Escaping escapism: The rise of mundane simulator games

Originally published in The Spinoff. Image by Archi Banal.

Every day, Emma Maguire goes to work as a communications professional in Wellington. Every night, she drives a truck through Europe. She bought her truck simulator for $2 on Steam, a game-purchasing platform, a few years ago. She’s never looked back. While hiking and dancing are tools she’s used to de-stress physically, she now has the option to check out of her brain almost completely. “I find driving a truck is more chill [than hiking]. You don’t have to move.”

Maguire is one of a slowly-growing number of people who are opting for “mindless” simulator games; games like Lawn Mowing Simulator, where you drive a ride-on lawn mower, or Powerwash, where you clean houses. Euro Truck Simulator 2 has sold more than nine million copies. What paint-by-numbers is to visual art or First Dates is to television; that’s what these simulators are to gaming. These games, which simulate mundane tasks or everyday jobs, are described by users as meditative and soothing. “You just sit there and drive for two hours and listen to podcasts,” said Maguire.

Would Maguire like to drive a truck in real life? “Absolutely not,” she said. In real life she cannot drive a car, let alone a truck.

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