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Flight Simulator: my unconscious obsession

My love of Flight Simulation started early, and at a distance, and then it disappeared as quickly as it came, and lay dormant for over 30 years.

I was 8 years old in 1988, when I went to my friends house (James) whose Dad was big into IT when it was really starting to be more popular. James asked me if I wanted to play Flight Simulator, and had never heard of it but being young and high on Dip-Dab, I said sure. He must have been setting that game up for about 15 minutes, but what happened next I was in awe. We flew a flipping plane, I was amazed back then at how clever it was (imagine how i feel now). We spent ages flying around, and i had the time of my life. The thrill of taking off and landing, noticing my breath slow to a stop the closer I got to the runway. But then we finished, went to watch Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and that was it, I didn’t play it again for over 30 years, but I always thought about it. Over the years as I developed so did Flight Simulation in a number of ways, it grew graphically, it grew in community and it grew in ability.

I had always been a gamer but I was a Nintendo kid, then a PlayStation teenager, then I started working and drinking and gaming stopped for a few years. Then my wife bought me an xBox and my gaming nerdity came flooding back, I was on it for hours playing all sorts, and one of the first games I looked for was Flight Simulator, but in 2018/2019 it was a no go. And then…… I saw the news, MSFS 2020 coming to Xbox, I could not believe it, finally i was going to get to play a copy of it. I had badgered my wife for ages to get the xbox one, and was so pleased she made my dreams come true, I was finally going to get to play it, and oh my god it looked so good just looking at the trailers on you tube…. Microsoft Flight Simulator 2020 coming to xBox Series X/S….. I’m sorry what….. Surely they didn’t mean that, it will be on the xBox One, it’s only just come out and my wife had only got it me 18 months before. But no…. It was only going to be on the X/S. I was gutted, but I knew there was only one thing to do…. Start laying the groundwork. The wife knew of my obsession (she didn’t quite know the full extent as I didn’t at first) and she relented, of course, she’s amazing. And so 6, months after it got released on xBox, I had to wait for my birthday to sweeten the deal, I finally got to play Flight Simulator. I raced downstairs (as a 40 year old man) and set the xBox up, then anticipated within 10 minutes I would be playing the game I have subconsciously obsessed over. I went to the Xbox Store, and there it was, I pressed download and there it started… download time 5 minutes, excellent, 10 minutes…. Ok, fair enough it’s a big game…. 30 minutes, ok that’s fine I’ll have breakfast…. 1 hour…… What? How is that possible? 2 hours….. oh my god, I might as well have gone into work. It was agony watching and waiting. Finally it downloaded. The wife made me an amazing birthday breakfast buffet as I sat down to start flying… it was amazing, the anticipation of the loading screen made me so excited, then there it was….. What the hell do I do now? I knew straight away I needed to do the flight training first or i would get frustrated and never play it again, so i went through it all. And I was…. Not a natural, I was terrible.

So with training in the bag I did what anyone with access to a Cessna 152 and Bing maps does, I attempted to fly over our house, which i subsequently crashed into to try and get closer. I then went to other’s houses i knew and crashed again, I hadn’t found the camera function at this point or active pause.

But even with this I was hooked, and my obsession was reignited. The problem was I wasn’t very good and felt that the training was not perfect. I also was using the xbox controller, which at the slightest touch sent you from a calm steady cruising altitude to a downward spiral plummeting to the ground. I also knew nothing about flying the Boeing but went straight in took off was on maximum throttle for about 10 minutes then wondered why it kept falling out the sky. This did nothing for my fear of flying.

There was one thing I knew though, I was desperate to master this game. One thing I am good at is if I am passionate about something I will non stop research until I at least have a basic knowledge. So for 7 months now that is all I have done, researched, watched YouTube videos become stalkers of some incredible content creators who’s videos i have watched over and over. My knowledge about flying has increased immeasurably to the point where i arrogantly tell people i think I could actually fly a plane. I even started looking at training to be a pilot…. Then i saw the prices and decided I would stick with Flight Simulation instead.

The thing that fascinated me though was the community element to it, and how there is this whole world available to you of virtual flight, that i never knew existed. It’s one that is tough to crack if you don’t know what you are looking for and don’t have confidence in what you are saying. And this is where I was a few months ago. I know how much I love this game, but I also know that if I hadn’t been insistent that i wanted to learn I probably would have begrudgingly given up. There is a flaw with a lot of the guidance out there that assumes everyone knows the basics, even MSFS training asks you to do things without explaining what it is, assuming you know what they are talking about. And that is a shame because it can be off-putting to people. This game isn’t perfect, but it is working hard to be. It doesn’t cater to the complete beginner, but there are people in the community who pump out lots of useful information, and i will mention them throughout my blogs because they are real-life pilots who know more than me. What i do know is what it is like to start off in this crazy world not knowing what the hell I am doing and taking a long time to find out why, what how and when. But I love this game, that feeling of landing and taking off is the same feeling i had when i was younger. And is the same every time I do it, and I have now done hundreds of them. The sense of achievement when you have started and set up a plane from cold and dark, and set up a flight plan. The feeling of realness when you use a virtual flight planning tool that uses the same things real life pilots do is incredible. The frustrations I had crashing the plane into the runway because I was too high, too low or too fast or a combination. When I got a Thrustmaster HOTAS One Joystick with throttle, oh my god I felt amazing. I felt a sense of achievement that I was able to land these huge planes, even the small one’s.

As I said this game isn’t perfect yet, it keeps crashing, things don’t always work, and it assumes a certain level of knowledge albeit probably not knowingly. It is set up by experts in their field so of course it will be done at a certain level.

This blog site is about the Novice/Beginner who is new to flight simulation. I will talk about all the things I wish I knew, all the things I learnt and the simple things that you don’t realise you need to know. I will also post thoughts about things, news and other things that might be useful. I am still trying to infiltrate myself into the community and look forward to sharing what I learn.

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