God game

God game

A God Game [Kosak, Dave, [http://uk.pc.gamespy.com/pc/black-white-2/515016p1.html Black and White 2 E3 Preview (PC)] , "GameSpy" May 13, 2004, Retrieved on Feb 10 2008] is a construction and management simulation that casts the player in the position of controlling the game on a large scale, as an entity with divine/supernatural powers, as a great leader or with no specified character (as in The Sims and Spore), and places them in charge of a game setting containing autonomous characters to guard and influence.

Many god games do not have explicit victory conditions, but instead challenge the player to attain and maintain a level of success. With the absence of goals or objectives, the player often experiences a greater deal of freedom in such games than other genres.

The genre has drawn the interest of some of the best-known game designers in the world, including Sid Meier, Brian Reynolds, Bruce Shelley, Don Daglow, Peter Molyneux and Will Wright. Often this category provided the game that launched the designer's career.


God games are characterized by gameplay in which the player makes optional interventions in the game world, for instance in the form of miracles or calamities, rather than being necessary for its continual progression. Unlike normal strategy games, the user does not directly control the simulated inhabitants of the game world, and instead must affect the world and influence its subjects without directly controlling them; there is a minimum of "click-select-order" gameplay. With some exceptions, god games tend toward large scales, where the player controls or affects entire realms, continents or worlds, which are viewed from an elevated, aloft perspective.

In "Black & White", renowned for its innovative and experimental user interface, the user interacts with the world through the "Hand of God", which can move or form the world, or even grab villagers (generally a frightening experience for them). By performing physical miracles, the user earns worship in early stages of the game; mana that is earned from worship can in turn be used to perform miracles by gesturing arcane signs. "The Sims", on the other hand has a more conventional interface where the user directs their sims' desires through HUD icons. In "Populous" the characters were directed by placing "papal magnets", which attracted them, as well as by offering revelations to selected subjects making them prophets and instruments of the user's will.

In god games, the game world is often relatively self-sustaining and persistent. There have been assertions that any "game" without win and loss conditions should not be considered a game by definition. Possibly the most famous of these was made by Will Wright, who prefers to call his creations software toys rather than games. Examples of such god games are "Little Computer People", "The Sims" and "Spore".


The first god game of the above described kind (large-scale, aloft-perspective) on a console was "Utopia" by Don Daglow on Intellivision (1982), while the first such game on a personal computer was "Populous" by Peter Molyneux of Bullfrog Productions (1989). Both titles have been placed in GameSpy's Video Game Hall of Fame. The term was first used in a novel, The Magus, to refer to taking part in a large-scale simulation.


God games come in a wide variety, from abstract or mathematical simulators to creative or conventional games. In most god games, the game is observed from an aloft, elevated perspective ("Little Computer People" with its side view is an exception). Many popular god games, like Bullfrog's "Populous" and Lionhead's "Black & White" are games of territorial domination while others, like "SimEarth", are not. In some notable games, like "Little Computer People" and "The Sims" the player controls only one or some very few simulated individuals, providing for and guiding their lives, while in some god games the user plays a godlike entity that controls entire continents or worlds. In "Black & White", the player guides a nation of up to thousands.

City, nation, and world level god games, where the player manipulates tens to thousands of followers, include:
* "Santa Paravia en Fiumaccio" by George Blank, first appeared in the December 1978 issue of SoftSide magazine for the Radio Shack TRS-80
* "Utopia" by Don Daglow, published by Mattel for Intellivision (1982)
* "Populous" by Peter Molyneux at Bullfrog for the Commodore Amiga and Atari ST (and later for other systems) (1989)
* "Powermonger" by Bullfrog, built on the Populous engine (1990)
* "ActRaiser" by Tomoyashi Miyazaki, published by Enix for SNES (1990)
* "SimEarth" by Will Wright, published by Maxis for many systems (1990)
* "SimAnt", where the player controls an ant colony in a suburban backyard (1991)
* "SimLife", where the player controls the evolution of creatures (1992)
* "Black & White" and "Black & White 2" by Peter Molyneux, Ron Millar "et al" at Lionhead Studios and distributed by Electronic Arts (2001)
* "" by Crossover Technologies, a simulation of species evolution
* "Viva Piñata" by Rare, a simulation where players manage a garden to attract and mate piñata animals (2006)

Individual level god games, where the player manipulates one to a handful of creatures, include:

* "Little Computer People" by David Crane, published by Activision for Apple II and Commodore 64 (1985)
* "Alter Ego" by Peter J. Favaro, published by Activision for Apple II, PC and Commodore 64 (1986)
* "Dungeon Keeper" (1997) and "Dungeon Keeper 2" (1999)
* "Doshin the Giant" series (1999)
* "The Sims series", a household/family management game with emphasis on social interactions
* "" (2000)

* "Spore" by Will Wright has providing elements of both these variations.

Related genres

Sibling genres to and sometimes mutually confused with god games include city-building games, like "SimCity", and business simulation games, like "Railroad Tycoon" and other Tycoon games. The chief difference is that in such games the player normally has no supernatural abilities to influence the world or its inhabitants. 4X games like the "Civilization" series might be considered akin to god games in that they oversee and declare the development of a nation or species over the course of a few millennia.


See also

* City-building game
* Business simulation game
* Life simulator game
* Simulated reality
* Social simulation

External links

* [http://dmoz.org/Games/Video_Games/Simulation/God_Games/ A list of god games according to ODP]
* [http://www.kk.org/outofcontrol/ch13-b.html An article explaining what god games are]
* [http://www.rakrent.com/rtsc/html/glist-god.htm A simple definition of a god game with examples]

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