Mario Donick

Dr. Mario Donick has studied German language & literature and history at the University of Rostock. He has a PhD in Communication Studies. He works as independent author and researcher. Books and articles on human computer interaction & society, as well as computer games.

The role of money for atmosphere in public transport vehicle simulations

FROG 2023 – Talk

In public transport vehicle simulation games, players can operate trains, trams, buses, subways, or aircraft. Usually, the main focus of these games is driving (or flying) the vehicle itself – we drive the tram or bus for relaxation or to match a schedule; we fly the plane to learn something about aviation or simply for the sake of flying, etc. However, in several simulations, additional tasks are included – such as paying for a bus ticket, controlling passengers for tickets, or paying for aircraft fuel.

This talk discusses selected examples of such money-related side tasks and asks about their function within the game. It has three parts:

1.) Why is it strangely satisfying to give change money to passengers buying tickets from the bus driver? Why is it fun to walk through the bus and identify passengers without tickets? It will be shown that the relevance of money-related side tasks for the main goals of such simulations is usually rather low, but that such tasks add to the perceived atmospheres of the simulated situations.

2.) The atmospheres are not just created by the game itself, but emerge against the background of player’s real-world experiences with public transportation and knowledge about cost-related issues, such as the questionable real-world treatment of passengers without tickets (esp. sometimes poor people end up in jail for not being able to pay for tickets, while still forced to use public transport), or the slowly changing role of money in real-world public transportation (free rides in some places; more affordable monthly tickets). The talk will use the “situation” term in its neo-phenmenological understanding (cf. H. Schmitz, Der Leib, 2011) as triad of “fact” (“Sachverhalt”), “problem” and “program” to identify what makes up the gaming situation (and the role of money in it) and how this leads to the perceived atmospheres.

3.) In the end, the talk asks what would change if money would be removed from such simulations entirely.


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