In Ian Bogost’s “Video Games are Better Without Characters,” he states that games can be “non-fictions about complex systems bigger than ourselves” when referring to the realization he came to when playing SimCity for the first time. He notes that although no one would consider it a good idea to make someone mayor simply because they are good at SimCity, the game’s focus is in allowing us to make the connections between zoning laws, taxes, utilities, pollution, and several other aspects of a city that allow it to run, even if done in a more simplified setting. This idea brought to mind the large trend that occurred in the past few years revolving around a resurgence of simulation games, such as Euro Truck Simulator, American Truck Simulator, Farm Simulator, and Train Simulator, with plenty of other games following suit, if less successfully.
In much the same way one wouldn’t assume a SimCity player gains actual mayoral skill, these games don’t really translate into skills for their respective settings either, but people still play them nonetheless. Bogost’s quote offers a potential explanation, though. Although one doesn’t actually become a farmer or trucker with these games, they offer a peek into a much more complex system without the commitment and negatives of actually participating in it. In both, you must perform the tasks necessary in your position, whether they be delivering goods or tending to crops, but all the while you must manage your resources, time, pick the best jobs and equipment, and consider the external factors that could affect your profit. The mechanics are not as cruel or unforgiving as the experience they simulate (a crash can be easily remedied, and a lost harvest can be managed) but they offer a perspective into the simulated experience that gamers who buy these games consider appealing.