Simulating Exchange: Pc-gaming semantics and green drinks don't mix"
By Andy Mahood
He was the friend
of a friend, and perhaps it was the alcohol, but the conversation wasn't going
"So, dude. I hear you play The Sims."
"Sims," I corrected.
"PC simulations. Not the EA game."
He looked perplexed. "but you simulate
things like...babes in hot tubs and blind dates and stuff."
It was a common mistake. "I mostly stick to flight and racing sims."
somebody told me you wrote The Sims column for a gaming magazine."
unfocused eyes scanned the room, seeking the source of his intel. "I write the
'Sim Column' for PC Gamer. It's mostly about simulated fighter planes, race cars,
submarines, tanks, and battleships. I've even done pieces on lunar landing modules
and space shuttles."
"So, you don't play The Sims?"
"Oh, I've played
it. I'm just not into it that much." I neglected to tell him that the last time
I fired it up, some in-game child welfare types came and removed my Sims kids.
Some nonsense about not letting them use the bathroom.
"Too bad," he said.
"I really kill at that game." A short pause ensued. "So, what do you play? Anything
I've heard of?"
"I did a few flights with Falcon 4.0: Allied Force last
night. The combat-jet sim." A glazed look. "It's a high-fidelity F-16 simulator,"
I explained. "It can teach you about every piece of ordnance in the U.S. Air Force.
Laser-guided GBUs and smart bombs, air-to-air missiles--you can even learn how
to place an iron bomb dead on target with CCIP and CCRP HUD cues." I was being
a dick. None of this was going to register with The Sims guy. I was just spouting
Falcon 4.0 mil-speak for the hell of it. I might as well have been speaking Farsi.
"It's a pretty complex game," I explained. "But it's not
to everyone's taste." "It doesn't sound like a game at all." He remembered the
drink in his hand and took a pull. It was green and smelled like Creme de Menthe.
"It sounds like work."
"Not if you like planes. It's actually quite fun."
"What if you don't like planes?"
"Well, there's always submarines, takes,
stock cars, sports cars, or Mercury space capsules. What do you like?"
games." A faint sparkle in his eye. "I used to kill at Wing Commander."
many of those around these days." It's a sad truth. The genre largely dried after
Freelancer. I was about to list off some notables when all of a sudden it hit
me--I'd stumbled upon some common ground. "You ever hear of SpaceStationSim?"
I asked. A shake of the head, followed by another pull on the green drink. Apparently
not. "It's like The Sims except that instead of controlling people in the suburbs,
you control male and female astronauts on an international space station."
"Can you, like, make them do stuff?"
The sexual innuendo was a little off-putting.
"Maybe. I never got that far." In fact, it took me less than half an hour to asphyxiate
the entire crew when I neglected to repair the station's CO2 scrubbers. "The game's
an indie release. The production values are nothing like EA's, but it does
have spacecraft and simulated people. You can even make them go to the bathroom
whenever you want." Or not, I thought.
"Where do you buy it?"
"SpaceStationSim.com, I think."
"Cool! I'm gonna have to check it
out." He looked down and noticed that his glass was empty. "Later, dude."
watched him walk away, unable to shake the smell of Creme de Menthe or the image
of coupling astronauts from my head.