When we speak of games, we usually think of entertainment—players spending all night long in front of their PCs while drinking copious amounts of energy drinks.
However, many don't realize that games are also used for real-life applications. There have been cases where games have spun-off training software and training software was created from games.
Here are seven simulation games that have impacted real life.
1. Flight Training: X-Plane 11
Laminar Research released the first version of X-Plane 11 in 1995, allowing players to experience flight in a realistic simulation. The company sells consumer versions of the simulator for macOS, Windows, and Linux, and it's also created versions for Android, iOS, and webOS.
However, what differentiates this title from other flight simulators is its use of blade element theory. Instead of emulating aircraft performance and reaction from a predetermined database, the software uses computational power to model its performance in real-time, allowing the simulation to have a more realistic feel than other simulators.
Because of this, Laminar also provides FAA-certified versions of X-Plane. If you pair that with FAA-tested hardware and set up a flight simulator on your PC, you can log training time on this game and FAA will recognize it.
2. Driver Training: Euro Truck Simulator 2
While there's been no documented case of a trucking school employing Euro Truck Simulator 2 (ETS2) to train their students, there are several instances on Reddit where ETS2 players transition from driving trucks on their PC to driving the real thing.
One such player is Zdenko Martinovic. He was interviewed on AltChar after it was discovered that he converted his passion for driving digital trucks into driving trucks in real life. Despite having no driving license when he started playing ETS2, he eventually got the license for the biggest possible truck, with 44 tons maximum carrying capacity.
When asked how difficult it was to get a license and how ETS2 helped him, he answered:
Well, I struggled on my first day of driving. I couldn't even imagine sitting in a truck and driving around on a highway with the other drivers around me. But thanks to my Logitech wheel, gearbox, and pads, I got the basics down. So it was pretty easy in the end, to be honest.
3. Race Training: Gran Turismo
Gran Turismo is a popular racing game simulator developed by Polyphony Digital exclusively for the PlayStation. As of 2022, it's had eight major releases, with Gran Turismo 7 being the most recent.
One of the things Gran Turismo is known for is its realism. In fact, Motor1.com reported that Polyphony Digital laser-scanned the Nürburgring to deliver the most close-to-real-life track to its players. And if you set up a sim racing rig at home, you'll feel like you're driving the real thing.
Because of this, Nissan saw fit to use the game to find its future motorsport drivers by putting up the Nissan PlayStation GT Academy. This is a virtual-to-reality competition which pits the best Gran Turismo players against each other, with the top international drivers getting offered a spot in Nissan's comprehensive Driver Development Program.
4. Self-Driving AI Programming: Grand Theft Auto V
The real world is chaotic and random, so much so that it is difficult to anticipate another road user's actions. This situation is a problem for self-driving AI systems, where they must navigate their way across chaos, trying to predict the unpredictable. Doing this kind of experiment and AI programming is dangerous, especially as it involves lives and the public.
However, where else can you find a chaotic world where you can freely run amok without real consequences? Well, you can find one such world in Grand Theft Auto V.
The Deepdrive Project, a research team focused on integrating vision and vehicles to create self-driving cars, used Grand Theft Auto V to train self-driving AI. And although Forbes reported that the group received a letter from TakeTwo, GTA V's publishers, that they should stop using the game's code to share with other people.
And while TakeTwo has a point, especially because the researchers are working with copyrighted game code, it helped push the use of games to develop self-driving AI technology at the enthusiast level safely.
At the time of writing, Deepdrive 2.0 offers anyone access to a driving simulator to help test AI research.
5. Military Training: ArmA 3
Bohemia Interactive created the ArmA military simulation franchise as an offshoot of its main business—Bohemia Interaction Simulations (BISim) military simulation software for training. The company developed this so military personnel—from the airforce, army, navy, and marines—can train and develops tactics digitally before employing them in real-world scenarios.
By doing so, the organization can save on training costs, ensuring it can first prove its plan digitally before investing in fuel, logistics, and a workforce.
6. Business Education: Capitalism 2
Business concepts can be pretty tricky to learn, especially if it's taught in abstract. But one way students can learn is to apply their lessons practically. This is where Capitalism 2 comes in. This business simulator game allows students to apply theories and better understand the effects of their decisions without risking substantial amounts of real money.
Furthermore, Capitalism 2 lets students play against each other, forcing them to think creatively and figure out how to best the other teams.
7. Oil Refinery Management: SimRefinery
When Maxis created the first SimCity game, it became an immediate hit. Its game allowed players to become city mayors, managing small towns and growing them into megacities.
Many companies saw potential in this, where they could ask Maxis to create simulations of their respective industries. That way, these companies could experiment with plans and policies to see what their approximate effect would be before executing them.
One such company, Chevron, wanted to teach its people how the refinery works as a whole. Though Chevron knows that the simulation game isn't a substitute for real training, it at least helps its staff understand the big picture.
According to The Obscuritory's story on Maxis Business Simulations and SimRefinery:
The operators at the refinery sometimes had trouble getting a big picture for what was happening at the plant beyond their particular area of focus. "The whole goal of this was to teach operators that they are part of a bigger system," Skidmore said. "Their concern at the time was that operators tended to be very focused on their one plant, and the one thing they do, and so [they] weren't keeping in mind that what they do affected other parts of the plant. So they wanted a training tool that allowed operators to manipulate inputs and outputs of the various pieces of the refinery process to see how they impact."
Games Go Beyond Entertainment
These seven games are just a few examples of how gaming is used in real life. In fact, simulation games could be used for pretty much anything—from training pilots and soldiers to testing new processes and procedures. Even high-quality historical games, like the Age of Empires series, can be used to teach world history.
So, if you take gaming seriously enough, you'll find that some titles go beyond keeping you entertained.