Simulation games have come a long way since the debut of titles like Flight Simulator in 1977. It can be said for all genres really, but the march of time has arguably been more generous for simulation games, where realism. and precision are at the top of the agenda.
For people who play shooter games or more action-packed titles, simulation titles may seem like an odd curiosity. Why play something that tries to mirror reality perfectly when you could walk through hordes of thugs with your machine gun weapons?
But the simulation genre is undeniably a success. Social media lit up after Microsoft’s reveal of Flight Simulator 2020 earlier this month, a franchise with near-legendary cult status.
In recent years, the industry has seen all kinds of simulation games gain a following. Driven by the boom in influencer culture, with even the craziest and most irreverent YouTubers entering the genre, pretend games have undergone a strange renaissance, finding a whole new audience of people who just didn’t realize it. how much they appreciated the calm. farm life on the stressful demon killing.
“Simulation has always been seen in a way as the reserve of the elderly … [But] I don’t think that’s true at all ”
“Simulation has always been seen in a way as a reserve for the elderly,” explains Robert Stallibrass, Managing Director of Contact Sales. “You know, drink tea, go fishing, and play pretend games. [But] I don’t think that’s true at all. “
Stallibrass has been in the industry for 35 years, and his company also operates simulation publisher Excalibur Games, which is responsible for franchises like Euro Truck Simulator and Train Simulator, among countless others in the genre.
The growing success of simulation games may seem strange to some, but Stallibrass suggests it’s the natural result of a mature industry.
“A lot of people who play violent games, it’s like a passing phase in your life,” he says. “When you’re young you have a fast car, when you get older you have a family and a sedan and something to put the stroller in, and I think that’s how the market moves.
“So ten years ago, the people who were playing first-person shooters and driving games got a little bit older and became simulation and management games. And I think that’s just a way. whose market is changing. “
However, the enduring appeal of simulation games isn’t limited to people who slow down with age. Simulation games are all about realism, and as anyone who has played a modern simulation game can attest, the attention to detail in these games can be staggering. Stallibrass even tells stories of how Excalabur would receive complaints if the number of rivets on the side of an aircraft were wrong. While these games aren’t glamorous, the experience is as real-life as it gets, meaning experiences like driving a Concorde or traveling in a truck across America aren’t that inaccessible.
“The people who used to play first person shooters and driving games have aged a bit and have become simulation and management games”
“If you looked at a product like Flight Simulator 20 years ago on a Commodore 64 or a Spectrum, it was nothing like simulation … [now] it’s so realistic, so fantastic … A lot of it owes to the realism of products like Train Simulator, Eurotruck 2, Farming Simulator and Flight Simulator X. They are so incredibly realistic that in some way they have contributed to create the market.
There’s also – surprisingly, Stallibrass concedes – an audience of pilots and truck drivers who love simulation games that replicate their day-to-day work. This segment of the audience has been there since the early days, says Stallibrass; but in recent years it has become increasingly difficult to identify a target audience.
“If you had asked me five years ago, maybe ten years ago, I could have told you quite categorically that our simulation age range is 45 to 90 years,” he adds. “However, with the popularity and number of console simulation games that has changed. If you look at the stats on a typical console owner, he’s between eight and maybe 30 years old, and so I think maybe- being the demographics of the owner of the simulation has dropped significantly.
The advent of influencers is partly responsible for this change in audience. While there are many in the space that serve the primary audience of serious simulator and rivet-counting enthusiasts, the rise of meme culture has also helped to bring attention to the genre. Simulators are sandboxes after all: you have a set of tools to play with, and everything has been designed to interact with everything else, leaving the door wide open to free silliness, if your heart is. the desire. This, of course, is fertile ground for influencers. But he also paints these games in a different light, showing them to be more than the real-life joyless replicas that they’re often seen to be.
There are plenty of YouTube videos with hundreds of thousands, if not millions of views, where people tune in to watch disasters unfold. There is a catharsis, it seems, in seeing someone terribly underqualified to pilot a cruise ship get lost in the cruel waves of the ocean.
As technology only gets better and more influencers get involved with game publishers, it looks like the genre has a healthy future ahead of it.