Simulation Games: Why Are They so Popular?

Why do we like simulation games? What's so good about them? In this article, we talk about a way of returning to childhood, with all its advantages (and even more), in the context of an imaginative and fun experience.
Simulation Games: Why Are They so Popular?
Elena Sanz

Written and verified by the psychologist Elena Sanz.

Last update: 21 December, 2022

When we were children, playing was the main way of both learning and entertaining ourselves. However, as we grew, we started to lose or put aside this playful capacity and deprived ourselves of its benefits.

Fortunately, video games are a popular alternative. In fact, despite their bad reputation, they can be, in certain contexts and for specific purposes, a valuable tool. Today we’re going to talk about simulation games.

Perhaps this name doesn’t mean much to you, but you’ve probably played one or more games of this genre. For example, the legendary SimCity, the popular FIFA saga, The Sims, Need For Speed, and Animal Crossing are just some of the most well-known. As you can see, there are options to suit all tastes. So what makes these games so special and what impact do they have on us as players? We talk about it below.

Person playing a simulation game
Simulation games allow us to simulate sensations of real situations. (Editorial credit: Rustam Kholov /

What are simulation games?

Simulation games represent a part of our development. For example, in childhood, preschoolers pretend all kinds of realities. They pretend to fly a plane, be a doctor, take care of a baby, or run their own restaurant. Thus, they get involved in imaginary situations that they recreate in great detail.

This type of play is essential for their cognitive and emotional growth. Nevertheless, once we’re adults, we continue to show interest and entertain ourselves by engaging in simulated scenes. This is where video games open up a world of possibilities.

Sports, caring for animals, building and managing cities, driving, establishing social relationships…the options are almost endless. Furthermore, people of all ages can find these kinds of games to be excellent leisure activities.

Simulation video games attempt to recreate real life situations, allowing us to experience various scenarios. Just as a child does, we can engage in the simulated experience of being athletes, farmers, soldiers, and pretty much anything else that comes to mind.

Why do we like simulation games so much?

From toddlers to senior citizens, people of all walks of life get involved and enjoy these kinds of games. The reason for this is that they all have a series of characteristics in common that make them particularly attractive:

They’re a means of escape and entertainment

Like any other type of game, simulation video games provide excellent entertainment. They offer the possibility of allowing our imaginations to run wild, putting us to the test with various challenges, and providing visual and auditory stimuli that keep us alert and capture our attention.

In addition, they’re especially capable of helping us to escape. In fact, not only do they allow us to leave our own reality for a moment, but they also offer us a new one in which we can become fully involved.

They offer a sense of control

In these types of video games, the player has almost absolute control. Contrary to what happens in real life, in the simulation we can control the characters at will, have clear rules and consequences, and it’s easy to obtain the results we want. In this way, the feelings of uncertainty and lack of control that often pervade our daily lives disappear.

They allow us to experiment without suffering the consequences

Simulation games allow us to live all kinds of lives and realities, but without having to face the possible consequences of our actions.

We can put ourselves in the shoes of a thief or a soldier, and make mistakes and ‘bad decisions’, all from the safety of our own room.

They offer reinforcement in a simple way

In addition, these games offer us the possibility of enjoying certain rewards with little effort. We can enjoy a sports victory without leaving our armchairs, develop our city in a short time, or get a dream life for our avatar, making mistakes along the way that have no consequences in real life.

The speed and simplicity with which we access these reinforcers make these games especially attractive.

Boy playing video games
Simulation games generate a feeling of reinforcement, due to the release of dopamine.

How do simulation games affect us?

Beyond being a form of entertainment, how does investing our time in these activities affect us?

On the one hand, simulation games stimulate creativity and imagination by taking us to really diverse and different realities that we couldn’t easily access otherwise. They can encourage decision-making and problem-solving when facing various situations that we don’t face in everyday life.

In addition, they allow us to practice skills in a safe environment. Even if we make mistakes, we can try again, try another way, start over… All without the repercussions that would occur in real life. Thus, while we play, we acquire learning related to the situation and improve certain of our cognitive abilities.

Even if other players are included, we can practice skills such as cooperation, leadership, debate, or criticism in a realistic environment.

However, in certain cases, these video games can generate an immersive experience so deep that it leads the player to disconnect from their own reality. These people are likely to develop an addiction, becoming someone who neglects their obligations, relationships, and real daily activities in favor of virtual ones.

Finally, simulation games offer multiple advantages and possibilities. That said, it’s important to remember that these are limited experiences that can never replace physical reality. If signs of compulsive gambling or possible addiction are found, it’s essential to seek professional help.

All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.

  • Peña, J. B., Fernández, E. A., Kirillof, S. & Tovar, N. C. (2011). La simulación y los juegos en línea como herramienta para la inmersión educativa. Etic@ net: Revista científica electrónica de Educación y Comunicación en la Sociedad del Conocimiento, (10), 1.
  • Urquidi, A. C., & Calabor, M. S. (2014). Aprendizaje a través de juegos de simulación: un estudio de los factores que determinan su eficacia pedagógica. Edutec. Revista electrónica de tecnología educativa, (47), a266-a266.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.