Simulators at one point were not considered to be games. For some time people felt simulators would become a valuable teaching tool. As computers advanced people were always looking to create a simulator that would teach people to do something. The first simulator was a golf simulator created in the late 60s with no graphical display. People would input values into the computer and a paper readout would indicate what the result was. This very basic system gave the simplistic math required to make a simulator.
Simulators would continue to be pursued and one of the first games to be developed for the Apple Computer was an airplane simulator. For whatever reason people loved airplane simulators. Even before the Apple Computer people were making a tonne of airplane simulators on the Atari console.
The drive to make training programs just would not end, until the 90s. In the 90s people finally saw the strength of a simulator as a fun playing experience. All of the old simulators were tedious and possibly too realistic.
Sim Ant might have been the first for fun simulator developed. In this simulator you lived the life of a single ant and you would lead a colony of ants to victory against Red Ants and the humans. The simulator was insanely realistic and was based on years of ant-based research.
Simulator games from the 90s on would move from being training programs to a fun simulation of a past, present or future reality.
Simulators can be broken down into many types:
- Business simulators: The most common simulator will simulate a business economy and will often reflect changes in markets and supply and demand.
- Animal simulators: These simulators will make you play an animal or a herd of animals. In them you have to maintain some ecological development goals in having offspring, maintaining supplies and defending/attack rivals.
- Farm simulators: This sub-category of a simulator category is so popular that it is pretty much it’s own category. Farm simulators starting at Harvest Moon have you manage a farm. These simulators will simulate weather patterns, seasons, and farming conditions.
- Builder simulators: This form of simulation is based around the construction of buildings. These focus around developing towns, cities, villages or planets. Builder simulators find their madness in creation populations and unlock access to new buildings and new demands.
- Social simulators: The social simulator places you controlling a person or people. The most well known of these is The Sims. In these games you have to live a life not yours as they simulate problems you encounter and demands needed to get somewhere in life.
- Flight simulators: As the title says, you are simulating flight. This is the oldest and one of the most common simulators. Simulated flight can also involve combat.
- Driving simulators: These simulators focus around driving a vehicle and completing objectives that the driver of that vehicle would do. The hit game Crazy Taxi simulated a taxi having to pick up people and drop them off.
- Combat simulators: This final category of simulator is a first person shooter and it simulators real life situations and scenarios with gun fire. Most notable the US Army sponsored a large number of games trying to recruit people who play these games well.
- God simulators: These simulators make you out to be some godly figure and you are forced to force the development of a people and evolve them forward. You also often have powers to cause chaos.
Simulators unlike other games have no real objectives. You can do whatever you want. The end goal of a simulator is to simulate a particular set of circumstances with you controlling something. The simulator genre has become so powerful that most games have emphasized simulated content.
First person shooters for example have almost merged with combat simulators to create a realistic experience.
Many builder simulators are often confused with real time strategy games specifically because these are builder simulators with armies.
The simulator genre has grown extraordinarily and is now a pivitol part of almost all games.