2020 has been a strange, difficult and confusing year for a huge amount of people across the globe. Reality has become, for many of us, a changeable and sometimes unpleasant environment to exist in, with so many enjoyable facets of life altered or removed during the global pandemic. As much as we like to think there might be, we know that there is little we can do to escape this reality.
But in an attempt to break away from a life of facemasks and sanitizer, one phenomenon does seem to offer an alternative experience. One that requires no social distancing, no self-isolating and the ability to enjoy certain tasks without the worry of all things COVID – the simulated world. Simulators have been around for some time now, initially as tools in important industries and sciences, but now as a niche market in the video game world. Many will be familiar with games like The Sims and Sim City, but in today’s technological era of virtual reality and high definition, the simulation concept can reach new levels.
During the global pandemic, a noticeable increase in simulation game usage has been seen across a number of popular platforms, with a focus on fully immersive experiences in a particular field. Such has been the turn towards simulators to alleviate the drought in real-life travel plans, that both active and passive simulations have seen leaps in usage in recent months.
Rail Simulators have become increasingly popular and though they are used professionally by the world’s rail operators to safely tutor trainee drivers, can now be set up in anyone’s home on the latest gaming consoles. Here, detail is key and with the complex cabs of the latest locomotives recreated to the nth degree, driving these virtual trains is as intense, thorough and rewarding as the real thing. Commuters on New York’s Northeast Corridor who perhaps have begun to work from home as a result of the pandemic, can still ‘get their fix’ of the rush at Newark Airport and the journey onto New Rochelle with Dovetail Games’ Train Sim World and tourists who might have enjoyed the sedate amble through England’s rural coast can do so virtually, whilst the actual heritage railway in West Somerset remains shut.
Globetrotting is also possible, with routes spanning Europe and the UK, bringing the London Underground’s famous Bakerloo Line and the rush of German Intercity rail travel into the homes of those simply unable to go abroad as they might normally. In many of these simulations, interaction is not limited to driving and ‘passenger modes’ exist for those really wanting simply to enjoy a journey that they’d rather not take in reality due to COVID.
Outside of the railway world, transport still remains a popular outlet for keen sim players and both the latest offerings in the aviation and trucking worlds have seen an upturn in play since March. Players have even been reported recreating long-haul flights, with little to do beyond glancing out the window and staring at the seat in front. Avid searchers, seeking numerous virtual escapes, will even find simulators for Fishing, Bus Driving, Farming and Office Working (yes, really) thus enabling a number of tasks and hobbies to continue throughout, what remains to be, uncertain times.
For those sceptical of how much these simulations might fill the gap left behind by 2020’s impact on our lives, it is arguably an evolution of listening to a live music album from artists that have passed on, or altered their sound since ‘the good old days’. We may never return to traveling the way we did pre-COVID, but in time, these simulations might just offer us a nostalgic getaway akin to a ‘normal’ reality.
Find out where your nearest operating festive railroad is this Christmas!
The early 1960s spawned a menagerie of fascinating diesel locomotives in North America, and among the most captivating was the stylish Electro-Motive GP30.