This is just a dump of the notes I took while listening to season 3 of GAMETHING, a podcast in which Pippin Barr and David Wolinsky play through a series of videogames. This season covered simulators. You can listen to it to it here - For some reason, the episodes played out of order for me. These notes are in the order I heard the episodes.

House Flipper

  • Comedy in simulators as the unexpected:
    • links to gutters
    • Good way to think about Jazzpunk
    • Simulators will always have something of the comic as they are incomplete systems
  • Not hard to go around the house and press A:
    • Think about how games like Venba or even CSD try to make you see the process
  • It’s nice to have a reason beyond capitalism:
    • I think it’s interesting to run this against IRL house flippers, who I believe do it because it’s fun, but the money adds value to the whole thing


  • I don’t think that you’re playing God, I think you’re kind of playing the abstract concept of nature.
    • That’s why it’s important that you see real fish in there too. The idea is that nature could have made any number of possible creatures, but due to the specific route it took, you end up with the ones in front of you
    • So, if you take the exact same route that nature took, you will get the same creatures that nature got.
    • This is important because it grounds the simulation. It makes it feel like it could be real.
    • Of course, I don’t think that identity is that profitable a question in the first place. We can be more than what we see in front of us.

Game Dev Story

  • The pleasure of naming things in Game Dev Story is an important part of the game. It really pushes you to engage with the game, and deanonymizes the games.
  • The idea of the game being about always chasing something else and all of your rewards are fleeting makes the game a disappointment simulator.
    • This is interesting to put next to the addictiveness of the core loop coming from delaying the reward of seeing how your game is doing until after you’ve started the next game.
  • I think it’s accurate to call it silly more than satire, but I think that doesn’t fully cover the difference.


  • The concept of the game expanding your conception of the wolf beyond the nature documentary is very interesting. The documentary positions them as creatures that hunt, this has more texture.
    • I think this kind of works out to the game having more permission to show you the boring stuff than the documentary.

Princess Maker

  • Calling this game paternalism simulator is really strong. That game lacked the push-back from the child that is an important part of parenting.
  • I haven’t played in a long time, but I recall feeling like I was the princess and not a guardian.
    • I actually played Long Live The Queen instead.
  • I don’t think this is a fantasy of parenting, I think instead that it is a layer over a spreadsheet. The spreadsheet drives the fantasy more than the fantasy drives the spreadsheet.
  • Calling it a tamagotchi is also interesting. I don’t think that’s accurate because Princess Maker has the very tight end-game constraint.
    • I was actually thinking of Long Live The Queen here.
  • Calling it the quantization of a person is very correct, and that is dehumanizing.
    • Putting this next to Tiger Parenting is interesting.
  • Yeah, making this a coach instead of a parent is a much better theming.
  • The marrying the daughter is disgusting. There exist players who really want this dynamic.


  • Simulation brings the fantastic closer to reality - that’s a very interesting point.
  • That there’s no way to fudge things for the player, they just have to drive straight - that’s also very interesting.
  • So, the game becomes about consequences and about the results of the physics.
  • The difference between seeing the car as a collection of beams and nodes and the way they feel like death machines when you encounter them on the road is very interesting.


  • Simulators as a way to think about agency
    • Trying to do good and having your hands tied
  • The excerpt quoted here is horrifying.
  • I want to note:
    • Games like this encode a range of possibilities and that range is an intentional choice
    • All of these are always speculative history by their nature
  • The choice of the word TIMBER as the option to ignore native concerns is a great thing to highlight
  • The limitation of independence being a currency is also a good point
    • Liberty Bells as a luxury, like the workshops in Surviving Mars is a very explicit choice too
  • Pointing out that slavery is not in the game is a great point