Game Designer as Simulator: "Realism" in games is an extremely relative term. Though many games tout their high degree of realism as a selling point, very few games attempt to accurately recreate a real-world experience through gameplay. Those that do are the flight simulators and racing simulators, the Gran Turismos, Silent Hunters, and the Jane's helicopter sims. Most game designers place the player in situations that are fantastical to some degree, whether it be taking on the role of a blue hedgehog and racing across impossible landscapes, or killing dozens of Nazis and singlehandedly blowing up entire tank platoons while absorbing ten rifle rounds without dying. The game designer as simulator instead attempts to place the player in a situation exactly like one they could be having in real life, but aren't.

This raises a number of unique issues. Almost out of necessity, the learning curve is very steep for this kind of game. In part, this springs from the difficulty of the designer mapping all the physical interactions that one's hands can have with a complex piece of mechanical equipment into the inputs on a standard console controller or keyboard. Besides memorizing all the minutae of the machine's interface, the player must also memorize what keypresses they must input to manipulate that interface effectively.

Another challenge for the designer as simulator is the difficulty of designing for a dual market. How does one satisfy the small but dedicated playerbase who have actually had the experience being simulated in the game and know first-hand how it "should" work, without alienating the less hardcore broad market of gamers who just want to see what it might be like to, say, fly an airplane? It's a trying dichotomy which either leads to the designing of multiple iterations of the game within the larger game (a 'realism' slider that reduces or increases level of automation provided by the computer, requiring the designers to build in those automated systems and balance and test them on each setting,) or the alienation of one or the other segment of your audience ('this is so dumbed-down it's hardly a simulation at all!' vs. 'I keep running into the wall what are all these damn knobs for?') Sadly for the minority of hardcore types, if someone needs to get cut out of the equation, they're often the ones on the chopping block.

The designer as simulator takes the fundamental tenets of what a video game is or can be-- a means to virtually place someone in a situation they can't normally experience-- and runs with it in an extremely literalist direction. It's one of the most technical roles, from both a design and gameplay standpoint. Incredible amounts of minutely detailed research must go into accurately reproducing the interior of a nuclear sub's command bridge, but the designer as simulator wants to portray it perfectly, and the core simulation player won't accept anything less. While most game systems are broad abstractions of realworld activities, the designer as simulator refuses any compromises to the experience he is recreating. This is the role of the perfectionist.

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