In 1937 J. R. R. Tolkien published The Hobbit. In it he imagined a whole world, languages, mythology, races, a world that while had been imagined before, had never been done as well as it was by him at the time. In 1954 he expanded on this world with The Lord of the Rings. Creating more to the mythos, to the world, and to the races. He created more than just a story but an entire world from the inside of his head. Many have described creative writing as seeing what is going on in your head and then writing it down. This can also be considered a simulation your mind goes through when doing the creative process. This process helps authors create names, worlds, races, mythology, stories, adventures, basically anything there imagination can think up.
The Simulation Movies.
This can also apply to movies, sometimes even more so. In 1999, The Matrix was released. It was one of the most complicated movies of the decade and made a killing at the box office. However, the idea for the movie all started with the creators, the Wachowski siblings. Their brain went through many iterations and simulations all trying to imagine the world that eventually became The Matrix. If not for this process some of the best movies of all time would degenerate into just slideshows with no stories. There would be nothing creative without the simulations that our brain imagines.
Video Game Application.
So how does this apply to video games? Games like Civilization, The Sims, SimCity, and Minecraft all give freedom to the player to dream up whatever they want within the rules of the game. All of these games are simulation games. They simulate our brains processes for creating things and puts them into a much more visual representation. This allows the player to be massively creative. Want a country that only centers on science and lets their people die? Civilizations got you covered. Want to create a family of Ghosts? The Sims can help you there. Want to create a city and then have a monster rampage through it? SimCity is your game. Want to create literally anything you want like video game logo? That’s Minecraft in a nutshell.
Because of the player being creative we get more and more possibilities in the game. Players will mod the game to do even more than before, and that will all start win a simple idea in their brain for something they strive to create. Some of the best games in the past fifteen years have started out as mods. Counterstrike being the prime example. Without the simulation games to give that spark of an idea, there might not be ways to kill your Sims and bring them back as ghosts, or ways to retexture Minecraft. Simulation games are full of possibilities because they provide a rather blank slate that almost anyone can build on.
Creativity is key.
So why is this good for the industry? Because without people actually wanting to create mods, to create texture packs, to create a ton of add-ons for the games they love, there wouldn’t be as many game developers. Many developers nowadays got their start in modding, and without that ability to mod a blank slate so easily, they might all be accountants for all we know instead of making some of the best games in the past two decades. Think of what would have happened if Shinji Mikami hadn’t started out with games because they weren’t accessible, we wouldn’t have Resident Evil. Or if the founders of Bungie changed their majors to English or Philosophy because while they wanted to make games it was impossible to start with a blank slate. While it was hard to make games all those years ago, it was still relatively accessible for those who were smart and had a massive amount of technical knowhow.
Simulation games are needed for the industry to thrive, not because they make money, or because they are good, but because they provide the clean slate that the next famous game maker is starting on. Without these games we might not have some of the most talented people in the industry or the influx of future talent coming out of colleges nowadays. Without these games like Portal wouldn’t exist. Those students had modded before and had the initiative and the talent to do it and they ended up creating the game Narbacular Drop. This game was the precursor to Portal and when Valve saw it they snatched the team up that created it and thus we were given Portal. Simulation games are not the biggest genre, nor are they the smallest, but they are certainly ones that can lead to the most creativity.