How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
Simulation games take a real-life situation and turn it into a game.
In games based on battles, competitions or or established games, the objective is usually to win simulations of real-world win-lose situations. For example war games and video-tennis.
In other games, objectives may be based on survival and growth, which are basic evolutionary drivers. For example urban development or animal husbandry games.
In Fantasy Football, players manage teams and whole leagues across seasons.
War games often recreate real historical battles.
In 'god' simulations, the player has the powers of a deity, making decisions that affect many 'lives'.
We all have to make decisions in life that can be very costly and incur significant risks. In simulation games, we can make similar decisions, safe in the knowledge that a wrong decision may upset us but ultimately does no real harm.
There is a deep principle of simulation in learning for real-world problems. When animals play-fight, they are simulating real fighting. When human children play, whether it simulates families or television dramas, it likewise helps prepare the child for the real problems of adult life. Simulation games similarly provide an opportunity to learn in a safe environment.
Simulations can be abstracted, changed and mutated away from the original real-world situation in order to improve game-play. Chess, for example is a highly abstracted war game.
Good simulation games do not replicate every detail but do capture the essence and major variables of the target situation. They provide the player with ways to control variables in order to give an effective sense of what reality may be like.
Life if often humdrum and simulation games can easily be boring. Designers should be careful to include sufficient variation and interest to sustain the player. Good design injects regular excitement, much as TV dramas have more challenging events than reality.