Many computer games can be considered visual simulation. Explain why!
They are worlds in which variables interact through time. What makes them interestingly different from scientific simulations is that the player is not outside, but, rather, inside the simulation (the virtual world) [and there are interesting intermediary cases between scientific simulations and games, such as flight simulators, as well as games like Full Spectrum Warrior, which in one form is used as a simulation by the army and in another form is used as a game for the commercial market].
The player has a surrogate in the simulation (game), namely the virtual character or characters he or she controls in the virtual world (e.g., Solid Snake in Metal Gear Solid, a Sim family in The Sims, or citizens, soldiers, and buildings in Rise of Nations).
Through this character or characters the player acts and interacts within and on the simulation. The player discovers or forms goals within the simulation, goals that the player attributes to his or her surrogate in the world. In order to reach these goals, the player must recognize problems and solve them from within the inside of the simulated world. This essentially means that the player must figure out the rule system (patterns) that constitutes the simulation (the rules that the simulation follows thanks to how it is designed). The player must discover what is possible and impossible (and in what ways) within the simulation in order to solve problems and carry out goals. Achieving these goals constitutes the win state for the player.
For humans, effective thinking is more like running a simulation in our heads within which we have a surrogate actor than it is about forming abstract generalizations cut off from experiential realities. Effective thinking is about perceiving the world such that the human actor sees how the world, at a specific time and place (as it is given, but also modifiable), can afford the opportunity for actions that will lead to a successful accomplishment of the actor’s goals. Generalizations are formed, when they are, bottom up from experience and imagination of experience. Video games externalize the search for affordances, for a match between character (actor) and world, but this is just the heart and soul of effective human thinking and learning in any situation. They are, thus, a natural tool for teaching and learning.