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Games & Simulations for Historians

Due to the fact that my colleagues have already dealt with a couple stellar internet, game, or computer based simulations, I would instead like to focus on some different areas that utilize simulations of various sorts for different purposes. First of all though, it might be pertinent to know what exactly a simulation is as this will help to clarify what it is that is being discussed. Well, according to Wikipedia a simulation is: “the imitation of the operation of a real-world process or system over time.” This helps to shed light on the fact that simulations have been around much longer than the computers that now most often model them. Simulations of varying degrees have been used by many different people for various different reasons.

Most obvious should be their use by the military as well as government institutions. In such high stakes areas it can be rather fruitful to be able to teach a pilot how to fly a multi-million dollar piece of equipment in a slightly less expensive piece(s) of equipment which is itself a lot more difficult to break or destroy. On the other hand, when dealing with something such as an election, simulations or a variant of such prove rather effective at aiding those who utilize them. For example, it would greatly benefit a politician to be able to run a simulated vote before the actual one in order to classify what areas require immediate improvement and how much of it is required.

These two areas that I have mentioned are quite obvious, but there are still many more that might not as quickly jump to mind. These include but are not limited to: financial simulations related to stock trading or other business transactions, disaster preparedness training and evaluation which also highly benefits from the use of simulations and specifically the organizing of mock disasters, sports simulations both at a professional level and an amateur one, medical simulations involving modeled scenarios with imitation or real actor patients, and lastly but not least noteworthy is that of weather forecasting. Especially when it comes to weather forecasting, the simulation is heavily based on figures and data from the past being compiled together in order to offer a best guess at what might occur given similar factors. Especially in the case with weather, but it can also be related to most if not all simulations is this best-guess scenario. That is all that a simulation can really offer us is a best guess given the parameters put into the model. No simulation can truly mimic the randomness that real life brings to every moment; certainly not yet, but maybe never either. There is no proper substitute for real life but with the advancement of technology, specifically when referring to simulations run by a computer, one may adequately prepare themselves for most anything that life might have waiting up its sleeve to spring on an otherwise unsuspecting person. The old saying goes that practice makes perfect and nowhere is this more true than when looking at a simulation compared to what it is simulating and the benefits that this provides to the simulator.


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