Hot Take: The Paradox of Choice in Flight Sims

Back in the olden days, flight sims were few and far between. I don’t remember a time when I had to make hard decisions on where to spend my flight sim gaming time.

Lately I have been passing on flight sims for a couple of reasons:

  1. Time - because what I like to do is cold and dark starts and flights that fit my fantasy of being a real life pilot;
  2. Choice - I like everything and want to learn it all! But see point #1;

That brings me to the one of the two major problems that I see with Flight Sims as a hobby:

  1. The current Paradox of Choice;
  2. The barriers to entry;

The Paradox of choice is relatively simple:

" The paradox of choice is an observation that having many options to choose from, rather than making people happy and ensuring they get what they want, can cause them stress and problematize decision-making ."

We may have a few ‘major’ sims at the moment, but if you look a little deeper, inside those sims we have got to be in the golden age of Flight Sim games. Sure, there are features missing from them all but never before have we been able to fly so many different platforms in such a variety of ways.

I remember when Falcon 4 came out, in the foggy distant past, and wishing I had an F-18 but enjoying the heck out of the 1 option that I did have (bugs, crashes and all).

Now? I probably spend 30 minutes to an hour trying to figure out what the heck I want to fly.

Which sucks because we have so much that we can choose from! It’s a terrible thing to complain about but … here I am :slight_smile:

I love props, I love jets and I love helicopters and, even limiting myself to one sim, I have too much to choose from!


dont worry, I am on the same boat. even with the ‘want to fly not tinker’ :slight_smile:

its really hard to focus on one platform or frame when there is another shiny thing waiting to be dusted off.

my solution for now is to ‘forums coop’ with others. examples:

  • there was the XMas flight so I joined
  • there is the Paradise Lost SP campaign for DCS. WarPig just finished it recently and chipwich is playing. I am not really a SP fan but I am going to join them. did buy it today and hopefully will do first mission today.
  • there is that Ground Branch challenge. I didnt play anything else than flight sims in a looong time. but I bought it and looking forward to join.

so kind of fishing for an ideas which suits me for that moment. we had also that ‘hangar queens month’ in the past. maybe you can start one. its always better for me to njoy something when I can share the experience whether it is insta sharing in MP or sharing SP exp via forums.


and wanted to add. despite we have really many platforms and frames just waiting to be taken for a spin they just wont go away or get rotten with time. they will be still here in a month or months from now. so we should be not worried to dedicate our actual spare time to single platform or frame with the knowledge that in month or few we will just move to another one.

and its always beneficial to re-read this fine article. I do it from time to time :slight_smile:


Damn, I miss Tom.


Ah, the tyranny of choice. I’m blaming it mostly on YouTube. They used to praise the “renaissance man”, but now we have so many data streams, that title might more be seen as a mark of the distracted.

With regard to civilian flight sims, I deleted from my hard drive both P3D and XP11, along with thousands of dollars of add-ons. It was a full time job keeping up with updates to both sims and all of the 3rd party mods, payware and free. MSFS somewhat helped with that delivering the whole planet in a reasonably attractive state, as well as a bunch of included aircraft. Content Manager and MSFS Add-on Linker help, but now it’s beginning to feel bloated. Must resist.

Flying campaigns in DCS has really helped focus and learn the different modules that I previously had skimmed over. Most recently the Tomcat in Fear the Bones and as of yesterday, the Huey in Paradise Lost, both excellent. With campaigns, I think that you must make a pact with yourself that you will finish them no matter how brutal they are on your death count or to your ego. Make it unbearably shameful to quit. Otherwise, you run the risk of remaining master of none.

A couple of similarly themed articles:


I agree with this, to a degree. I mean, while learning (and perfecting) any new aircraft or skill requires discipline, if you’re not having fun, you’re not having fun. And fun is the reason we do this stuff, after all. Otherwise it’s just like pointless work! :expressionless:

For instance, during the F-5E Black Sea Resolve '79 Campaign, I resorted to skipping a few missions because despite performing the tasks given and successfully RTB’ing, I was only being credited with a score of 50%, and the campaign wouldn’t progress without a score of 100%. Well, IRL if your squadron cmdr sends a single flight of two F-5’s to attack a convoy, and they expend all of their ordnance on the target, destroying several vehicles each and halting the convoy, I would consider that a success. Real fighter pilots aren’t given percentage scores in the middle of a war and forced to replay each mission they’re assigned until they achieve perfection.

Other campaigns handle this much better. For instance, in UH-1 Paradise Lost, just making it back to base allows you to complete the mission. Same for Fear the Bones, and Raven One (I think). I never skipped a mission on any of those. But my point is, it’s not necessary to force yourself to play by the exacting set of rules that the campaign author presents you if you don’t want to.

As far as learning an aircraft, I think the campaigns are the perfect vehicle to do this within.

Raven One forced me to learn the Hornet. If I read a mission briefing and realized I didn’t have a handle on a particular weapon or system, I’d jump out and read up on it, fly the associated training mission, and then go back to the campaign and fly it. It worked out pretty awesomely, and now I feel like I can operate the Hornet with reasonable competence. It definitely forced me to learn AAR, which translates to any of the other birds pretty easily.

Fear the Bones did the same for the Tomcat, which was arguably much easier to learn, despite seeming much less user friendly at first. It’s really quite an easy airplane to fly from the front seat, letting Jester handle all of the black magic in the back. You’re aiming a 74,000 lbs dragster at the enemy and lobbing massively overpowered AIM-54’s at them from 40 miles out. It’s awesome!

Paradise Lost took me from a newbie Huey pilot (could barely hover, with 100% concentration, and not very well!) to someone who can cold start it without the checklist, hover hands off, and has a deep appreciation for what Bell brought to the rotorwing world with this amazing helicopter.

Black Sea Resolve made me dive into the F-5E and specifically manual bombing, which is pretty fun but challenging. It’s not as great a campaign in terms of scripting, and easily broken if you don’t navigate exactly as planned (the triggers are not very forgiving), but it’s a fun campaign and worth it if you want to dive deeper into the cold war light fighter.

Once you’ve played one of these campaigns and have a handle on the aircraft, then you’re pretty well prepared for MP and learning tactics with other players. But you have to have something to build on first, in my opinion. If you don’t first understand what’s going on in the cockpit of your plane, it’s very hard to develop an understanding of the bigger picture around it.

…And I realize I’ve failed to mention the great Viggen campaigns that come with the module. They’re also wonderful, and build really well starting from basics to the more advanced weapon systems and using time-on-target and stuff. I would highly recommend them as well if you want to learn that bird.

Especially when the triggers aren’t good.
I think I never finished a single DCS campaign, because all of them (even the ones I liked like the Huey UN campaign) had wonky moments where a mission failed because some trigger wasn’t satisfied in the right order or something. Or the Mission got stuck. Or an AI unit didn’t do what it was supposed to do.

Yes! I played that one, and eventually had to give up because even if it didn’t break, every mission involved unbearably long cross country flights that I just didn’t have the time available to complete.

I did just buy the Worlds Apart campaign for the Huey, after finishing Paradise Lost. I’m excited to try that one, and hoping it won’t have the same problem. The shorter duration missions (while still being realistic, I feel like) was one thing I appreciated about Paradise Lost.


This topic really resonates with me - and @chipwich dropped some real gems into the conversation with the “deeper not wider” article.

I am terrible at starting things with a hiss and a roar and not finishing them/staying consistent with them, be it a TV series, a book, a home project, fitness or a game.

I’ve become more aware of this tendency in recent years and try to “clean house” before starting new things a bit. I mostly get home repairs done within a reasonable timeframe now and I finished a couple of books this January…but the Year of Depth concept sounds like a good way to take it to the next level. I’d like to do fewer things better. Both in sims and in other areas of life.


Yep. Reading that article again. Wow.

And the take away…

“There’s so many good choices out there, it’s an embarrassment of riches.”


I see #1 as nothing but a good thing. I admit to buying many more addons (DCS modules, I’m kind of done with MSFS and likely XPlane?) to support, a) ‘them’, and b) my ‘itch’ to learn something new - even though I know it’s not gonna happen…cuz I lack the discipline to stick to ONE???..hangin my head in shame…

Kind of like having a stable of sport bikes in my garage (I had 3 once upon a time but only rode one - the really ‘fun/fast’ one 90% of the time).

I like choices.

As for #2 - that’s the biggest problem IMO: it’s really expensive if you decide you want to go deep (PC to run it well enough, HOTAS, and of course the pay-ware addons themselves).

I consider the time required to learn a system well as its own reward and where my version of fun lies.

Campaigns, while I really think most do a good job, just don’t interest me (I have purchased 3-4). I just want a world to fly around in and have things happen, with interaction with that world.

And I want it to be varied (my issue with the Campaigns). And scalable since, a) they don’t have a PC that can run large force exercises (so to speak) and, b) I don’t always want to jump into WWIII.

Sometimes that is fun of course, however these things are so complex that it is ‘insta-death’ to me because I don’t have the time to become proficient enough to survive. Which just makes me appreciate the ppl that do it for realz.

Or something like that.

I missed that article back then. Just read it. Excellent. This part though,

“ever want to take a swing at Tiger Woods with a 9-iron?”. It was a 4-iron. Had it been a 9-iron he wouldn’t be here - a 9-iron is easier to handle, more accurate. A 4 is too unwieldy.

And this, “…because it gave me a sense of really flying a modern day combat aircraft in an immersive environment.

Man, that article made me think. Golf has become an addiction too. That makes two! I’m in trouble.


Exactly. For me, I’ve allowed what was mediocre skills to atrophy into something even less. At which point, I become overwhelmed by what I see as the magnitude of the task and the amount of time it will take. I ask myself if it’s worth it.

Then I look at things like Ace Combat and immediately go to, “too mindless for me”. I’m thinking I’m going to begin my journey back into sims with racing games. I have all the gear I need for it and cars are a lot simpler than jet fighters. I figure I can work my way up.


I’m hip. Different strokes and all that. I see (and in the past have played) those things and, while graphically stunning, I’m bored after an hour, never to be used again (and a waste of my money).

The little gizmo I’m writing for DCS (see another post) kind of highlighted it to me yesterday, during another test.

Was climbing out over “DREAM” waypoint and coming right at me was a flight of 2XVipers, recovering to Nellis. Followed by 2 Eagles… Ziinng, went right by me.

Pretty mundane stuff to most but the thing is: I put them in there, at some point, but due to the way I set it up, and things played out, it was still semi-unexpected (they didn’t ‘spawn’ the last 3-4 times). Heard them check on with the controller, get their instructions & go on their merry way, yadda, yadda. Then I spy a brace of Hornets dropping in to move dirt 20 miles west of me (using @MBot 's script - I think it’s yours). Cool.

For a moment I was in another world. It’s the simple, but unexpected (and believable) things I enjoy. Practicing my ‘fast-twitch’ muscles had its time, but that time has passed, for me.


DOn’t get me wrong. There is a lot of verity that can fit most people unless they are looking for a specific platform to add to their collection. My lament is more that I have too much to choose from when I sit down at my flight gaming PC and decide I want to spend a few hours in the virtual skies. It was easier when I counldn’t choose and had to fly and F-16.

It is a good problem to have … unless you have ADHD I guess :slight_smile:

Yeah. That is a tough one. I really enjoy all my gadgets and my ability to buy or build them. I am looking at the – Modular Flight Control System stuff as an upcoming build project. But I look back on my days watching a friend play Falcon 3 and longing to be able to do the same. I have chased that dream since then and … well I have, maybe a little, overdone it. :slight_smile:


It is an interesting phenomenon isn’t it? Man, I remember when I would just fly days and days worth of SubLogic’s ATP. With those paper charts and all that stuff… Nothing could distract me from it.


I have given up on learning everything a long time ago. I’ll still fly everything for fun but there are only a couple of modules that I can learn in the time I have available. However, I usually know what I want to do when I sit down to play DCS, I don’t find it difficult to chose. It’s highly dependant on who’s around to fly with me as I almost exclusively fly multiplayer.

It’s either gonna be A-10C, F-16C, F-14, the UH-1H, the Mi-24P or one of the WWII modules (normally Mossie, Anton or Jug).

Most recently I have been reading up on becoming useful as a Tomcat RIO - it’s really cool working as a Team to achieve something. Love the Tomcat both flying myself and playing around with the RADAR from the back.

WWII PvP is something I can do every day - DCS WWII is incredible IMHO.


First time I jumped back there…wow. I thought, they are going to create an entirely unique sub-genre (of a sub-set, of a niche…) here. Just occurred to me; there will [soon?] be job opennings for F4 RIO/WSO/“Bear”/GIB’s


This reminds me of the curse of the MP3 player.
Before portable MP3 players (and now every phone is one) I used a regular portable tape cassette player. Forwarding and rewinding ate batteries, which was a precious commodity back then, so I didn’t. Listened to the entire tape, or the side of it. Then I turned it over and played the other side.
Enter the MP3 player and all of a sudden I just had to switch songs, often in the middle of one. I guess, just because I could. I got to be a curse, of sorts. Having the option to switch songs affected my attention span…

I think it’s about the same with sims, or modules within a sim. It is harder to focus.


I should have clarified that like a really bad book or movie, after a few missions move on. I just dropped an audible book after 3 chapters. It was a near future military techno-thriller that whose main character is a Marine F-35B pilot. It was clear from the first engagement that the author knew little about the F-35B or Marine aviation. Just to name a couple, he discussed using a lever to control nozzles, AKA Harrier style, and during radio coms referred to the Marine flight lead “actual”. Good grief.