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whether to define an application as a simulation, or a game

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Hi, My main aim in life is to create simulations, rather than games. However, since games and simulation share many characteristics, im learning game programming first. There is a blurred line between a simulation and a game which I would like to explore. For example, Microsoft Flight Simulator is, by my definition, a game, not a simulation, despite the fact that it is used for non-recreational purposes in the aviation industry. How do other people define the two nouns? If I create a simulation of a fish tank (my current project), but allow the user to directly control the movements of one of the fish in order to test the reactions of the other fish, is this a game or a simulation? This problem is not specific to computing, although computers are (argueably) the most powerful simulation tools available. A restaurant training people to use a cash register will often use role playing to simulate the environment the employee will work in. I've done this myself in the past, from both ends of the equation. Is this a game or a simulation? How about if they use an application on a computer to practice taking orders accurately. Is this a computer simulation or a computer game? Thanks in advance for your thoughts on this matter.

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I don't think the distinction is particularly meaningful; or at least it is not a clear dichotomy as you have presented it.

Most games involve some kind of simulation. Many simulations can be used recreationally (as a "game"). Many things which are not really directly intended to be used for entertainment can be turned into games (c.f. most of the good drinking games out there).

If a good simulation happens to be packaged for people to "play" as a "game", does that detract from the simulation itself? If a good simulation is packaged as not being a game, does that detract from people's ability to enjoy it and entertain themselves with it?

Personally, I don't think so.

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There's this favorite activity of some multimedia-involved people, particularly those within academia, of coming up with strict definitions for words like "simulation" or "game" or "toy". It's a stupid, time-wasting, mind-closing thing to do. Don't let them convince you to do it.

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microsoft chose the name "flight simulator" instead of "flying game" because it has more professional connotations. I agree with you that explicitly defining overlapping concepts wastes time, but unfortunately there are PR issues at stake here.

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Well, yes. There are various (like, a LOT) of individual and collective considerations that go into labelling things. In the case of flight simulators, a primary selling point is realism. "Simulator" says "realism"; "game" says "unrealistic". It's a somewhat special case, because in most games realism is something to be compromised on wherever necessary. (It's also worth noting that Microsoft Flight Simulator is much, much simpler than actual, commercial-grade flight simulators.) Of course, that all just boils down to what's on the box. So let the marketing guys have their fun, and focus your own energies on creating a really, really compelling experience, wherever that may take you.

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Just my two cents.

A game is more structured, and has defined end goals.

A sim is more opened and lets you muck around with things. Your goals are your own, and there isn't really an end.

A hunting game might have levels, and specific challenges for you to hunt down in each one. The animals would come out more frequently, and maybe not act as realistically to enhance the entertainment value.

A hunting sim would give you a shack, and equipment to choose from, and some land to roam around. You'd go out and do whatever. Maybe you could mount the things you caught in your shack to show them off. The animals would have to be tracked down properly, and they would behave a lot more naturally.

The lines between the two are usually blurred.

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yes, the lines are very blurred. Thats what makes the topic interesting.
I plan to spend a large portion of my career creating simulations, perhaps starting a software company somewhere down the line. Therefore I feel it is necessary to discuss with other programmers what it is I really plan to do.
Thanks for your imput, everybody.

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I think its really just a mindset. While designing if you say "Well I could add this feature, and it would be more realistic, but it wouldn't be any fun", or "this feature might be realistic, but it makes gameplay too complicated" then you are building a game. If you won't include a feature because "its too unrealistic, even though it might be fun" you are probably building a simulation.

In my current game I am building, a military turn-based strategy game in the vein of the Panzer General series from SSI/Ubisoft. I was debating for a bit whether to include unit stacking. It might be more realistic to allow units to stack and when you attacked the stack you would attack the unit with the best defense value against your attack. But part of the fun with the Panzer General series was the unit positioning, and flanking the opposition to attack vulnerable suporting rear units (like artillery and air defense units). And setting up things like ambushes, etc. in just the right place. Kind of like a chess match. Allowing unit stacking would take away from that, and games would become a slugfest of who had the best Super Stacks. Not that games that did allow unit stacking weren't fun(Civilization), but in the context, I didn't see how I could do it without taking the fun element out of it. It is OK in Civilization because is more strategic than tactical, also the units are all pretty much the same and youc an produce unlimited numbers of them. In my game you only had limited unit types, and more experienced units/units with better commanders were alot better than green units with neophyte commanders.

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When I used to study English Language, we learned that all writing can be considered as one of four types:

- to entertain
- to persuade
- to inform
- to instruct

If your program is designed to entertain, it's a game.
If your program is designed to persuade, inform, or instruct, it's a simulation.

And of course, any and indeed most programs are both. What you call it depends entirely on your intention.

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