I wasn't much into flight sims in 2001. I was in 7th grade at that time and I got my PC as a birthday gift at the end of summer. FPS/TPS were the games I was most interested in (I still like them), then some racing games, etc. First flight sim I bought was Jane's USAF. I liked it, it was cool shooting down aircraft with missiles, it had some interesting missions, but I can't say I was hooked up. I played it occasionally. I was a frequent visitor of our local mall where I was hanging out near the stands with numerous games and there was one game that caught my eye. It had a nice looking prop aircraft painted in camo firing it's machine guns and some other planes in the background. I liked the look of that aircraft, it's narrow nose, the prop the spinner. I had no idea what kind of aircraft it was, however, by the looks of it I understood that the game was about WWII. The title said "Battle of Britain", it was Rowan's Battle of Britain and the aircraft on the CD box picture was Spitfire. By that time I played Medal of Honor and was interested in WWII. I didn't buy it immediately, it took few more visits to the store, I was inspecting every inch of the CD box, especially the screenshots, reading description. Then finally I decided to give it a go. Initially, it was a bit confusing with a lot of controls and the strategic mode but I got a hang of it. Although, I was struggling in dogfights, since I was playing with my keyboard and I didn't use head movements at all, I liked the game and I really liked the look of Spitfires and Hurricanes. I even was waking up very early in the morning, about 6am during Summer holidays to play the game without being distracted. It also felt more immersive to me as I imagined myself as one of the fighter pilots waking up early for an important mission🙂 Yet it didn't make me a flight sim fan. I lost interest to in after a while. Graphics wasn't great and controls were too complicated.
Then another game with a piston aircraft on it's title picture appeared on the shelves. It was original Il-2 Sturmovik. Although I liked the look of the plane on the picture, I was just looking at it without even picking it up to read the description. I didn't think it would be much different from the previous game. So I was visiting that store again and again, picking up new games and just looking at the Il-2 Sturmovik cd. Then I remember that we had an excursion to a nearby town with our class to visit local museums and other places of interest. We had about an hour or two of free time when we could hang around to get some food and souvenirs. Instead of buying souvenirs I felt like I really needed to buy a new game, lol. So my friends and I went to the mall nearby where we quickly found PC games store. While my friends got some FPS or racing games, I finally decided to buy Il-2 Sturmovik. When I got back home in the evening, installed the game and fired it up my jaw dropped. I never imagined a flight sim could be that good. Next day it was the only thing I was talking about with my friends at school. I've invited them to check it out, everybody was amazed. Some of them bought it later as well. So not only we had a great time playing it, we also enjoyed discussions at school, sharing our experience the next day. That game sparked my interest in WWII aircraft. I played it a lot, learned the Encyclopedia section about all the planes. Then I bought couple of books about WWII aircraft, learned a lot about their specs, the progress of their development during each ear of the war. Then Forgotten Battles came out with even more planes and features. Yeah, those were a great memories!