With the wildly successful launch of Animal Crossing: New Leaf now a week behind us, it’s apparent that life simulator video games are still as popular as ever.
In some ways, the popularity of these games is quite puzzling. Gaming is a form of escapism, and it’s hard to understand why someone would want to go fishing or pay back incredible loans (Tom Nook, I’m looking at you) when they could have opportunities to wield swords and fly. Why would people intentionally avoid chores in their real lives for virtual chores in a non-consequential world?
Since the release of the first Sims game in 2000, gamers have been vacuuming, washing dishes, sleeping, studying and working away their digital days, immersed in a simple life not their own. The appeal of these life simulator games is, I think, the ability to achieve something quantifiable in a lifestyle. If you play the game right, you get promotions, make money, have a family, all within a matter of hours. The thing about playing a game of life is that you can win it- you can succeed or “beat” life. In world where plans rarely work out as we expect, the methodical success of these games offers comfort.
There is something almost zen like about managing your own household and allotting the time to study or work. It’s simple and the consequences are not permanent, meaning we can explore and experiment without fear.
It might not be the most exciting game format, but the life sim video game still offers escapism people need.