Sim gaming is a pastime of its own. I don’t mean Bread Simulator, Shower with Your Dad Simulator or even Farming Simulator, however; those are traditional games. I’m talking about software that is made to emulate a real-life task as accurately as the technology of the time will feasibly allow. Flight-sims from the late 80s to early 90s may be laughable today, but they really were the most realistic thing going at the time.
People talk of gaming as their hobby, but sim gaming very much resembles more “traditional” hobbies like model building, slot car racing, and model railway…-ing. As someone who has dabbled in both flight-sims and driving-sims, I think many people outside of the sim-sphere might be interested to see what it’s all about. So this time, I wanted to write about why I love about sim gaming and its more hobby-like side. Perhaps it might perk the interest of some of you who want to get into them.
In order to get into sim games, you’ll first need to buy at least one extra peripheral beyond the standard keyboard and mouse, or controller. Many flight simulators can be controlled with a mouse, yes, but much like buying a slot car track and no cars, it kind of defeats the purpose. These peripherals can vary from the basics, like steering wheels, flight-sticks, or even full blown cockpits. Depending on how rich you are, you can probably even get a moving one in the case of the latter. Once you get into it all, just like expanding on a train set, you’ll basically find yourself always buying one extra button box or upgrading your steering wheel.
The initial appeal of sim racing, in my opinion, comes from the ability to experience something as close as possible to what most people would never be able to do. I’ve dreamed of having a car I could take to races or track days since I was a kid, but it’s just never been financially viable for me. The same goes for getting my pilots license, actually. But thanks to racing sim games, I can get close to those thrills and challenges without any financial hardship or risk of death for the low price of a decent $300 force feedback wheel/flight stick and a $50 game. Not a bad bargain for some high-speed thrills and excitement, really.
It’s the challenges that really make it a lasting hobby to me. Without them everyone would just buy the latest Need for Speed and feel like Steve McQueen, or buy an Afterburner game and feel like Tom Cruise in Top Gun. Sure more arcade-like games are a lot of fun, but I think it’s tied very closely to my last article on difficulty. Some people just want that challenge, and the learning curve on sim games can get pretty intense.
The full military operations manual that came with Falcon 4.0 (a military flight-sim) is one of the best examples of that in my mind. Even if you did skip the, not kidding, full 40 minute-long start-up procedure to get into the action, but you still had to learn how to fly the bloody thing. When you improve at sim-gaming it feels like getting better at any other skill, like learning to play the guitar for example. The feeling of finally nailing that tricky bit from a Metallica song is very much the same as finally getting that lap-time you’ve been trying to achieve for months. It’s all about freedom and personal goals. Whether that kind of experience seems up your alley or not comes completely down to personal preference.
On the topic of mastering songs on guitar, I feel like I should take a break from vehicle simulators for a moment to mention Rocksmith. This is a game that takes the idea of a more traditional rhythm game like Guitar Hero and turns it a sim game that makes it so you are actually are learning to play a guitar. This works by plugging a real guitar into your computer with a propriety USB cable and play a long with a huge library of popular songs. You may be “simulating” playing in a cover band for example, but on the hardest difficulty you are playing the song just like it was played in the studio. This is pretty much the ideal form of sim gaming in many ways.
Yes, sim gaming could be seen as just another sub-genre of gaming accompanied by FPS, RPG, MMO or BDSM, and in a way it is just that. However, I think that the lasting cult appeal of it goes a bit beyond that. Many modern sims offer enough customisability to appeal to a more widespread gaming audience which is can mean nothing but good things for the future of the genre. It can make more people inclined to check out community and grow it towards bigger and better things for everyone.
Overall, I always try to avoid being too snobby about my experience with racing sims against someone’s love of Gran Turismo, but I believe that there is a distinct appeal to sims that is different to the usual love of video games. The many YouTube channels and podcasts dedicated to just one aspect of sim-gaming can attest to this. I think anyone that enjoys the more popular forms of racing games, flight combat games or even anyone up for a challenge would make it worth their while to check out some sims. So until next time, take a look at these if you’re interested in starting out:
Richard Burns Rally (Hugely improved by mods)
-Written By Nathan Merry