Only One Order Of Simulation

In other words, don't simulate a simulation.

Virtual paintball would be the egregious example. Paintball is supposed to simulate war. Make a game that simulates war, not one that simulates paintball. Virtual legos is another one. Legos simulate construction. Make a game where you build something. Castles, cars, whatever. Not a game where you assemble Legos. And let's not forget Army Men.

(Ah, but everything's a simulation, you might say. What is this fetish of the real? Ok, yeah.)

I think board game designers know this intuitively; I've never seen a board game about people playing a board game.

Some counter-examples that actually work (or so I hear): JunkBot? (legos) and .Hack (a videogame about playing a videogame.)

Obviously, this rule is trumped by good gameplay. Or I should say, a game can still have good gameplay and violate this rule. The game design in your paintball simulator might beat the crap out of, say, Team Fortress, and it would therefore be a better game, but it still might lack that visceral quality that Team Fortress brings to the table.


Chess simulates war. Or does it? Is Chess a fair choice for a computer game? What about all of those other computer version of board games and game shows? Who wants to be a millionaire?

Is the Sims a simulation of a real family, or the simulation of a doll house?

How do you classify "simulation"?

What do science fiction and fantasy-based games "simulate"? Do computer RPGs simulate pen and paper RPGs? Do pen & paper RPGs and/or computer RPGs simulate actually exploring dungeons, fighting with swords, casting spells and gaining levels experience, like happens in "real life"?

How can you simulate flying a space ship if there are no space ships? Do Star Trek and Star Wars games simulate space combat, or do they simulate other media?

Game play not only trumps this idea, it makes this idea moot.

Check it out, first flame on the wiki

It certainly does not make the idea moot. Did you work on Super PaintBrawl? or something? [I worked on Deluxe Wheel of Fortune for Windows Featuring Vanna White; it was not a simulation of a simulation; it simulated being a contestant on Wheel of Fortune. (Not that I think much of those kinds of games anyway, but some people do like them.)]

Suppose we have a HotWheels? game that actually is an excellent racing game where racing enthusiasts who actually try it agree, "Yes, this is better than Nascar and Gran Turismo." You can keep the same gameplay and yet make the game "better" - in the sense that now the player is imagining that they're driving a racecar instead of playing with HotWheels? - and probably also more succesful.

A computer chess game isn't a simulation of chess; you're actually playing chess. I don't think manipulating the actual wooden pieces is what makes chess chess.

The Sims simulates a family. If they had called it SimDollHouse? and it had exactly the same mechanics, it would have been a less succesful game.

For discussion of simulation, Ron Edwards has some good ideas. I like to use *Halo* and *Metroid Prime* as examples of simulationism and gamism. *Halo* simulates being a space marine who fights aliens and monsters; *Metroid Prime* makes a game out of it. Which you prefer is a matter of taste. But that doesn't have much to do with this extremely narrow, specific point, which is: if you can avoid it, don't make Super PaintBrawl? III.

Not Everything Is A Simulation

In gameplay, simulation elements serve only two purposes: 1. To give players a real-world grounding for the attributes of things inside the game. 2. To extend the player experience(the opposite of 1). Being a fantastic chess player, for example, does not mean you are well-prepared to become a general in the army. Neither does the ability to lead your character to victory in a fighting game mean that you can beat people up in real life. In chess only the first case is used - high level chess players probably do not have the same experience as generals, or if so in only the most general sense of feeling certain emotions. But in the fighting game, one can say confidently after observing players that there is a sort of sensual extension going on during and after the fight.

The "wimpy" method of game design(well, some might call it wimpy) is to start with a topic like fighting and then translate the experience into gameplay as well as possible. This works so well because of its basis within simulation: the general flow of play is already determined by the sim elements, and all that remains is to work out the supporting details.

But there are games that defy any sim classifications. Solitare games, with cards or on boards, are common examples. Tetris is another probable one. You COULD feasably apply sim concepts to these games, but to what end? It would only make them more difficult to understand. Obviously, these games are not based on any real experience, but they satisfy the mind's craving to sort out patterns just as well as sim-games do.