Thoughts on the Gaming Industry: Sims, Oh God, Sims...

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It is a sad fact of life that, to the vast majority of us, sims are boring. Management sims, sim sims, even those people sims that EA brings out that people find amusing (Yes, yes, that includes me). Part of this is because the subjects are boring, but part of it is that realism is a) very hard to actually pull off, and b) is often boring. For example, I've spent a few of my weekends watching a friend and ex-reviewer stream quite a few random sim games as a pre-stream event. i even took part in one, which led me to note, in my review of Ship Simulator Extremes, that Multiplayer is actually kind of fun.

But there are common features that the average player is going to find boring. For example, because of the realism sims find necessary, getting from point A (where you start) to point B (where you need to go) to point C (where you need to take whatever, which is the form many sim "missions" take) is basically staring at vast amounts of scenery while you hold down keys and occasionally press other keys to make minor adjustments. In Management sims, it's the vast tables of numbers that bear only an arbitrary relation to the reality they represent (Player A is slightly Foozlier, than Player B, whose Foozle characteristic is only 82. Therefore Player A is better at Foozling, even though, in real life, Player B ends up causing the most exciting Foozles). And there's often no such thing as an autopilot, to just let you enjoy the ride. After all, many sims (especially the more modern ones) allow you to explore the thing you're driving somehow, whether looking at all the pretty dashboard bits, sitting in the passenger compartment, or wandering the large vehicle itself.

But, oddly, sims still have a place in the world. Why? Because people genuinely like to learn about things, or experience new things, and I think that's a good thing. Personally, I absolutely hated Farming Simulator 2010, but, apparently, there are more people who own Farming Simulator 2010 or variants in Sweden than actually own or work on farms. Funny old world, eh?

Thing is, many of these sims lack a capability that the most enduring of sims all have: Customisation. Microsoft Flight Simulator, in its various incarnations, is still one of the more acclaimed sims out there, not because Microsoft still support it (they don't), or did an amazing job (it was good, but not amazing), but because people can introduce different vehicles into the product, and a culture of experimentation and fun arose around it. Half the reason the Sims are so popular is because you can live a self-insert fantasy, or make little electronic voodoo-dolls for guilt free torture of bullies, and play dress up and... the list goes on. Management sims are a little harder to quantify as "good" or "bad", but their main problem is making those tables of numbers accessible to the common man, or fan, or whatnot, because, to the outsider, those big honking tables are a barrier to play, even though the actual matches/races/Foozleball Plays are often quite interesting to watch.

Just as with many of the Thoughts on the Gaming Industry, there's no real clear "Do's", but one fairly massive "Don't". Don't make them boring as all hell, please, or hard to get the hang of. You're hurting us reviewers, yourselves, and fans by doing so, and everyone suffers.

 

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