Are You a Mod or a Rocker?

No, I’m a Mocker . . .

From the Archive 10/06/05

First of all, for the record, I don’t consider Flight Simulator to be a game. I do believe that it can be used as such, but, like so many other aspects of the product, that is up to the customer – you get out of it what you put into it. If I were to design the box, it would A) be really badly designed, and 2) say something like: "Here’s the world, here’s a couple dozen airplanes, some weather, some ATC, there’s the Internet if you want more (a lot more!) of any of those things – now go do whatever you want. And, no, there probably won’t be a patch." 

Thankfully, I don’t design boxes.

I normally don’t like to see Flight Sim referred to as "just" a game, not because I don’t love games (I do), but because the implication is usually that it isn’t as realistic or as useful for training as another product, or that it’s less viable as a hobbyist’s platform, that it has no value beyond gameplay.  (As an aside, my responses have softened over the years, from "It’s NOT a game!" to "It’s not just a game!", to "It’s not strictly a game, unless of course you want it to be.")

This picture of a competitor’s booth just down from ours at last summer’s AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, was an unusually . . . formal example. (Take a look at the two kids in the foreground – notice how intently focused they are, determined not to have any fun at all while using a serious simulator.)

However, when I see articles that talk about games that let you customize features, games that have active communities behind them, games that have been published for years and turned into venerable franchises, I turn into a terrible hypocrite, and get all bent out of shape when they forget to mention Flight Sim. Yes, I’m irrationally convinced that I can have it both ways, but admitting it is the first step . . . .

Case in point: There’s a good article on game mods in the "Games for Windows" section of the Windows XP area of Microsoft.com. The author, Joel Durham, offers a good introduction to the idea of mods as ways to add variety and extend the life a particular title. But have to take polite exception with him when he says this:

"The seminal game Quake is really the launching point for modern game mods. Sure, there was modding going on before Quake came out in 1996, but id’s supergame was groundbreaking . . ."

Yes, he offers an appropriate disclaimer about modding having occurred before Quake, just the like one I’m about to offer in which I say that I agree that Quake was groundbreaking, and offer proper respect to id for their achievement, acknowledge that I was a big fan from the early Wolfenstein and Doom days, etc.

But, I have to point out here, in front of my rapidly dwindling audience of dozens, that the Flight Sim add-on community in 1996 (which, in another disclaimer I’m likely to forget to include, admittedly didn’t really take off until Flight Simulator 98, released in 1997) had already been building up steam for more than six years, since the release of Flight Simulator 4.0 in the fall of 1989. 

So, I suppose I would have to add a new tagline to my already horribly designed Flight Sim package: "It’s not strictly a game, unless you want it to be, or unless you’re talking about games that do cool things that we totally did first and stuff . . . "

Or, maybe, just maybe we can continue to do more and more to advertise and support our add-on community (I just can’t bring myself to call them a "mod community", any more than I can call an aircraft texture a "skin"), so that we’re not so easily overlooked in discussions like this.

Better that than me designing packaging.

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