FlightSimExpo took place during the last weekend and the general feedback we have been getting is great, except for a detail: helicopters are under-represented.
While this is nothing new and it’s something we have already learned to live with, it’s also true that I have been noticing some small changes in our community.
Nearly 2 and a half years ago, when I started this project, I did it with a couple of goals in mind: to help simmers that were interested in helicopters and to raise awareness to the specifics of our hobby and the hobby itself.
Being HeliSimmer a personal/pet project, it’s not exactly something that I can dedicate myself full-time, but it’s a project that I take very seriously and it’s being exciting to see the small changes happening. What changes? Glad you ask!
1. Developers are more aware
Sim-related developers are more aware of our presence. I have been establishing contact with everyone I can. Laminar Research, Lockheed Martin, Eagle Dynamics, Dovetail Games (yes, I know, they’re out of the market but they know we exist and I was lobbying my ass out so that they made helicopters the right way), as well as addon developers such as ORBX, Polychop, Belsimtek and others know of our existence as a strong community.
In a recent interview at FSExpo with our good friend Bel Geode, REMEX Software, the creators of DeadStick: Bush Simulator, mentioned that they know of our interest on their product and that we would like to see helicopters in it, for example.
2. Simmers are more aware
I have seen more helicopters in general simulation groups on Facebook than ever before. And not just people that are part of our group. I’ve seen folks there posting screenshots of their helicopter flights, talking about these products and asking about hardware.
People seem to be more aware of helicopters and helicopter flight simulation and that tends to expand the community and the market, because…
3. More simmers are entering our hobby
…more simmers are entering our hobby.
More awareness means folks will get curious about helicopters and willing to give it a try. I remember when I first glanced at helicopters. It was something weird. The first time I tried the default FSX Bell 206 I couldn’t understand what happened. I cranked the throttle up and could not control that thing.
It was a weird feeling. And since I didn’t know of anyone that flew helicopters back then, I had no one to tell me how to do it. Fortunately, HoverControl was growing stronger and a Google search provided me with a plethora of information.
Back then I realized I was not alone. And other people are now starting to realize that as well.
4. But we are still under-represented at shows
Despite this raise of awareness, more people entering our hobby and developers willing to listen to us, we are still under-represented at shows.
It’s a cycle. Attending these events is not cheap. Developers need to spend a lot of money on travel, lodging, a booth and everything else. Also, not a lot of helicopter fans attend these events so it’s not really something companies see as a good investment.
On the other side, helicopter simmers don’t attend these events because there’s nothing helicopter-specific for them to see.
So, what can we do to get better representation?
1. Developers need to be present
Developers need to take a leap of faith, which is easier said than done. Again, investment will be needed, and they will probably not have a lot of return – at least not the first time.
They should increase their presence so that other simmers (the ones that don’t fly helicopters – yet) see what’s in the market and that we, the rotorheads, mean business as well.
2. We need to be more vocal
I’m doing my share. Bel Geode keeps telling me I’m a professional nagger and that everyone out there knows my name already.
I am a nagger and they know my name because I go out there and try to get people to realize we are a serious community with a lot to give.
We are demanding, we have specific needs for our simming and we are very loyal to our hobby. We are committed, perseverant, and stubborn.
We mean business and we are good business. We’re on the lookout for good hardware and amazing software – great helicopters, awesome scenery and stuff to do.
Now we need to get the word out there so that companies know about that.
3. Show organizers need to help this happen
Look, I get it: folks want to see the greatest airliners, the most amazing weather engine, the beautiful runways.
But we are part of this ecosystem as well. And we don’t just look at runways. We fly everywhere. We land everywhere. We do all kinds of stuff everywhere.
Organizers have a responsibility in this as well. They know we are here! HeliSimmer was a Media Partners for Flight Sim Expo, for example.
They know there’s a helicopter flight simulation community and they know it’s growing. There are even specific companies around (for both hardware and software).
It would be a great sign from these shows if they tried to bring more helicopter-related companies to these events. Perhaps offer special deals for them to be present and represent our community, invite them to present their products or even bringing someone to talk about our community in general (hey, guys, I’m available!).
Of course, it’s not up these folks to make things happen but they can help make it happen. They can make the difference and make these shows more inclusive and perhaps even a bit more different.
Would it make a real difference?
One of the things that I have learned as I managed to attend some events here in Portugal with my gear is that people are curious about helicopters. They might not like them, but they tend to give them a try with proper controls.
I have had folks that are working on their airline pilot license give it a try and, all of the sudden, start challenging themselves by landing on bridges or on rooftops. Once they try it out and get the hang of it, they enjoy it quite a lot.
Some of these guys even returned on later events and immediately came by my booth to give it another try. A few brought some friends with them and they started challenging each other.
If we could have more developers and companies with helicopters at these events, I am sure people would get interested. I am sure more helicopter fans would come out of those events and I am sure the community would grow and the market as well.
If it would make a difference? Yes. I believe it would. It’s not something that you’ll see happening overnight as it’s a process, but it’s a process that I’ve been trying to trigger myself slowly with the help of our amazing community over the last 2 and a half years. And it’s a process that, I’m sure, will grow and expand in the future.
But this will have to happen as a community effort, by everyone. Let’s hope it will.
How can you help?
Wondering if you can help? Of course you can!
Spread the word. Get more people interested in helicopters. Contact developers and shows and tell them you want to see more helicopter stuff in those events. If more people shows interest, the more these companies will consider investing in our niche.
If you’d like to help us at HeliSimmer to attend these events and have some face-to-face with developers and other companies, you can join us on Patreon and not only get some goodies (and some exclusive content from these events) but you’ll also help us to meet these folks and lobby for our passion.
Main photo: Bel Geode