Date of Award

Spring 2021

Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts



First Advisor

Professsor Wendy Lee


The 1990s witnessed a rapid and unprecedented growth in technology. People watched more television and film, conversed with strangers in anonymous chat rooms, messaged each other on personal pagers, and increased their consumption of video games. The 1990s mark the third decade of the video game industry’s existence. Similar to other forms of digital media, the video game industry participated in rapid technological development during the decade. Home and handheld consoles became increasingly widespread, driving players away from the arcades of the past. Genres such as the first person shooter, fighting games, and survival horror started gaining significant popularity. These genres were later brought into the larger cultural discourse after the Columbine High School massacre, the events of which many attributed to violence portrayed in video games. As a result, video games in the 1990s received a sinister reputation as a form of media encouraging players towards acts of degeneracy.

However, I propose that the video games of the 1990s were teaching more than the ideation of violence. This was also the decade within which social simulation games were becoming more prevalent. Social simulation is a genre of video games that focus on the interpersonal interactions between artificial lives, imitating situations that normally occur in the real world. Within the imagined universes of the social simulation game, the player experiences a microcosmic representation of their own society, and by playing rehearses their role within it.

I argue that the social simulation games of the 1990s encapsulate a collective understanding of the cultural and social expectations surrounding race, gender, sexuality, consumerism, and in doing so encourage players to behave a certain way according to those standards. As my primary sources, I examine two popular games produced at opposite ends of the decade-- SOFEL's Wall Street Kid (1990) and Nintendo's Animal Crossing (2001).