Simulators have long been a mainstay of computer gaming, partially because they often have real-world training applications. Pilots and tank crewmen use advanced simulators to learn how to handle their respective vehicles without all the expensive property damage and death that go along with making mistakes.
But now that Let’s Players are making careers out of cursing at games on YouTube, there’s a new type of sim becoming popular: the “ironic simulator.” They’re not strictly simulators, as such, but more red meat for YouTubers to play and fail at for the entertainment of their audiences. Steam’s Greenlight service has also inundated the PC market with strange, poorly-made, incredibly niche sims that cover the gamut from industrial mining to waste management. Here are ten of the stranger ones out there.
It’s up for debate where the wacky simulator movement got going, but 2008’s QWOP is definitely a candidate. You control an Olympic sprinter – the Q and W keys activate his thighs, and the O and P keys trigger his calves. Generally this results in the runner falling backwards onto his head. The game is not fun, but has the advantage of being freely available to play in your browser (Android and iOS versions can be purchased in their respective app stores).
Taking cues from both QWOP and Milton-Bradley’s classic “Operation,” Surgeon Simulator will probably not help anyone get through med school. The deliberately awkward control scheme operates a surgeon’s hand, which you use to pick up things like scalpels, bone saws, and the odd gallbladder. This one is more fun to watch someone else muddle around in, which may explain its popularity on YouTube.
Released April 1, 2014, Goat Simulator began life as a joke when Coffee Stain Studios’ Armin Ibrisagic quipped during a company game jam that goats could be as internet-famous as cats are. He went on to create a tech demo using the Nvidia PhysX engine that combined the open world traversal of the Tony Hawk series of skateboarding games with… goats destroying things. While the game wears out its welcome fairly quickly, Ibrisagic eventually added a map to it featuring a “Putin In Hotel” covered in Pride flags to show his distaste for the Russian president’s treatment of LGBTQ citizens. Goat Simulator is now also available on Android and iOS devices.
Where Goat Simulator actually managed to be briefly funny, Grass Simulator is simply dumb and obnoxious. It’s a fairly transparent and lazy attempt to cash in on the simulator fad buoyed by the strange success of Goat Simulator. It also has an incredibly misleading title – there is no grass simulation going on; instead you pick up a gun and shoot cows who eat the grass. Apparently these cows periodically spin around to a dubstep song because HEY GUYS DID YOU SEE THIS FUNNY THING ON THE INTERNET.
I’m a bit baffled by the praise that Mountain has received since its release last year. Generally I’m not a snob about whether something gets called a “game” or not, but Mountain seems more like a strange little desktop snow-globe: You are a mountain, floating in space. Trees grow on you, and you’re sometimes hit with random bits of space detritus. Still, probably not a bad thing to have running on your second monitor while you’re thinking about how to end this paragraph.
While most vehicle simulators put you behind the wheel of something fast and impressive, like for instance a Bugatti Veyron, Spintires lets you drive around in old-ass Russian utility trucks. Sure, you can haul lumber from point A to point B, but what makes Spintires remarkable is the way they’ve so lovingly crafted the mud you drive through and inevitably get stuck in — at which point you get a sense of where they came up with the name.
As a child, when my teachers asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would always say “I want to design and manage mountain gondola systems.” Thirty years later, while my dreams remain unfulfilled, I can at least simulate the experience on my personal computer. Ropeway Simulator 2014 proudly features gondola systems made by Doppelmayr, who are apparently experts at this sort of thing.
Interested in the day-to-day life of your local waste management specialist? Well too bad, because this game is broken. Beset with crashes and glitches on its release last year, Garbage Truck Simulator has been patched since, but this seems to have only addressed a minority of the game’s technical problems.
So many games recreate horrifically bloody firefights that leave alien Steak-umms splattered all over control panels, doorways, and important safety signage. Someone has to clean that mess up, and Viscera Cleanup Detail is your chance to grab a space mop and give it a try. You also get a bucket. Mop up blood and store larger gore chunks in containers you place in an incinerator. I got my first shot at this with the standalone version that comes included with the revamped version of Shadow Warrior, which gave me an hour or so to reflect on the awful carnage I had left behind in one of the game’s early scenes. This game makes a great gift for the germophobe on your shopping list.