9.5. Appendix – Alternative Simulation Approaches
These days simulators are everywhere. They are widely used to help 'designers' (architects, urban planners, engineers, military strategists, pharmacologists) understand all sorts of complex things. Simulators as thinking tools include virtual buildings, highway simulators, models of nuclear power stations, water-supply simulators, aircraft flight simulators, virtual battlefields and even virtual hearts. Popular video games like SimCity, Tomb Raider, Formula One, Grand Theft Auto and The Sims all contain simulation engines that control what happens on the screen and animate the vivid and detailed images.
Simulators are of three main types that each use different concepts and building blocks to represent how things change through time. Besides system dynamics, there is also discrete-event simulation and agent-based modelling. Associated with each of these simulation approaches are thriving communities of academics and practitioners and a huge repertoire of models they have developed. There are frequent overlaps in the problem situations to which different simulation approaches are applied. Hence, it is useful for system dynamics modellers (which includes anyone who has reached this point in the book) to be aware that other 'simulationists' exist and to appreciate their worldview.
9.5.1. From Urban Dynamics to SimCity
As a start consider SimCity, a popular yet serious videogame that 'makes you Mayor and City Planner, and dares you ...