by Frank “Dart” Giger
If one reads Internet forums that deal with flight sims long enough, certain patterns emerge on how the “camps” of members form within the forum. While there are a lot of tribes within the population (The Chart Tribe, the Luftwaffe Tribe, The Ameritribe…), there are really three broad types of flight sim pilots — casual, mainstream, and elitist. Since I’m part of the IL-2 series of the flight sims world, I’ll pick on them. While all generalizations of a group fall apart once one deals with the individual, here’s my take on how it breaks out:
The casual sim pilot isn’t usually seen on the Internet forum.
He’s usually flying offline and bought the sim out of curiosity or whim. He’ll pop onto the forums to ask basic questions that (sadly) draws snickers from the other groups such as “Can I use my mouse to make the plane fly?” and the heretical “When is this coming out on Xbox?”
The mainstream pilot makes up the bulk of all virtual pilots.
He may fly the sim a lot or a little, but is more concerned with having fun than pursuing a sim as an integral part of his life. He flys offline and online. Hardware upgrades are often slow in coming, with a regular joystick and maybe an earlier model of the TrackIR snagged from eBay. “Realism” settings are viewed more as “Difficulty” settings and are relaxed considerably from their Elitist brethren without so much as a raise of the eyebrow. Most mainstream pilots look at “Flight” and “Damage Model” threads with mild amusement and not a great deal of interest.
The Elitist sim pilot is the smallest group that makes up the flight sim community, but is the most vocal.
It is also the most divided, with factions of all stripes shifting alliances with and against each other over minor issues they invariably inflate to the level of Global Concern. Whatever flight sim they’re currently flying, it is not their first flight sim. It is simply the latest one that has drawn their interest.
The elitist looks on the sim as more than a game; indeed, few Elitists will ever use the word game in a positive way. Not only are they most always on the move for the best equipment in their computer, but outside as well. HOTAS, rudder pedals, and TrackIR are the minimums. They will defend their gear as if it were a close relation — even as they dump AMD for Intel or ATI for NVIDIA when the benchmarks, features, and price meet happy circumstances.
They may sometimes snub Mainstream pilots, but they are fully aware that their ranks are replenished from that group.
The Elitist approaches the flight sim as if it were his profession, researching history, technical manuals, and performs analysis based on flight test data versus the actual simulation. They skin aircraft, make third party software to support the sim, host web sites, write articles and manuals, and produce films.
There are actually different camps of Elitists: FM Elitists, Historical Elitists, and the Settings Elitist. While one can exist in all three harmoniously, they are also mutually exclusive.
The most common is the “Settings Elitist.”
When actually flying the simulation, the Elitist thinks of “Realism” settings as just that. Realism. Cockpit never made invisible, icons off, map icons off, no padlock, no external views; and every variation of the same theme imaginable. Cheating is the evil to be fought — and cheating is perceived as anything that gives a perceived artificial edge to the player that another may not care to take advantage of at the time.