What if the simulation isn’t that of people. What if the simulation is of forces and the fundamental quantum building blocks with rules on how they interact with the forces. Perhaps this all playing out with a reality short time, and what we perceive as eons, feels like only a second or minute to them. Then they can review the snapshots to determine if any intelligent like patterns emerged within one of the solar systems of one of the galaxies. They most likely tried running several instances with different rule-sets, and only a few, or just this one, was tuned just right!
See, you don’t need to be able to create consciousnesses, you just need to create the conditions required for consciousness to evolve. Check out the periodic table, doesn’t seem like you need that many blocks to do so ;)