Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
A software toy is a program that fits all criteria for a computer game, except for a defined "end goal". However, for all practical purposes, a software toy does meet all the criteria for a game — implicit goals and emergent gameplay allow for goals that are just as valid to the player as those that a storyline, for example, may define. The term may be used to describe simulations and other games of this form.
The term dates from the late 1980s, and may have been coined by Maxis in order to help market the original SimCity, which did not fit the usual model of gameplay where the game ends when the game software sees that certain requirements have been met.
Flight simulator games fall into this category also; players often make up tasks, such as to fly from one airport to another, or to fly under a bridge, but these are not designed into the program.
Software toys are perhaps the riskiest genre of computer game to develop; for instance, The Sims is a top-selling game although industry insiders were originally extremely doubtful about its prospects, while similar games like SimEarth and SimAnt were much admired but did not sell very well.
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