A simulation video game describes a diverse super-category of video games, generally designed to closely simulate real world activities. A simulation game attempts to copy various activities from real life in the form of a game for various purposes such as training, analysis, or prediction. Usually there are no strictly defined goals in the game, with the player instead allowed to control a character or environment freely. Well-known examples are war games, business games, and role play simulation. From three basic types of strategic, planning, and learning exercises: games, simulations, and case studies, a number of hybrids may be considered, including simulation games that are used as case studies. Comparisons of the merits of simulation games versus other teaching techniques have been carried out by many researchers and a number of comprehensive reviews have been published.
In the mid 1980s, Code masters and the Oliver Twins released a number of games with "Simulator" in the title, including BMX Simulator, Grand Prix Simulator, and Pro Boxing Simulator. Richard and David Darling of Code masters were inspired by Concertmaster's best-selling games, which were based on real sports such as football and BMX racing, which had a pre-existing popularity. In a parody of the established "simulator" cliche, Your Sinclairreleased a game titled Advanced Lawnmower Simulator in 1988. While many credit simulation games beginning with Will Wright and SimCity in 1989, the true progenitor of the genre was Fortune Builder, released in 1984 for ColecoVision. Games such as SimLife and SimEarth were subsequently created and are capable of teaching players the basics of genetics and global ecosystems. A study of adolescents who played SimCity 2000 found that those players had a greater appreciation and expectation of their government officials after playing.
Construction and management simulation is a type of simulation game in which players build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources. Strategy games sometimes incorporate CMS aspects into their game economy, as players must manage resources while expanding their projects. Pure CMS games differ from strategy games in that "the player's goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to build something within the context of an ongoing process." Games in this category are sometimes also called "management games".
Life simulation games are a subgenre of simulation video games in which the player lives or controls one or more artificial lifeforms. A life simulation game can revolve around "individuals and relationships, or it could be a simulation of an ecosystem".
Some video games simulate the playing of sports. Most sports have been recreated by video games, including team sports, athletics and extreme sports. Some games emphasize playing the sport, whilst others emphasize strategy and organization. Some, such as Arch Rivals, satirize the sport for comic effect. This genre has been popular throughout the history of video games, and is competitive, just like real-world sports. A number of game series feature the names and characteristics of real teams and players, and are updated annually to reflect real-world changes.
Dating sims focus on dating as the principal theme.
In photography simulation games, players take photographs of animals or people. This includes games such as Pokémon Snap and Afrika.
Certain wargames with higher degrees of realism than other wargames set in a fantasy or science fiction environment. These attempt to simulate real warfare at either a tactical or strategic level.
Certain tactical shooters have higher degrees of realism than other shooters. Sometimes called "soldier sims", these games try to simulate the feeling of being in combat. This includes games such as Arma.
Some simulators, like GeoCommander by Intelligence Gaming, are designed for the US military to help new officers learn how to handle situations in a game setting before taking command in the field.
"Sim" games marketed by companies such as Maxis have simulated many kinds of experiences. Even games like TheHunter series have captured real life game hunting experiences.