DCS World: A Game or a Hardcore Simulator?
Updated: Feb 2
If you were to ask 10 different people who have played DCS if they would classify it as a simulator or a game, then you would probably get very polarizing answers. Generally, you will find some that see it as a game while some others will say it is a serious flight simulator. Recently, I have witnessed both types of people within my close friend group. This has made me wonder: What makes DCS able to ride this very thin line between a game and a "serious" flight simulator?
I usually define a game as something that I can casually put time into with no commitment whatsoever. I can boot it up, do a couple of missions and then log off knowing that me leaving had no consequences in the game world or towards other players' experiences with it. This is something key as to how some people find enjoyment in these titles. A really good example of this would be War Thunder. It is a game that has been designed from the ground-up to work in these quick log-in log-out situations, which surely plays a part in why it is such a popular game.
A "for real" flight simulator is, usually, related with long flights with pre-planned missions that will take a very long time to complete. These could be as easy as a ground pounding mission or as complex as the Gulf War's initial strikes. But what defines something as "serious" is the time commitment. I know that if I am flight lead for someone, I will have to be there. My absence will affect the game and other people.
It's these two conflicting ways of enjoying a piece of software that take center stage in this argument: There are those who think that DCS should be simplified mechanically and stick with simpler, more convenient experiences while others cannot find enjoyment without having "the full package" experience with long-range complicated missions. DCS is, at its core, a platform. Specifically, it is a highly customizable flight simulation software that allows for extremely customized experiences that could tailor to both sides of this argument. The developers leave the complexity of the second to second gameplay to the mission creators and campaign developers. This is where we start to see our answer.
It is due to this freedom provided by ED's mission editor that DCS can provide such a wide spectrum of experiences. It is the reason why people like Enigma have been able to gamify DCS' gameplay, allowing them to enjoy an experience much more similar to War Thunder's but with a dynamic campaign tied to it. Additionally, this is the reason why we have extremely complex missions that need the cooperation dozens of players to even work.
By giving its community the power of controlling their experiences to the tiniest degree, ED have allowed two opposite groups to coexist, whether they like it or not. There is no "perfect" way to play DCS, like I said on one of my previous articles. All it takes is finding your niche inside of this wonderfully vast simulation platform.
About the writer:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and one of the main writers. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034