“Don’t you get bored just sitting there staring at a plane?”, my friends would often ask me. This was the question I would be asked time and time again, regarding my enthusiasm for PC aviation games. For most of my gaming life, Microsoft Windows-based flight simulation games have been the center of interest for me regarding video games. Being an avid aviation geek has rubbed off on me in the biggest way when it comes to my gamer profile. I have lost count of the number of aviation-related computer games I have played over the years, many of which ended up disappointing me, due to their lack of realism in terms of aircraft dynamics ect. While entertaining at times, flight simulations involving shooting never quite did it for me. I often found that the developers would focus more on the intensity of the weapons and explosions, while simultaneously neglecting principles of flight physics, and unique flight models for different aircraft. The one game that has always stuck with me, which I have owned every copy of, is the Microsoft Flight Simulator series. Recommended by real world pilots, FS aims to create a superior flying experience. Featuring every airport in every country across the world, the game allows the player to take the controls of numerous types of aircraft, ranging from the Wright Flyer, to today’s largest commercial airliners. Sounds pretty exciting right?
Unfortunately, not everyone sees eye to eye with me on this subject. In playing Microsoft Flight Sim with my fellow gaming friends, I have often gotten cold responses. After taking a few cracks at successfully taking off (which can be a difficult task at time considering the game takes into effect real-time world weather), I often found them immediately asking the questions, “so how do you shoot things?” “what happens if I crash into a building?” “Can you drop bombs?”. It seemed to me that the purpose of the game was immediately lost, and that the interest in this type of game fell into a fairly narrow category of people. These people, like me, look for much more than simply flying around in circles and “doing tricks”, like many of the people I have introduced the game to often try. I have found that those who try Flight Sim that are not completely obsessed with airplanes will soon lose interest, as they are not interested in learning the aspects of flying that real world pilots have to cope with on a regular basis. Ever wonder how your pilot finds the airport runway flawlessly on the foggiest of days? FS allows you to try your hand at ILS flying, which allows the pilot to precisely see where he is flying in relation to the runway on the display in front of him. Whether you want to fly over the crowded streets of New York in a helicopter, or cruise over the Himalayas on a transcontinental journey, the stunning scenery the game offers is sure to wow any gamer. Despite these great features, if one doesn’t take the time to learn the game thoroughly, which can often be very time consuming, the gamer will not come close to getting the full experience the developers intended.
Sadly, I have come to realize in years of playing FS, that only a small group of devoted people will continue to be interested in such games. While personally being hooked on the game, Microsoft Flight Sim is a very technical game, which literally takes years of playing to get the hang of and to perfect. With the 2008 economic downturn, Microsoft significantly cut back on their production of PC games, and all but bid farewell to the hope of any new editions of the simulator. This is not helped by the fact that the game caters to a fairly small market, when compared to the popularity of recent games released for platforms such as PlayStation and XBox. Although outdated, the Flight Sim community continues to survive thanks to the large numbers of individuals developing freeware add on aircraft, scenery, control panels, and other aspects to enhance gameplay. Websites such as flightsim.com and avsim.com regularly upload content for free download, keeping new and more realistic aircraft flowing into the game. But as the game doesn’t have much more room to develop beyond that, I am afraid that the game series I have been hooked on since I was three years old will be stuck in limbo until developers once again step in to begin a new chapter in the genre of aviation gaming.