Microsoft Flight Simulator: the new horizon for virtual photography

Microsoft Flight Simulator: the new horizon for virtual photography

Microsoft Flight Simulator

A few months ago we positioned ourselves in the cockpit of a virtual plane and flew over an equally virtual world, but which we perceived as real; not so much for the graphic component, as for the accuracy of spaces, distances and sensations. We passed over our house, over the points of interest that most marked our life; we have recognized places explored only through photographic devices and we have discovered new ones, never seen before; but, above all, we perceived the majestic bulk of the territories that we found ourselves flying over.

This identification of a familiar, known and recognized world has pushed us to do what we usually do when we travel in it: immortalize it in many single shots that are able to tell the sensations experienced in the "fatal" moment of the photographic impression. In the past we have already had the opportunity to delve into the maze of virtual photography, that type of technique that replaces the materiality of the factual world with the volatility of the virtual (in particular, of the video game). Although inextricably linked to the world of virtual photography, Microsoft Flight Simulator seems to open a further path for this new branch.

Let's go into more detail and see why this flight simulator represents a new horizon for virtual photography. And if you want to find out more about this atypical game, we refer you to our review of the Xbox and PC versions.

Cliché of a mirror world

Microsoft Flight Simulator: somewhere in the Alps The peculiarity of Microsoft Flight Simulator is certainly in the game world it offers. In fact, the title makes the Earth available in its entirety, on a 1: 1 scale. The player has the ability to make transcontinental flights in their entirety, without interruptions whatsoever. This is thanks to the use of GPS data and satellite images capable of covering the entire earth's surface, flanked by a procedural system capable of giving three-dimensionality to everything by adding trees, buildings and so on without the need to go and manually intervene on any particular section of the planet. Obviously there are also more famous places on which more attention has been paid, as well as a more targeted modeling work by the developers (examples are large urban centers, but also national parks and nature reserves).

So, what we find ourselves crossing is a world that we know, that we are able to define as something that has, in part, already been explored. If the player wants to go and see his house in the countryside, he is there waiting for him, perhaps in two dimensions, but he is still there, in a place whose features and characteristics are recognizable; to which an experience is connected, guided by memories.

Microsoft Flight Simulator: flying over the Himalayas, covered by clouds Right here lies, in our opinion, the charm of a project like the one represented by Microsoft Flight Simulator : to lead the player to the discovery of places already seen, but approached from another perspective and whose coordinates correspond to a real, identifiable counterpart, without the shame of the frenzied search for a totally contemporary videogame immediacy. And just as one has the impulse to photograph the real, in the same way the virtual takes on a whole new charm, capable of taking you where you could not reach before. An unprecedented point of view to capture the world, previously only explored by some and often with many restrictions. Whether it's real or digital, it really doesn't matter.

Discordant realities, same goal

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Unexpected stop at an airport on a dispersed island in the Pacific One wonders how much value it can have to immortalize a world made up of numbers. Perhaps the answer lies precisely in the completion of the photographic act itself. There are those who photograph to tell a story, some to "block" a significant moment, some for pure fun or for work. In each of these cases, it is always the photographer's sensitivity that prevails. Those who take a photograph choose to do so because they feel the need; he understands that what he is observing has a visual value out of the ordinary, so much so that it has to be stopped on an artificial support. Then the result can be more or less satisfactory for external observers who approach the finished work, but the important thing is that for the photographer what was immortalized had relevance to everything else at a given moment. So, what difference does it make which reality you choose to capture if what you are observing manages to have significance?

Microsoft Flight Simulator: flying over the Valle d'Aosta depressions In the eyes of those who decide to photograph, what they are looking at should split up from the conception of the "real" as the only relevant source of information. The photographic device is, in fact, just this: a device. The artificial nature undermines any claim as an exclusive actor in the static image market. Whether the photographic act takes shape through a complex mechanism or a coarse simulation of the latter does not matter; what matters is why you decide to use one vehicle instead of the other. Everything lies in what catches the eye of the observer and how the latter uses the tools at his disposal to propose in the best way what he has had the sensitivity to see.

If before, however, what was virtually immortalized was something extremely far from the real, with Microsoft Flight Simulator we are on a completely different level. What happens when the object of our gaze is the digitization of the world we live every day?

Photographing a virtual reality

Microsoft Flight Simulator: over the storm Fly over the places of your childhood it is quite unique. It suggests some sort of dream, which brings the mind back to the germinal moments of our existence and of our formation as individuals. Having the opportunity to scrutinize them from an unlikely point of view, like hawks in search of prey, is certainly something that remains etched in the memory, a bit like returning to those places after so many years of absence. Because, on the other hand, the narcissistic need to recognize oneself and recognize the things close to it is always inherent in the human being. This is why there are those who get excited to see themselves on television, pointing with their finger and shouting: "It's me! It's me!", Or even just finding on Street View the grainy image of their car parked under the house or of some acquaintance turned from behind while taking the mail.

Microsoft Flight Simulator: threatening clouds surround the Himalayas Identify your places of interest in a virtual world that can be freely explored aboard the symbol of transport escape par excellence undoubtedly leads to a reaction similar to those mentioned. I recognize, identify, then immortalize it: a process very similar to the photographic one. This is what drives us to take what we also mistakenly call photographs in a video game (despite the fact that the word "photography" has now reached a more symbolic than semantic value). And Microsoft Flight Simulator brings this concept to a new crossroads, where real and virtual meet and share their characteristics in favor of an experiential unicum. In this case, the nature of the object of our gaze does not seem to matter more than ever, as the boundary between what we can define reality and fiction meets the only obstacle of reproducing one on the other.

Does it make sense to immortalize a photograph?

Microsoft Flight Simulator: heading towards the Norwegian fjords If Microsoft Flight Simulator is mainly composed of satellite images, what is the point of photographing the results obtained by other optical means? It must be said, first of all, that it's not quite like taking someone else's shot and taking a photograph of the latter. We must remember that we are still in the confines of the virtual, in a world created digitally, but still interesting enough to capture our attention and to activate the desire to create a photographic composition. A similar world, therefore; parallel to everyday life, perhaps even complementary, if we calculate the presence of atmospheric conditions and air traffic in real time (even if in any case characterized by a possibility with divine traits, that is to bend time to our conditions, going to affect the time of day and the weather, never so deeply adjustable).

Microsoft Flight Simulator: Argentina spotted by sporadic clouds Consequently, the impression is the same as one would try to photograph any other title, with the exception of the awareness regarding the veracity of the views that we find ourselves flying over, based on what we have had the opportunity to see with our eyes during travels, daily experiences and so on. So we are always there, in the end, to capture the sensations arising from a world, but still virtual. This does not mean discrediting one or the other vision in favor of the one that most closely relates to our daily life, but rather making them coexist; attribute the same importance to them as documents and studies with specific objectives and vocations, which must be adapted to the research context.

What future for virtual photography?

Microsoft Flight Simulator: among the archipelagos of the Pacific Ocean After the breakthrough of Microsoft Flight Simulator, which proposes a recognizable world, seen from unusual positions and with a technical sector capable of reaching the heights of photorealism, it is very difficult to imagine how this technique will evolve. The feeling of freedom offered by the game room, freely orientable, free from constraints of any kind, able even to overcome the thick sheets of the aircraft to obtain a point of view more in line with the human one, leads to an undoubted hesitation when returning to using poorly structured "photographic" tools inserted in a video game just to follow the trend of the industry. It is also true that you adapt to what you have available (which often leads to unexpected and much more satisfactory results than expected), but upstream help certainly doesn't hurt.

The future seems to smile to virtual photography, increasingly funded by development companies and also included in titles that do not seem to need it, either for a general static nature of the elements, or for a lack of content that does not justify its implementation.

Microsoft Flight Simulator: A Flight at Sunset Many look with contempt at these elements provided by the developers, as if they give more relevance to them rather than to other aspects crucial to the functioning of the mother work. Sometimes it is true, but often they are implemented with such superficiality as to suggest that they have been added in an afternoon of work by a single person, who, perhaps, does not even have the necessary skills to create something that can satisfy future users. . Perhaps it could calm the minds the fact that renowned modders, creators of some of the best photographic modes in circulation, are increasingly taken into consideration and hired by companies (replacing developers who can be better exploited in other fields), in order to propose adequate tools to immortalize the essence of a title, not just the glossy shell that surrounds them.

Having the possibility to express oneself freely and unleash one's visual sensitivity is something that not everyone is looking for in a video game, this it is true, but it is an "extra" that does not harm anyone. It is there, ready to be exploited by those who want it and forgotten by those who are not interested. This is somewhat reminiscent of the contemporary photographic situation, within everyone's reach, embedded in a device designed for a completely different purpose.

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