Between simulation and play: the products and services we will inhabit

Dec 14, 2023 | Virtual reality and immersive experiences | 0 comments

No, simulation is not a game. And no, we are not just building simulations, at least not exclusively. We’ve all seen these videos: Meta showcasing its new workroom, their vision of the future of work (via Quest headsets, of course). And Apple unveiling its highly anticipated entry into the world of immersive experiences.

But are these simulations? Or games?

There are different definitions of simulation – the one I like the most: “Central representations of a system.” Simulation doesn’t have to replicate everything because the territory is not the map. Otherwise, it becomes pointless. But are these products/services that are vying to enter the daily lives of billions of people really “just” simulations?

They are not games, that’s for sure.

Because, especially in the world of work, the word “game” is always a problem. Those who work want to be taken seriously and want to take themselves seriously. “I work, I’m not playing here,” how many times have we heard that? From “games,” these BIG companies have borrowed some elements. Such as the use of avatars, the use of leaderboards, collaboration and/or competition dynamics. Pointing and rewards mechanics, badging, and even facial expressions and gestures we are accustomed to.

Simulations and games according to Gameful

At Gameful, we have built several hybrid products between simulation and gaming. Simulations for truck and general transportation operations, road safety simulations, and car safety simulations. For example, we’ve created various experiences to show the distance to maintain between cars or different types of vehicles and the difference in driving style. Each car has different characteristics and potential hazards to experience during the simulation. With trucks, we were able to simulate different truck models and features, such as refrigerated trucks with various compartments at different temperatures and rules. We simulated various trucks and their braking capacity, their black box, and the so-called ecological driving – becoming increasingly relevant –

Are they games or simulations? Or something else?

Here too, the answer is a “both,” because for games, we have only used some components like indicators, leaderboards, competition and collaboration dynamics. For simulations, on the other hand, the “central elements of the system” are represented by vehicles: cars, trucks, buses, refrigerated trucks, their shapes, their functioning, and of course, the training rules, the rules to be respected and communicated. Even corporate simulations adhere to this new mix of elements to simulate and engagement elements. In a company, there are company processes, company products, flows, and corporate “rituals” to respect and “simulate.” Each company is a world unto itself to interact with to absorb these “hard items” that represent the core of the simulation – corporate in this case – to be realized. These “core” elements need to be tied to engagement elements to create the simulation/game mentioned above. Companies are made up of people, and people engage at various levels but with the same components. A company might be interested in engaging its workforce, another might be interested in engaging its most relevant business clients and prospects, and another might be interested in engaging corporate stakeholders, and so on. Even though I don’t like to categorize, we have to try. They are not and will not be “just” simulations. They are not and will not be “games.” What are they then? A new path. That lies in between the two.

Salvatore Mica