Tuesday, February 2, 2016

I Simulate Because I Can

American Truck Simulator is out today on Steam. It's a followup to the astonishingly successful—and surprisingly relaxing—Euro Truck Simulator 2. I'm excited to play it, but that seems to baffle most people I know.

"Flight simulators I get. You can't just go and fly a plane."
"Right, and I can't hop in a semi and haul fright from LA to Vegas."
"But you can drive from LA to Vegas in your car!"
"For more than the $20 this game costs, yes I can. And I don't have to worry about paying for gas, or crashing, or breaking down, or any of that."

Failure is my biggest fear. It's something I've touched on before. I've driven from AZ to CA, CA to AZ, CA to NV, and all over SoCal a lot. So why would I possibly want to drive the same routes virtually? Because failure means almost nothing in a game. If I fail, I just have to restart. If I don't? Great! I achieved my goal, got some time to unwind while listening to a podcast or audiobook, and watched nicely rendered scenery roll by. All without leaving my house and without the worry of what could happen on the open road.

Okay, that last sentence sounds a little hermit-y. I can see that. But here's the thing, I still enjoy driving in real life. Simulations don't replace activities, they augment them. I can't get off work and drive to Nevada everyday. I can't reach top speed, then downshift, brake, and nail the apex of a turn while getting on the freeway. But when I get home I can do both of those things, and so much more.

Simulations allow us to do things we normally can't without a lot of training (fly planes, conduct trains), without spending a ton of money (race cars, drive semis), without that rare combination of skill, time, and luck (sports games). They also let us do things that we will absolutely never get to do no matter what (space sims). And is that really so different from other video games?

Playing a simulator is, for me, just like playing the latest and greatest RPG or FPS. Both types of games allow me to escape and do something that I can't normally do. I enjoy Fallout 4 as much as Microsoft Flight Simulator X or Euro Truck Simulator 2. I love World of Warcraft as much as MLB 15: The Show or Kerbal Space Program.

It's fine that you don't get it—most simulators aren't designed for the majority—but for people like me? Well, I've got the virtual open road ahead, and a trailer full of goods to get from Los Angeles to Vegas by nightfall.

Safe driving.