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What are Simulation Games?

Tricia Christensen
Updated: May 16, 2024

Simulation games are those video or computer games that are concerned with playing out realistic situations in game settings. Examples of these types of games include taking care of virtual people or pets, such as Sims games, developing cities of societies like in Civilization or SimCity, and building amusement parks or zoos in games like Roller Coaster Tycoon or Zoo Tycoon. Some of these games can take hours to play, and they may be incredibly complex. In fact, some games aren’t played to win but are instead played because you can develop multiple right solutions or different permutations of the game depending on your choices. Other simulation games are structured on a more win/lose basis or require completing certain tasks before being able to advance to another level.

People may remember that long before video games became so popular and so complex there were roots of the simulation game in other activities. Astronauts ran simulations of missions so they would be sure to act correctly. Many former teen drivers remember simulation labs where they would watch films that would allow them to practice driving with a steering wheel, possibly brakes, and other car controls.

As a video game genre though, many credit SimCity as being the first true simulation game marketed for the public, although there were some driving games that preceded it that may also be considered simulation models. SimCity was released in 1989, and since then there have been many updated versions that allow you to plan cities, raise money through taxes, and develop communities. You could choose to build your own city from scratch, or choose to play a specific city that was facing certain types of trouble you needed to manage.

During your city building, you’d also have to account for problems with increased population, natural disasters (including Godzilla appearances), unhappiness of citizens, and electrical shortages. A game could go on basically as long as you wanted it to, and if you really hated your city, you could always start fresh. SimCity was viewed as the beginning of a revolution in simulation games, and inspired numerous competitors in the following years.

Since the release of the first version of SimCity, numerous games have come along that have stretched the genre. Certain realistic fighting games are called sim games. Some fantasy warfare games also fall into this category, especially if they are ones that involve use of significant strategy and tactics to engage in battles. Another big change in simulation games occurred with the introduction of games like the original The Sims, released in 2000.

Instead of controlling large cities or defeating worlds, the Sims were people you could control. The game allowed you to find work for Sims, teach them to cook, tell them when to sleep and to find them mates or friends. Other games quickly followed, some of them more child appropriate like the wonderful Animal Crossing by Nintendo. There are also games for kids that will allow them to raise virtual pets, design fashions, or learn to cook.

Perhaps the next development in simulation games has been the introduction of the Nintendo Wii. Instead of controlling games through a simple controller, Wii games allow you to use arm and hand movements to more realistically simulate the activities characters might perform in a game. Wii Sports, for instance, allows you to realistically bowl, golf, box or play tennis. The new controller aspects of the Wii have added a more complex level to simulation games, and in essence almost all Wii games have some elements of simulation behavior, even if they really belong in different game genres. You’re using real life movements that echo the movements being performed in the games, which makes playing these games more immediate and realistic.

EasyTechJunkie is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By letshearit — On May 07, 2011

What do you think are some activities that should be made into simulation games?

I know I would really love to see a game where I could run my own travel agency and create amazing vacation packages for my virtual people. I don't really want to be a travel agent for my career, but I would love to experience it in a virtual way.

By Sara007 — On May 05, 2011

The Nintendo Wii with its sports simulation games is really a breakthrough. I purchased one for my mother who has mobility problems, and while she isn't strong enough to really bowl, she can now enjoy the activity virtually.

These new systems and games are making experiences available to those who may not have the chance to do something otherwise.

In the news recently, there were nursing homes that had brought in the Wii so that the elderly could have more fun doing light exercise.

I think the possibilities are endless for what we can do with simulation games.

By wander — On May 04, 2011

Simulation games are an amazing learning tool for children. While a lot of people still consider video games a waste of time, with games like Mall Tycoon, a young person can learn a lot about personal financing and business.

In the game you need to be able to budget for your stores, set prices and bargains in a way that keeps customers happy, learn to hire enough people and understand stock quantity, as well as how supply and demand works.

There is an amazing amount of math and advanced thinking in these games that I think makes them very beneficial for people of all ages.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a EasyTechJunkie contributor, Tricia...
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