"Simulation" computer games grab me and they refuse to let me go. There's something about my personality that loves playing god with small collections of simulated humans, even if the simulated humans are just washing their dishes.
Along comes "Dwarf Fortress," which is not only an elaborate social sim but also caters to my OTHER game obsession: procedurally-generated worlds in which I can build and populate elaborate environments. This sort of game is the best drug ever for me. It goes straight through my eyes and into the pleasure centers of my brain. It's so good it's like mainlining breakfast, without the annoying waitress and the babies crapping on the highchairs.
But fortunately there seems to be an unavoidable flaw in all simulations. This flaw ultimately dulls the thrill and returns me to my pre-addicted, regularly-blogging self: sims are fun as long as there are more "real-world" details waiting to be exposed to the player...
...but the more detailed a game becomes, the more monotonous the gameplay ends up being, because the real-world is actually horribly dull.
For instance, I really enjoyed "The Sims" until I realized it was essentially an endless routine of getting my simulated people off to work on time, which is so realistic that it actually sucks. Likewise a game like "Alpha Centauri" where the problems boil down to getting your simulated units from one part of the world to the other; in my REAL life I finally bought a car to reduce that sort of monotony. Why should I put up with such things in a piece of escapist entertainment?
It's typical that, when I started actually having dreams about "Dwarf Fortress," my dreams were always about moving rocks from one place to another. I'd wake up in the morning feeling as though I'd worked all night in a warehouse, moving junk around from one place to another, then moving it back again later on. Most of the gameplay in "Dwarf Fortress" really comes down to that...
...and it's terribly dull and the exact opposite of entertainment...
...but that's the limitation of an accurate simulation: everyday life REALLY IS about moving stuff around all day, whether it's money or food or your body. The only reason we stay sane is because we forget the number of times we've washed our hands and the number of socks we've picked up (and believe me, the Dwarves in "Dwarf Fortress" are ALWAYS leaving their socks around).
So, my sim-hungry brain craves the most accurate "real life" simulation possible...but my brain is simultaneously uninterested in the mundane tasks that are 95% of real life. "Dwarf Fortress" could only sustain my interest if it got even more ridiculously detailed, but by doing so it would only become more tedious as a result.
I suspect this applies to the high-end modern simulations as well, games like Grand Theft Auto 4 and The Sims 2. I'm sure there's a point in the "fun sim" equation when the lines of "tedium" and "realism" meet, where the player cannot cross.
For my own social future that's surely a good thing.