Despite the appeal of the 3D effect of Nintendo’s latest handheld, I’ve found myself falling for one of the 3DS family’s lesser-known innovations – Streetpass, the Wi-Fi handshake that two 3DS users have in general proximity. From a manufacturer known for being a little behind the curve on all things online, it’s a welcome differentiator. A light, low-maintenance social dimension, a way of showing off your best times or the layout of your in-game home, or just expressing something about yourself to other passers by.
When I mention ‘simulation games’ there will be a large number of people who think I am simply talking about games like The Sims, SimCity and Sim Isle. Yes, these can be considered to be simulation games, but they barely scratch the surface of what the sim genre is.
Sim games, such as European Truck Simulator, games in the Silent Hunter and IL-2 Sturmovik series’ are real sims. These games are what the sim genre is all about, taking a niche field of interest and making a game out of it. Often the developers of these types games try to make something that will emulate real life as much as possible, thus the myriad number of options for realism that you will see in some, and the overwhelming amount of controls in IL-2 Sturmovik.
European Truck Simulator simply puts you in the position of driving your own little truck around Europe, delivering this and that to various cities. It is not a great game; it has a variety of problems, not least that the roads are all alike and the truck driving is all a bit easy at times. However, European Truck Simulator for me is all about the relaxation of driving around Europe delivering different goods here and there. It is relaxing being able to play a game without the pressure of getting from A to B while avoiding the cops and rival gangs a la GTA IV.
The Silent Hunter series is a great example of how to make a simulator, the games being excellent too doesn’t do them any harm. For me Silent Hunter III is special as it perfectly combines the elements of simulation and a more action orientated style. The joys of setting to sea and travelling from your home port to a small area of water to the East of England cannot be matched, watching the seagulls fly about your U-Boat and toughing out the rough seas, reminiscent of my time driving my truck into Paris with a wagon full of bird food. Furthermore, the choice between taking the simple approach to combat by sighting up your target and pressing ‘Fire’ or going back in time to World War Two and do everything by hand is an inspired design choice.
Simulation games come in many different guises, be they truck or bus driving games, World War Two submarine or aerial combat games or even cycling management games. They provide people with a different kind of escapism than what we get with Call of Duty or Company of Heroes, they are a special genre, one that we should strive to support and help improve. Go on, pick up a sim game today.