports and move cargo and passengers around the world. A variety of packs help you create different settings and styles.
• Rigs of Rods evoked Minecraft a bit, albeit an already constructed world with no creepers. It’s a bit complicated to get started on, but once you figure it out, you can drive trucks and cars, sail boats and fly airplanes, among other vehicles. Figuring it out is half the fun.
• VDrift is your requisite racing simulator. The 40 tracks are based on real tracks from around the world, as are the 40 cars. You can plug in a wheel or joystick and the physics of driving in real life apply in the game. Vroom.
• Arianne RPG could be a great challenge for your older children. If they like playing RPGs, let them take that one step further and actually create their own. Arianne is the engine that drives Stendhal and can be used to create any MORPG. Why just play when you can create? That should be good for a few hours of quiet time.
• Java Settlers of Catan and Pioneers are both computer-based versions of Settlers of Catan. Both allow over-the-internet play and emulate the board game in its look and feel. If your children are Catan fans at all, download these puppies and you’ll have some very happy kids in your house.
Let’s Go to the Arcade
• Battle Tanks is your typical side-scrolling arcade game. It has multiplayer/split-screen modes and lets you shoot ‘em up. In a tank.
• Super Tux Kart is a great replacement for Mario Kart games. And if you have younger children, the option to drive a penguin around instead of Mario or Luigi might be even more fun. I’ll be setting this one up for my boys, believe you me.
• If fighting games like Streets of Rage are more your kid’s cup of tea, then Paintown could be a good option. And after your in-laws leave, you can hop on the computer and exorcise your frustrations by beating the crap out of someone made out of pixels rather than flesh and blood.
• And finally, what arcade would be complete without a shoot-em-up game — in space? Galaxy Forces V2 is a 2D space shooter. There are single- and multi-player options and you can complete missions or just dogfight. Its simplicity reminds me a bit of Asteroids (no, it’s not THAT simple) and it has downloads for Windows and Linux.
There are many other games for all ages on SourceForge, and if none of these float your boat, you can start your search in the Games index. One of these just may be your sanity-saver over this holiday season.
And for the price of free, you can’t beat that.