Something has really gotten my Goat (1) recently. A genre very close to my heart being Milked (2) massively. I feel it is Haemorrhaging (3) the qualities and Mechanical (4) soundness that created such a wide reaching and interesting genre.
Right, enough with the puns! I am of course talking about the influx of current “simulator” games that Bear (5) no resemblance to the term Simulator (okay, NOW I am done with the puns!). The genre pretty much came into being back in 1989 with Will Wright and the seminal SimCity (one word Dammit!). Yes Utopia predates this by 7 or so years but it was SimCity that made the Genre explode. Since then you’ve had games like Flight Simulator, Train Sims and the old F1 Simulators that tried to replicate the experiences as closely as possible while still being possible to do for us mere untrained mortals. In the same way the FPS games have moved away from super-hard skill based tension to regenerating health and masses of ammo, and Platformers moved away from 3 lives to complete the whole game, so have simulators. They have become watered down and a casual like the rest of the market.
This saddens me greatly. I have no problems with them being made more fun, this is perfectly acceptable -I love Euro Truck Sim 2 because it is fun but still a simulation of trucking and business- but by the Gods what has happened with this last lot of “sims”. Don’t get me wrong I think Surgeon Simulator 2013 is one of the most hilarious games to play with other people since Wii Sports but it isn’t a Sim, and Goat Simulator is hilarious fun but it Isn’t A Sim! So what’s my beef (seriously, this isn’t an intentional pun!) with this influx of non-sim sims? Well it means that actual proper simulators get buried underneath these bombastic gimmicky games that just aren’t simulators. I have no problem with their existence, in fact, I applaud their focused scope and general levels of silliness but dammit why can’t they be called something else?
One bright thing on the horizon is the companies who are mixing the “silly” and the “simulation” and putting out something that is accessible but still hardcore. Naturally I am talking about Kerbal Space Program which mixes hard science and the “cute” little Kerbals. It’s a fantastic mix and –importantly- nowhere does it say Simulator in the title, it is its own thing that exists as part of the Simulator genre but doesn’t pretend that it is here to be serious.
Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to get back to simulating being a Robot Farmer in a 2d pixel universe (Starbound is still amazing folks!)
(1) Goat Simulator
(2) Farming Simulator 2013 Titanium Edition
(3) Surgeon Simulator 2013
(4) Car Mechanic Simulator 2014
(5) Bear Simulator (currently on Kickstarter!)