Another dot in the blogosphere?

Simulations are not games

Posted on: July 8, 2015

Recently I had an email conversation that strayed to the differences between simulations and games.

I do not consider most simulations to be games. I share my reply and add a few examples to the mix.

Simulations mimic or mirror real life and often serve as a preparation for it. There is “replayability” or resetting, but that does not make them games.

For example, pilots start with flight simulators and military field surgeons practice battle zone triage in simulators. Our bus drivers train on traffic simulators [1] [2].

Some games are simulation-like, e.g., The Sims. But their ends are different as they do not necessarily prepare players for life or work. The points, rewards, or levelling up are for the game itself. There are learning gains, but they tend to be broader and are perhaps more ill-defined.

It is important to distinguish between simulations and games not just for academic reasons. When applied to practice, they set expectations, shape outcomes, and influence instructional strategies.

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