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Most early games fit into the general category of "simulation": Flying games are Flight Simulators, and racing games are Car Simulators. The first Adventure Game, Colossal Cave, started life as little more than a simulation of a Kentucky cave system; even Pong is nothing more than a virtual ping-pong table.

But the term Simulation Game usually refers to a genre of program for which the term "game" is really a misnomer: a Simulation Game is really a "toy", by the definitions used by those who study such things academically, more akin to an Erector set than to a chess set.

A Simulation Game, traditionally, places the player in charge of some set of resources, with which he is charged to build something -- while the game might set some criteria for a "win" state, this is far from compulsory; the player generally builds what he likes and measures his own success by whatever metrics seem best to him. Most will have some kind of "lose" state, where long term mismanagment, either accidental or deliberate, will result in a game over.

The player generally adopts a sort of managerial role over the game world, rather than directly controling the agents in it. Thus, his role, depending on the scope of the game, tends to be something like "business owner", "mayor" or "god".

Probably the first game in this tradition is Lemonade Stand, written by Bob Jamison sometime between 1973 and 1979. In this game, the player, based on the daily weather report, decided what supplies to buy and how much to charge at a virtual lemonade stand. Variations appeared for years on various platforms, even surviving into the 1990s as their requirements were so low that ports could even run on programmable calculators.

More complicated simulations started appearing in the early 1980s, such as the Commodore 64 game Little Computer People, where the player was responsible for the care and feeding of a virtual person. "Digital pet" keychain devices, such as Tamagotchi, descended from this line.

But the game which really brought the modern Simulation Game into its own was Maxis's SimCity. In this game, the player took the role of mayor, and was in charge of building a city. Among the Mayoral duties were zoning areas for commercial, residential or industrial use, building public utilities, and rebuilding after Godzilla attacks.

SimCity was enormously popular, spawning a number of clones and sequels. Sim City 2000, Sim City 3, and Streets of Sim City all expanded and improved on the original. Maxis also produced a number of other concepts within the franchise: SimEarth placed the player in charge of the development of an entire planet; SimLife narrowed the focus, with the player guiding the specific evolution of a species; SimAnt placed the player in charge of an ant colony. Other games explored different domains in the same style: Roller Coaster Tycoon had the player develop an amusement park, balancing thrills with the chance to kill patrons in spectacular roller coaster derailments; Afterlife had the player build a heaven and hell suited to the needs of the incoming departed.

While the later games did well enough, neither Maxis nor its imitators were quite able to bring about the kind of huge-scale genre-defining success of SimCity until Maxis brought the social element into the equation with its blockbuster success The Sims. Rather than focusing on an entire city or civilization, The Sims and its sequels put the player in charge of managing a single household, keeping the characters employed, buying them playthings, adding extra living space, occasionally locking them in a room with a bunch of ovens until they inevitably immolated themselves and, perhaps most importantly to the players, coaxing each other into bed.

Another incarnation of The Sims is a massively multiplayer on-line game, where players maintain their households in a shared community, and their characters can interact to, well, buy more swag and coax each other into bed.

A sub-genre of Simulation Games (usually rolled into the larger genre category) are Flight Simulation Games, which can include anything from a game with very lax flight controls and a more "arcade"-like experience, to true simulations (i.e., the non-toy kind) that accurately recreate how an aircraft flies, and depending on how far you're willing to go, incorporate an actual aircraft's flight deck and motion control and can even be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration for certified flight training. May or may not also include shooting things as a typical gameplay objective. Driving Sims are cut from the same cloth, applied to ground vehicles, and once again can range the entire realism (and shooting stuff up) range.

Raising Sim is a sub-genre of this, focusing on "building" an individual person or animal.

Examples include :


Resource, Settlement and Business Management Simulations


Life / Social Management Simulations


Sports / Sport Management Simulations


Flight and Combat Flight Simulations


Spaceflight and Space Combat Simulations


Driving and Racing Simulations


Miscellaneous vehicle simulators

  • Most of the games published by Excalibur Bublishing which include but are not limited to:
    • Bagger Simulator series.
    • Farming Simluator 2011
    • Garbage Truck Simulator
    • Snowcat Simulator 2011
    • Street Cleaning Simluator
    • Woodcutter Simulator 2011


Soldier and Police Simulations


Military Ground Vehicle Simulations

  • Mechwarrior (Giant Mecha simulator)
  • Spearhead (Tank simulation)
  • Steel Battalion (Giant Mecha simulator)
  • Steel Beasts (Military grade Tank simulator)
  • World of Tanks, (Interwar to post WWII era MMO Tank simulator)
  • Steel Armor: Blaze of War (Cold War-era Tank simulator)
  • Tank levels in the Halo series


Naval and Submarine Simulators


Pet Simulators


Misc. Simulations

  • A lot of Wide Open Sandbox games, most notably the Grand Theft Auto series, are essentially a mash-up of various different simulation aspects (driving, flight, social management, and resource management in the case of GTA) with a driving storyline and RPG elements.
  • Creatures, an artificial life simulator.
  • Crush Crumble and Chomp is a humorous "simulation" of a giant monster attack on a major city.
  • Densha De Go (arcade like but contains sim elements)
  • Desert Bus, the infamous game from Penn and Teller's Smoke and Mirrors, is a Deconstruction Game based on this genre -- the game is claimed to be the first Verisimulator ("Games Stupefyingly Like Reality"), and a standout example of Marathon Level. As the game's instruction manual describes:

 Verisimulator is derived from the Latin verus (true) and similis (similar, like). A Verisimulator gives you an experience truly similar to real life, and sometimes life is truly grim.

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