What is the Purpose of Simulations?

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What is their role and how can they affect our lives for the better?


A word of advice: while talking about simulations in this article, the focus is given on professional and realistic simulators only. Those that are made simply for entertainment purposes (Bread Simulator, Goat Simulator, etc.) are not subjected to the discussion, and should absolutely not be considered as such!


When entering the topic of “Simulations”, things really start to get hairy. That is because there are two possible outcomes: if you are talking with someone who has never been into sims or just barely knows the argument, you might be discredited as a lunatic spending a fortune and much of his free time pretending to be replicating the reality, but in truth just playing a game. If, instead, you are talking with someone who actually knows simulations, who shares your same interest, you might get then into the argument of which sim is better replicating the real thing and which does not. The latter being already discussed extensively, I would like now to focus on the former chance.

While simulations are becoming more and more popular today, there is still a lot of misconception around them. That is coming from people who never actually tried them or just question their usefulness. Their perspective is based on the idea that “you are just playing a game”, so “how can you possibly pretend to be taken seriously?” This kind of statements may come from our friends, our parents, our partners or even our families. Caught in the rage of hatred or despair that such accusations might provoke, we rarely question the issue thinking of a reasonable answer, or maybe looking back at our very own experience.

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There have been articles covering this issue already, some stating that in the end our time and money is just spent on well-designed games. I believe things to be different. A discussion between friends reminded me of how deep sim titles go into my past. My first sim experience was when I was, in fact, just three years old, thanks to my father. He made me play Falcon III. From there, I played a plethora of sims, mostly military flight sims but also a couple of racing sims, until I was old enough to have a PC of my own and buy my own games, dedicating myself mostly to driving titles. My whole life has been shaped, if we might say so, by this particular game genre. What happened to me then? Well for starters, I learned to drive safely and efficiently much more rapidly than all my friends did. When I sat for the first time in a proper car, in the driving seat, while nervous, I knew the reactions it could have based on my inputs. I was ready going into traffic practice after a short while. Given also my acquantaince with AI, I was somewhat prepared to the erratic behaviour of traffic drivers too, managing just fine! Jokes aside, people talented in driving managed in their youth to get the same result I had, much before me. However, the point here is that I am not a talented driver. It was not talent that allowed me getting comfortable in a car so fast. It was practice with sims that made me a better and safer driver. Imagine if all of those who are about to get a driving license could try and train extensively at home before actually hitting the road, just as much as they to have to study the necessary books to pass the test. It would surely help creating a better environment, traffic wise.

When I flew with my girlfriend on a commercial line for the first time, while scared to death (ironic given I have a father who, on the contrary, loves flying), I was relatively calm observing from my window what was the pilot doing with the aircraft. Since I extensively played flight sims too in the past, I knew exactly what was happening at every moment and that helped me alot easing off my stress. Much of our fears come from the unknown. Knowing what is going on kills or vastly reduces your panic.

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Summing it up now, what can we learn from my own story? We can learn that every one of us can take advantage of sims and the knowledge they can provide. It can dramatically improve your life. How? By getting a much better understanding of how things work. Independently from which sims do you play, it will still affect your experience of the outside world. It will make you better aware of what is happening around you, conditioning your decisions and giving you a different approach to matters and problems. Beware though! When I say that you will get better, I do not mean compared to other people in general. You get better compared to not having dedicated to sims instead. It is always a matter of improving one-self, to “become a better version of yourself”, and not just getting into competition to prove you are actually better than the others are.

These are just the personal possible outcomes of dedicating to sims. However, there is more. Simulations can offer you the chance to have a try at something that instead would be virtually inaccessible and impossible for you to experience otherwise, because too young or not fit. There are many very young lads and lasses, which train hard on home sims to become pilots or drivers. They do it for years. They get such an experience and preparation that when they finally are of age to take that road as their career, it all becomes a trivial matter. Once they are out there, they are fantastic professionals at their job (which means, again, a safer environment too!). We can also see more and more cases everyday of people with disabilities getting into simulators, which is fantastic.

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Some instead discover their true passion through sims (I lost count of how many people became truckers thanks to SCS Software titles), and get the chance of changing their life dramatically. To those who already have a job and set their life happily, simulations mean the possibility instead of getting as close as they can get to experience daily something they love, but would not take as their career work or be dedicated as a sport. In both cases, it is an effective way to relieve stress, be better performing, both at home, and work. It gives you something to look for when you are in the middle of a nerve-racking week, helping you relax.

All of this without taking in consideration those that even make a living out of sims, like content creators on all media platforms, doing what they love and at the same time providing entertainment for people to look for!

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Oil and Gas Simulation Facility

Let us not forget then the vital importance of professional grade simulators too, which allow manufacturers and companies to test their solutions, coming up with a working final product, without polluting or wasting resources as much as they should otherwise. On the other hand, maybe even giving them a chance at a business they would not be able to sustain financially if they were not to resolve to simulators to extensively test their projects. It allows nailing every detail, proving every possible combination or idea. Alternatively, professional simulators can be used for educational purposes, training employees to be always up-to-date, efficient and prepared at their job. These are more general, but substantial and valid all the same, outcomes for simulations shaping a better humanity.

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Petrolhead and sim enthusiast, passionate since the cradle about cars, motorsports and simracing. I read a lot, and I love to share what I learned with others!

kph002

10RPM
Jan 7, 2018
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Thank you much for the article, Leon. Not the most profound answer, but the main reason I use simulators is that I find them enjoyable. Much as I prefer reading nonfiction, some of us gravitate toward entertainment options with a basis in reality. Perhaps it's also a refusal to grow up- I'm still playing with planes, trains, & automobiles as an adult!
 
Jun 13, 2011
229
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Good article, fueling my thoughts.:thumbsup:

One aspect of the purpose of simulations: to make me feel bigger than i truly am.

Simulations leave out a lot of parameters that occure in real life. From that view a simulation is a good reason to not take part in real life, because they are always much easier to handle. Real experience is always better, even if it ends deadly.

35 years ago i wanted a simulator in my room. Now that i have one, i am as far from reality as i was back then.

Software is not realistic, life is hard and hard links are stronger than soft ones ;)
 

GTR233

500RPM
Jun 3, 2018
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Simulations make possible what is not :)
For professionals, simulators are part of learning process : generate specific conditions or failures in order to teach the right behavior. Moreover, simulators are also use for industry to limit the cost of R&D, by example car manufacturers use virtual crash tests to avoid to throw real prototypes against wall which saves a lot of money.
For home users the main reason to use simulators is also a question of money for most of us : indeed very few can afford a real racing season or a single race at Le Mans, and I don't speak about planes like 747/A380/F16/F22... :D
Finally, as time machine does not exist at the moment, simulations can recreate old cars/tracks/races/planes which don't exist anymore or, at least, don't exist in the same form today.
 
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BrainsBush

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Jun 16, 2017
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Nowadays for me simulator (racing) is also a kind of 'stress' relief and just hobby/passion/addiction... Altough it can be quite stressfull to find that last 0,0x second.

In the past I had to use professional simulators. It wouldn't be wise to send me out on the open roads in a tank without (virtually) crashing dozens of times before.
Also a couple of my former jobs had to do with testing and R&D of simulators in different industries like Marine vessels, aircrafts, large transport. Simulators are indeed an essential part of product development, training, testing for often a lower price.
 

XRRoy

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Aug 22, 2014
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We play simulators, so that we can experience things we might never be able to reach in real life. Also without the risk of getting injured when accidents occur.
 
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bsmooth

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I think it a sense it helps us relate to things we might not ever know about. I'm a racing and car buff, I find as much as I can about anything car related, especially older machinery and there history.

Monza was always one of my favorite tracks, If your into racing or history at all, you have to have to have some sort of admiration for this place. especially the cars and drivers that raced there.
I first saw it in movies(can also be related to sims in a way) in Grand Prix, especially the banking its scary and exciting all at the same time. Then when GPL became available you could actually race on it.
Fast forward to Assetto Corsa, and you could race on it again in even more detail.
I never thought until last year I could ever actually see Monza in the flesh, but when I finally did it was almost like deja vu, almost like I had been there before.
So in a way you can almost experience things from the past, so at least in my case Simulations are a Time Machine that let me visit the past, and let me visit somewhere I thought I would never be able to.
 

Isaac Chavira

Livery Designer
Premium
Sep 11, 2009
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I think the original goal was save money and perform functions in a controlled environment on the cheap. Let's imagine the cost for the Air Force of any nation to fire up a jet just to let a new pilot get his/her "feet wet". One it's expensive and two a lot more dangerous due to the junior level skills of the pilot.

Here in the United States where I live we have the Flying Heritage Club. That is the Paul G. Allen Museum. There is a MiG-29 on display that they have. It only goes out once a year because it costs $25,000/hr (USD) to run it. operating a SIM cost electricity which maybe $0.03 cents an hour?

On the life saving side, it doesn't matter if you make a mistake in the SIM. If you really think about it all of us here would be dead already considering the numerous crashes we've all had on track and being shot down in a Flight SIM. It's no skin off our backs. The real benefit is gaining experience without the danger. A human life is worth far more than $0.03 cents.

Me personally, I can fly the Bf-110E-2 and G-2 with my eyes closed in IL-2 Great Battles. I can taxi that thing like a racecar and hit virtually every target I drop my bombs on. It has been quite a long while since I have been actually killed online in the plane. I always bail out in time and can belly land that beast like a feather falling onto a bed of cotton. Like Kenny Rogers sang "You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em". And that is the other benefit of the SIM, 'Instinct'.
 
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ears

I know, for I told me so
Feb 14, 2015
1,296
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Nah, all the stuff that this site covers - rF2, AC, iracing, they're all games really.

Expertly developed with complex physics, maybe.

But, for me, they're still games. It's purely for entertainment.

But then if I drove a performance car on a track, wouldn't that be for my own entertainment too?
 

2112

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Oct 6, 2016
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There were two things I wanted to be as a kid:
1) Race car driver
2) Firefighter/Paramedic (Like Johnny and Roy in "Emergency!")

I never became the former while I was able to work a career (albeit cut short due to injury after 12 years) in the latter.

I went to sims to be able to say I attained both of my childhood dreams. As an oldster I now love driving cars I used to drool over as a child and I love the competition. Sim racing has also, as stated in above posts, made me a better driver as I find I am able to anticipate other driver's actions a lot better. I feel there are times that I can look at another vehicle and know what they are doing just by the "body language" of the car as it goes down the road. Rarely do sudden lane changes take me by surprise anymore as even if the other driver does not use a signal (many in the US do not) I am able to anticipate their move anyway.

Lastly: They are fun as heck and there is little to no danger to anything but your pocketbook and/or relationship to your significant other!
 

E304LIFE

100RPM
Aug 28, 2018
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They help me enjoy my passion for motorsport in the comfort of my home to put it simply. The Great White North only has 3-4 months of summer to enjoy our expensive hobby. Which is a another argument in favor of simulators.

Sadly, the cost of fuel, tires, insurance, parts, etc. and the degrading roads around us make another case for simulators.
 

Lino Carreira

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May 6, 2014
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Well, in my case most probably to enjoy stuff i have no way of enjoying in the same way in Real Life, due to lack of skill, money or both :) , contrary to a lot of "sim Racers" , also have fun :p
 
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E304LIFE

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Aug 28, 2018
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To argue on forums:p
Which used to be fun actually, but now are WAY too moderated imo.

*Of course, there should be no room for racism, or threats etc., but I think it's got out of control in the last couple of years. SJW's for example.
 

scottiedawg66

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Mar 4, 2018
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I enjoy simulators because they are fun. Games do not really entertain me, at least for the long haul. But I absolutely love simulators, and have a flight sim rig, racing rig, and even a golf simulator where I hit real golf balls inside.

Its also about time / resources for me.

Before I had a family I had the time to build, maintain, travel and race motorcycles. It was easily a part time job and expensive. I also had time to play 18 holes pretty much at my discretion However now with a family my priorities have changed. And rather than having 2 days free, i have 2 hours.
 
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rubaru

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I play driving and flying simulations mostly because it's fun. And I also think it's a way to play out childhood fantasies that I am too old, too tall, too fat, or too blind to do in real life.
 
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Ricepilot

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Mar 20, 2014
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I use them to have experiences that I'll never have in real life. I'll never be able to afford to drive a McLaren F1 car around Suzuka but within a few mins of booting the PC I can avoid all the air travel and associated cost and have something similar. Within seconds I can then jump into a historic Ferrari around the old Hockenheim track that no longer exists.

I can't afford the armco repair bills in real life that the Nurburgring would present every few days.

All that and the fact I'd be dead twenty times over from ploughing an F18 fighter plane into the hills.