John Metcalfe was CityLab’s Bay Area bureau chief, covering climate change and the science of cities.
Should the title of Most Boring City Simulator go to garbage collection, toilet cleaning or European bus driving?
Although the gameplay in Road Construction Simulator might not make you physically go out and lay in front of an advancing steamroller, it comes close. The very first mission involves marking a road with red-striped warning signs so virtual motorists can drive by safely. "That's all you do," complains a dismayed reviewer in the play-through below. "The length you have to do it for is looooooong."
Still, running around building highways is a blast compared to the grim duties in Toilet Tycoon, a game that involves keeping a city's nasty restrooms sparkling clean. Or what about European Bus Simulator, which allows players to motor their coach around "Freyfurt" while obeying traffic laws and collecting passengers' tickets? The internet is full of these weirdly banal municipal simulators, many originating out of Germany for some reason, and they're all so decidedly un-fun that it's difficult to stop watching players suffer through them on YouTube.
Seeing as how these games (in the loosest sense of the word) have been getting some attention recently, let's try to suss out which one is at the absolute bottom of the heap in terms of entertainment value, beginning with that Road Construction Simulator. This video has racked up more than 136,000 views on YouTube, by the way. Let that sink in for a minute:
Are idle shut-ins spending their evenings smoking weed and watching these dreary tutorials? This Woodcutter Simulator has logged an amazing 195,000-plus views despite its successful attempt at capturing the extremely irritating noise of power saws. YouTube commenter phatcarz hits the nail on the head here: "Wood cutting simulator? WOW WTF...what next, toilet cleaning simulator?"
Yup. According to German game developer Anvil-Soft, "Toilet Tycoon is an unusual economic simulation in which you can proof your skills as a leader of the saniterian installations of a whole town!"
This European Bus Simulator lets you feel the rush that veteran European motor-coach operators get every time they release the parking brake. I can't wait for the American version where you dodge projectile vomit and fight zombie tweakers on Greyhound buses:
Garbage Truck Simulator has the whole shebang, with “horrible controls, an awful premise and really annoying micro-management,” according to this reviewer, who nominates it for "not only the worst PC game of all time, but the worst game of all time, period."
Let's not forget the Street Cleaning Simulator that Nate Berg wrote about last year. In it, you can check a virtual employee work computer for invoices and e-mails from the mayor and... GAAAAAAAH SO BORED. I agree with this player that a few minutes of removing clutter from virtual streets makes me want to "jab my eyes out with a rusty spoon":
Lots of explicit language in this trial run of Tow Truck Simulator. What is it about municipal-work simulators that makes people unleash torrents of profanity?
Finally, the Utility Vehicle Simulator 2012 puts all the decade's other utility-vehicle simulators to shame, with nail-biting tasks like trimming tree branches and blasting out clogged sewers with high-pressure hoses. As Krone Video Games reports, you can even "cordon off areas such as events or road construction sites with barrier bands and warning beacons. There always will be plenty to do!" Like delete it from your hard drive, maybe?
So which is the most boring municipal simulator of all time? Sound off in the comments section, if you haven't fallen asleep from tedium already!