Sunday January 10, 2016

The attraction of mundane video games

A kerbonaut (AKA astronaut) lands on the planet Duna (AKA Mars) in space flight simulator "Kerbal Space Program".

A kerbonaut (AKA astronaut) lands on the planet Duna (AKA Mars) in space flight simulator "Kerbal Space Program". (kerbalspaceprogram.com)

Listen 13:57

Simulated games have been around for decades but a new crop of hyper-realistic and seemingly mundane simulators are gaining a mainstream audience.


The 1995  game Desert Bus took the idea of the mundane video game to its extreme, and coined the term "verisimulator", meaning a game so close to reality that it can hardly be called a game at all. In it, the "player" drives a bus between Tucson, Arizona and Las Vegas, Nevada, all in real time. If you manage to crash, a tow truck drives the bus back, also in real time. The trip takes 8 hours.

Euro Truck Simulator 2

The game Euro Truck Simulator 2 has sold 2.5 million copies.

Now, two decades later, games like Farm Simulator or Euro Truck Simulator -- where people spend hours driving a transport truck across Europe in real time -- are selling in the millions. The space flight simulator, Kerbal Space Program, is a best seller on the online video game retailer Steam.



Several sub-pages dedicated to simulation games have sprung up on the message-board Reddit. We spoke to three commenters from those sites, Glen, Chris and Jared, who each play several different highly realistic simulators.

We also spoke to video game historian and freelance journalist Richard Moss about the beginnings and rise of simulators, as well as the author of Philosophy Through Video Games, and Professor of Philosophy, Mark Silcox about how these games are able to help us find enjoyment in mundane tasks.