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Why aren't simulation games simulating fun?

Vladimir Cole

Greg Costikyan gave PlayFirst's Cinema Tycoon a go and found it lacking. Sure, the game's got everything that fans of the "tycoon" genre have come to expect (maximize your profits in industry X while micro-managing staff, product and investments), but Costikyan wonders if maybe the game misses an opportunity to convey what he imagines to be the real fun of owning a cinema. He writes:

"Man, this so does not play into my fantasies about what it would be like to run a multiplex. Maximizing profit? Probably the owner cares about that, but.... What I'd really like to be doing is boffing the chickie in the ticket office, and sneaking out back for a joint with the projectionist between reel changes."

It's time for a new type of simulation game -- one that doesn't assume profit is the only motive driving its lifeless, robotic protagonists. Sam Malone didn't own Cheers because he was a profit-maximizing automaton, Noah didn't stuff the Arc with two of everything because he envisioned running the world's most profitable zoo, and Willy Wonka was fascinating precisely because he eschewed profits in favor of making the best damned candybars on earth.

[Photo of stereotypically high-temperature box office girl courtesy of Bluecube.]

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