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Simulation or game?

This website uses the words ‘simulation’ and ‘game’ interchangeably, though they are different concepts of course.

Without going into too much detail here, the significance of the game element for human beings and society has been described extensively in the internationally acclaimed book ‘Homo Ludens’ (1938) by the Dutch historian Johan Huizinga. A game embodies the important human needs to play, discover and learn, often in a competitive setting. According to Huizinga, new combinations can only be found through ‘play’. Schumpeter (1934) believes that this is precisely the definition of innovation.

The meaning of ‘to simulate’, from the Latin simulare, is ‘to imitate’. Richard D. Duke, the founder of simulating & gaming as a (scientific) discipline (*), defined it as “a conscious endeavor to reproduce the central characteristics of a system in order to understand, experiment with and/or predict the behavior of that system”.

The closer gaming simulations are to reality, the more they deserve to be called ‘simulations’. The term ‘game’ more appropriately applies to concepts that involve a certain degree of abstraction, metaphors, game elements and materials. The figure on the left offers an at-a-glance image of this – mainly ideal-typical – classification. However, most simulations or games – and certainly our selection – are a combination of both.

“Gaming: The Future’s Language” (1974) by Richard D. Duke is generally recognized as the standard work on the subject of Simulations & Gaming. It went out of print years ago but has now been made available for free download source:

* Duke/Geurts 2004, pp. 25-42, quote on p. 36. The term ‘serious game’ is not used here, because this generally refers to computer-dominated games of a less interactive, face-to-face nature.