The relationship between work and play is inherently entwined—there would, after all, be no PlayStation without the workstation. The link is clearest, perhaps, in a genre of simulation games that has enjoyed a surge in popularity in recent years. Car Mechanic Simulator, an unironic video-game approximation of the trade, became a best-seller in its first week of release, in late April. It’s just the latest simulation game that seeks to replicate working-class professions; the list includes Farming Simulator (gather crops), Oil Platform Simulator (drill for fossil fuels), Stone Quarry Simulator (collect rocks), Street Cleaning Simulator (collect litter), Euro Truck Simulator (deliver goods), and Tokyo Bus Guide (deliver passengers).
In a few cases, such simulations are authentic enough to be considered legitimate training for the profession itself. Time spent using military-grade flight simulators, for example, can count toward a pilot’s official flight-time record. Last year, a number of players of the Football Manager series of games submitted résumés for the job of managing Manchester United, in the U.K., citing their in-game achievements as qualifications. And each year the Japanese car manufacturer Nissan runs a competition using the driving-simulation game Gran Turismo, to find new racing talent. Lucas Ordoñez, the winner of the inaugural competition, in 2008, has become one of the company’s leading competitors on the professional track.