Sim-plicity

Sim-plicity: I am captain of a floating hotel

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s captain of a cruise ship the size of a skyscraper, though the sky is just about the only thing won't get scraped.


There were some astounding events last week! A meteor entered our atmosphere and exploded noisily over Russia, and another asteroid passed closer to Earth than many of our own satellites fly. The U.S. media, meanwhile, were going nuts over another incredibly important story: POOP CRUISE. See, a Carnival cruise ship had lost power, and the toilets stopped working, and there were reports of sewage sloshing around the hallways of the luxury liner. Clearly, a boat filling with poop-water was far more important than a couple of mind-blowing once-in-a-lifetime astronomical events, which were mentioned only briefly between showing phone cam footage of stopped-up toilets on a boat.

This all served to remind me to never, ever watch 24-hour news channels, but also made me wonder if there was a simulation game that would let me captain my own enormous floating luxury toilet. And there is! It's called Ship Simulator Extremes.

Sim-plicity: I am blowing up all of the things

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's a demolitions expert in an endless war with all things standing, tasked with knocking buildings down by blowing them up.


I've been playing Blaster Simulator, a building demolition game that asks the question: ARE YOU READY TO CRUMBLE? Actually, the tagline for the game is BLAST LIKE A PRO! but I like mine better. This is one of those games that doesn't even need a tagline, frankly. It doesn't need a picture or a logo or a title. The publishers could have wrapped the game disc in brown paper and written "You can knock buildings down with explosives" on it and I would have instantly appeared, djinni-like, thrusting money at them and clawing at their game-bag. It's knocking down buildings! I don't need to know more!

Spoiler alert: I needed to know more.

Sim-plicity: I am a rocket "scientist"

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations, though this week is less down-to-earth and more up-to-space as he attempts to create his own space program and learns that what goes up, might not come down. Ever.


I've just scored a major success in Kerbal Space Program, a simulation that lets you build rockets, launch astronauts into space, and explore the solar system. After many, many attempts, I have finally put an astronaut into a stable orbit around my home planet of Kerbin. There is a caveat: as he orbits the planet, my astronaut bears upon his face a constant look of sheer, unmitigated terror. This fixed expression of horror may be because he is well aware of a second caveat: he's used up all his fuel getting into orbit, so there is no way to get him back out of orbit. Essentially, he is stuck in space, possibly forever. Oops!

Sim-plicity: I am a naked Hugh Hefner

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's throwing parties, taking naughty pictures, building a magazine empire, and doing it all while naked as a jaybird.


Quick history lesson for you youngsters reading this: Hugh Hefner is a wealthy publisher who made his fortune founding a men's magazine called Playboy that featured pictures of nude women. For even younger youngsters: magazines were these things made of paper that people bought when they wanted to look at pictures of nude women before the Internet was invented and filled with pictures of nude women. And, for those of you so young you haven't been born yet, the Internet was a thing we used for looking at pictures of nude women before the images were holo-beamed straight into our cranial implants from the pornography satellite orbiting Jupiter.

Sim-plicity: I am a failed turkey assassin

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s following footprints and examining poop in an effort to hunt the wiliest and most elusive creature on earth: the turkey.


Remember that scene near the beginning of Jurassic Park where a kid says a velociraptor skeleton looks like a giant turkey? And Dr. Grant says that raptors are pack hunters, and explains how one raptor distracts you while two of them attack you from the side? And then he shames and belittles the kid in front of everybody by pretending to disembowel him? And we all laugh, because the kid deserves to be humiliated for daring to express his opinion to someone older and more educated than him?

Well, we all owe that kid an apology, because he was RIGHT. Turkeys and velociraptors are one and the same. Trust me, I know. I've been hunting turkeys all day.

Sim-plicity: I am a clown manager

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s headed for the Big Top to manage a collection of faltering clowns and mounds of rotting concession stand trash!


I don't know about you guys, but I've got CIRCUS FEVER! Seriously! No, seriously. I have circus fever. It's a fairly distressing medical condition. Symptoms of circus fever include a red puffy nose, belches that taste like undercooked corn dogs, and harrowing visions of malnourished animals and capering men in greasy face paint. My doctor prescribed bed rest, suggested I lay off the cotton candy, and said that if I'm going to insist on licking clowns that I should least wash them first.

Sim-plicity: I am dating an elf lawyer

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s making copies, organizing files, solving mysteries, and trying to find love among the mystical law-practicing creatures of Montreal.


In Love & Order, a relationship and office simulation, I'm playing the role of Dana Larose, a newly hired legal assistant in a Montreal law firm staffed with a collection of androgynous French-Canadian business elves. Now, I suspect you'll be disappointed to learn that the yanking referred to in the image above is not a crude sexual reference but simply an instruction (and a poor one at that) on how to clear paper from a jammed printer, so allow me to comfort you by repeating the phrase "androgynous French-Canadian business elves," which I think we can all agree is the best thing I've ever written.

Sim-plicity: I am a dockworker

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s unloading cargo ships, dumping rocks into the ocean, and sitting in the lap of a mysterious, smiling stranger.


I'm excited to be playing Ports, a simulation about being a dockworker, because I actually know a little something about ports, what with my blue-collar background of having watched Season 2 of The Wire a couple times. Here's what I know: dockworkers are also called stevedores and load and unload cargo containers that are also called cans that are sometimes used to smuggle drugs or prostitutes into the country at the behest of foreign men who are constantly sipping out of comically tiny coffee cups. Oh, and every time Ziggy appears onscreen you should fast-forward because who wants to listen to that annoying white-trash idiot carry on about his stupid duck?

Sim-plicity: I am a working single mom

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s managing a new coffee stand business while trying to maintain a healthy relationship with his simulated daughter.

In Cart Life, a "retail simulation" game, I've been busy all week trying to get my new coffee stand up and running. It's been a real chore: the woman who is going to build my coffee stand told me on Monday that I needed to get a business permit first. I wasted Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning just waiting in the permit office for the chance to buy the permit. Tuesday afternoon I revisited the coffee stand builder, who then told me I needed to buy an espresso maker before she could build the stand, since the espresso maker needed to be part of the stand construction.

Now it's Wednesday morning, and I'm shopping for the espresso maker, as well as beverage supplies: coffee, tea, milk, chocolate, flavoring, sugar, and cups. In the midst of my shopping trip, my cell phone bleeps a reminder: I have to attend a custody hearing. I drop what I'm doing and rush over to the courthouse in a cab to meet with a judge and my ex-husband. We're going to discuss the custody of my young daughter, Laura, who is currently living with me in my sister's house, since I lost my job and my home when I divorced my husband.

Maybe it's now clear why I put "retail simulation" in quotes earlier. Cart Life does present you with a retail simulation, but it has plenty, plenty more.

Sim-plicity: I am a ski resort manager

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he’s off to the Swiss Alps to work as a ski resort manager; that is, until he becomes obsessed with a giant mound of salt.


I refuse to bury the lede, so I'm just going to come right out and say it: a ten-foot-tall pile of salt has completely destroyed any hopes I had of running a successful ski resort. Granted, I can't really blame the pile of salt itself. I mean, it's salt. It's a seasoning. It didn't attack me with a machete or set fire to a building or steal my identity and run up a massive credit card bill in the Bahamas. It just sat there, in a pile, being salt. And yet, simply by being a pile of salt, it ruined everything.

Sim-plicity: I am a spearfisherwoman

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he's on vacation-- simulated vacation, of course-- spearfishing, diving for treasure, taking pictures, and occasionally freaking out about ghost pirates and aquatic bats.


Over the past couple months, I've had a number of jobs in these Sim-plicity columns: a rotten tow truck driver, an ineffective police chief, an inept bridge-builder, a confused bus driver, a frustrated lumber-cutter, and an airport firefighter so bad at fighting fires his airport was shut down. There's really only one conclusion to draw from this pattern of failure and incompetence: I deserve a vacation.

I'm taking my break with Depth Hunter: The Spearfishing Simulator, which plunks me into the ocean as a spearfisherwoman. At least I think I'm a woman. It's a first-person simulator, so I can't see myself, but the promotional art for the game shows a woman with purple hair wearing a bikini top. The simulation promises I will "face the difficulties of breath-holding spearfishing, an ancient fishing method", though I don't think the ancient purple-haired bikini-wearing spearfisherwomen had spring-loaded mechanical harpoons.

Sim-plicity: I am a San Francisco bus driver

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he becomes a bus driver in a simulated San Francisco, which somehow takes even longer than waiting for a bus to arrive in the actual San Francisco.


Pop quiz, hotshot! There's no bomb on a bus. (Isn't that a relief? A bomb on a bus would be terrifying and require some heroic actions by cop who presumably knows the rules but chooses not to play by them, and you're not a cop, you're a bus driver.) However, it is rainy and humid, so the windows of the bus are streaked with water and completely fogged up. You need to embark on your route but you can't see through your windshield. What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Sim-plicity: I am a police chief

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he puts on policeman's hat, holsters a pistol, then hangs up the hat and puts the pistol in a desk drawer. It's time to be a police chief.

We all know from a reliable source (every action movie ever) that police chief is essentially a desk job. You yell into phones, you drink stale coffee, you call those two trouble-making cops, Murtaugh and Cash, into your office to chew them out for all the damage they've caused to the city while working the Tandino murder, a case you've specifically ordered them NOT to work, and threaten to have them busted down to traffic duty if they don't clean their act up because the mayor has been screaming at you all morning.

Sim-plicity: I am a bridge builder

Christopher Livingston at

Sim-plicity: I am a woodcutter

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he squares off against his sworn enemy: trees, and their stubborn insistence on standing vertically.

Trees: they're nature's telephone poles! They're tall, proud, made of something (wood, is my guess) and have a rich history in video games of being things you accidentally crash into while driving. Woodcutter Simulator turns the tables on these traditionally unmovable video game sentinels, allowing you to cut them down and sell them off to be made into things like tables, doors, pencils, canoes, and, in some cases, telephone poles, thereby completing the beautiful, natural cycle of severe front-end automobile damage.

Sim-plicity: I am a tow truck driver?

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week he faces a deep existential crisis: is he a tow truck driver... OR THE TOW TRUCK ITSELF?

In regard to the question mark in the title: I'm a little uncertain about this week's simulation. It's called Tow Truck Simulator, and it promises to place me "in the role of the driver and operator of a rescue truck." Thing is, as a player, I never get out of the tow truck and walk around, nor do I ever see myself sitting in the tow truck, nor are there any other human beings visible in the game anywhere: cars drive themselves and sidewalks are empty of pedestrians. So, I think maybe I am playing the part of a literal tow truck, as if this game were taking place in an eerie alternate world abandoned by humanity and filled with sentient automobiles, like in Pixar's terrifying horror movie Cars. Who am I? What am I? Am I MAN or TRUCK? Take my hand (my DOOR?) and we'll find out together.

Sim-plicity: I am a human being

Christopher Livingston at

Having retired from world-saving heroics, Christopher Livingston is living the simple life in video games by playing a series of down-to-earth simulations. This week, he steps into the life of a human being, something he should really have gotten the hang of by now.

Real Lives is a downloadable educational simulation game, promising the simulation of a single human life, one life among billions. According to their website, when I begin my simulated life, anything can happen. I could be born anywhere in the world. I could die an infant or live until old age. I could wallow in poverty or become a success. The simulation will advance me through my life a year at a time, allow me to make decisions, and let me manage my money, relationships, career and hobbies along the way.

I start the simulation, and I'm immediately born. Booyah! Man, I am acing this so far. My name is Devapratima Medha, and I'm a zero-year-old baby girl, born in Gujarat, India, to parents Parimal and Mahendra. I also have an older sister, Vasanta.

Sim-plicity: I am an airport firefighter

Christopher Livingston at

It's time to kick the tires and light the fires and then quickly and safely put the fires out, with Airport Firefighter Simulator!

We're all familiar with the three major problems that plague modern air travel:

1. flights are costly
2. delays are extensive and common
3. airports are constantly engulfed in all-consuming flames

At least that's the impression I'm getting from Airport Firefighter Simulator, a game that combines the simulated threat of airport fires with the simulated activity of you putting them out. I almost didn't play this game because, as I explained last week, I've retired from video game heroism, and being a firefighter is pretty damn heroic. It struck me, however, that for all the great swaths of time I've spent in airports over the years, I've never been in one that was in the process of being burned to the ground.


Sim-plicity: I am a wolf

Christopher Livingston at

The world, right? It's always in peril, always in need of saving. I've answered the call countless times: slaying dragons, fighting armies, battling aliens, banishing demons, assassinating Mecha-Hitler... frankly, I think I'm done. It's time to take a well-earned retirement from saving the world and try to simply live in it. Luckily, there are a number of down-to-earth simulation games that will allow me to do just that, and I'm going to be playing a different one each Sunday in Sim-plicity.