Most games can be called a simulation of some sort. Gran Turismo is touted as the “Real Driving Simulator”; Rock Band simulates being a stage musician; Noby Noby Boy simulates…something.
Then there are games that go deeper (I don’t need to post a screen from Inception because I know you are already thinking it). I’m talking about simulated activities in real life being simulated in a video game. Did I just blow your mind? Stay with me. Video games aren’t the only alternative to doing things we actually want to do but can’t because of financial and/or ethical reasons. But things start to get puzzling when a developer decides to take those activities and turn it into a video game.
At first glance, it seems to make perfect sense to make a video game where you control an R/C car. But wait a minute…isn’t any game where you control any car essentially the same as controlling an R/C car? Slap an antenna on the in-game model and now suddenly it’s a whole new game? I don’t think so.
The thing that separates an R/C car game from a “real” car racing game is the environment. R/C cars are small-scale versions of regular cars, so they live in a small-scale world; beach balls and chairs tower over you like skyscrapers. Or at least they do in the Micro Machines world. Those things are pretty tiny, and their scale justifies a new game featuring an exotic yet familiar environment. But then you have a game like RC Cars which simulates vehicles which are on a Tonka Truck-like scale. While these are still quite small compared to real vehicles, they’re not small enough to provide an interesting disparity between the environments. Sure, you’re driving through places you wouldn’t take a real car, but you don’t gain any new perspective on the world that you couldn’t get by simply walking through on foot.
The reason paintball exists is to simulate war. There is no denying that. I get that it’s also a sport and recreational activity, but it’s still built around the idea of firing projectiles at humans to assert dominance. Well, guess what: there are video games that simulate war, too. Many games, in fact.
But that’s not enough. There are video games that simulate paintball, too. Why would you play a paintball video game instead of the latest World War II or Modern Warfare shooter? Perhaps this appeals to people who play paintball in real life. When you come home from a grueling day of paintballing, don’t you just want to sit back, flip on the XBox and pretend to play more paintball? Hell no. You want to empty a clip of armor-piercing rounds into the nearest rib cage and judiciously teabag your fallen foe.
Or maybe violence isn’t your thing, which is fine. You just enjoy the thrill of accurately hitting a target using nothing but skill. And if the thought of plastering a virtual opponent with small gelatin capsules is still too much for you to bear, you can take it down a notch and check out Nerf Arena Blast. No pixels were harmed during the making of this game.
On the surface, there appears to be no deeper level here. It’s just simulating sports. But think outside the box for a second. You’ve been granted the choice of attending for free either an NCAA game, or an NFL game. Which do you choose? Unless you have a friend or family member playing in the NCAA game, you’d probably go for NFL. The NFL (or NBA) comprises mostly of players taken from college anyway, and they are the best of the best. So you’d like to play with the best, correct?
Oh, well, your brother Jimmy hasn’t quite made the big-time yet and is a struggling linebacker for your hometown college team. You’d be happy to buy the NCAA version just to see his name. If that’s the case, then you are shit out of luck. Due to NCAA restrictions, players’ names and likenesses are not allowed to be in the game. The NFL/NBA have no such restrictions. But you can write in your own names for the players, in which case why would you want to play as Jimmy when you can have a full roster of Titty McFuckFaces?
Other than names, I don’t know what the difference is between the NCAA and “professional” series of games. As far as I know, football is football and basketball is basketball. It’s not even like EA Sports is competing with anyone but themselves. EA’s got to EAt, though, and as long as they’re capitalizing on the palette-swap phenomenon, I’d like to suggest they get started on EA Sports Young Adult Semi-Pro Football 2012.