Boring Video Games: Escaping the Tedium of Digital Fantasy

Traditionally the subject matter of simulations is exotic and spectacular. Simulations set up narratives that indulge fantasy, allowing us to do something beyond the possible. Like most digital technology, video games have adhered to this model (there are exceptions –Paperboy & Nintendogs spring to mind).

There is an analogy in digital technologies impact on architecture – where previously impossible geometries have been scripted into all-too-buildable realities. If you think that all this fantasy is a good thing, it’s worth remembering how dull it is listening to other people’s dreams. (Personally, I’ve always been more fascinated by the architectural implications of Photoshop rather than any parametric formalism.)

In video games and architecture alike, this propensity to the fantastical is so familiar that it becomes unremarkable. That’s why these examples of a peculiar video game genre seem so surprising. These are simulations of the absolutely normal, of the incredibly familiar. The everyday and the banal are remade in a detail that seems strange. No explosions, no exotic ruins, no dystopian narrative, no other worldly imaginings. Here boredom is a strategy to evade the tedium of our own fantasies.

I have no idea how long it takes to code a game like City Bus Driver, or how long it would take to clock it (in fact, do you clock it? Or is it like life and just ends unexpectedly, with no resolution, no dramatic finale or moving soundtrack playing as the credits roll?). But just the very idea that such normal activites have been so closely observed and represented is kind of thrilling. Equally, the idea that people would choose to spend their leisure-time acting out such unglamorous activities must be a sign of something good at the heart of humanity (though maybe it’s the opposite – a sign of something even more disturbed than the more popular digital persuit of slaughtering alien creatures).

Either way, these boring simulations of mundane low paid work are a fascinating cultural sub-genre.

City Bus Driver

Crane Simulator 2009

Digger Simulator

Forklift Truck Simulator 2009

UK Truck Simulator

Farming Simulator 2009 Gold Edition

Farming Simulator 2009: Hedgecutting

Woodcutter Simulator

Demolition Company Simulator

Roadworks Simulator



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  1. Duane says:

    Taken to its logical conclusion, this reminds me of Penn & Teller’s “Smoke & Mirrors” minigame Desert Bus…

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penn_&_Teller's_Smoke_and_Mirrors#Desert_Bus

    8 hours of gameplay for nothing, and the coach veers slightly to the right, making it impossible to just tape down the drive button and leave it…

  2. James Ward says:

    I actually own a number of these games. I became fascinated with them after stumbling across Bus Simulator on Amazon and noticing it had a flash on the box saying “DOWNLOAD ADDITIONAL BUSES ONLINE”.

    I’m going to be talking about these games as part of a conference I’m organising called Boring2010 (details on my blog). Demolition Simulator is particularly good. It sounds exciting – demolishing buildings! However, once you have demolished the buildings, you then have to clear up all the rubble, so after the first ten minutes of knocking down a school or a church, you then have an hour and a half of tidying up.

  3. Svrdlu neaghit says:

    These are great training tools for the day when all ov this work will be done remotely, digitally, via interface rather than feel.

  4. MM Jones says:

    Haha the Truck Simulator Video #1 shows the Pinnacle in the City at :022. Who says the games are futuristic fantasylands?

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