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While most early Video Games fit into some category of "simulation" (flying games are Flight Simulators, racing games are Car Simulators — even Pong was basically a virtual simulation of table tennis), the term "Simulation Game" usually refers to a genre of programs for which the term "game" can be somewhat misleading: a simulation game is more of a "toy" (by the definitions used by those who study such things academically) than a "game", more akin to an Erector set than to a Chess set.

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Traditionally, a simulation game places the player in a managerial role over some set of resources, with which they are charged to build or do something — the game might set some criteria for a "win" state, but this is far from compulsory; the player can generally build/do whatever they want and measure their own success by whatever metrics seem best to them (so long as he doesn't trigger a "lose" state through long-term mismanagement, whether accidental or deliberate). The player generally has no direct control over individual agents inside the game world — thus their role, depending on the scope of the game, tends to be labelled something ranging from "business owner" or "mayor" to "president" or even "god".

Probably the first game in this tradition is Lemonade Stand, written by Bob Jamison sometime between 1973 and 1979: The player, based on the daily weather report, decided what supplies to buy and how much to charge customers at their 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.

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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. SimCity 2000, SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, and Streets of SimCity all expanded 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.

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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. Dating Sim is another sub-genre, where the focus is on leveling up your Relationship Values with possible Love Interests. Life Simulation Game is a sub-genre focusing on raising characters and Farm Life Sim is a sub-genre of that sub-genre focusing on rural farm life; there's an overlap between Life Sims, Raising Sims, and Dating Sims.


Examples include :

    open/close all folders 

    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 Simulations 
  • 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 

    Naval and Submarine Simulators 

    Pet Simulators 

    Artificial Life and Evolution Simulations 

    Politics and Government Simulations 
See also the Political Strategy Game genre.

    Miscellaneous Simulations 

Alternative Title(s): Simulation Games, Sim Game

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