Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Flight Simulators

This isn't a video game article, but it's going to mention a lot of video games, so let's get that out of the way at the start with a rough progression of David's youth upward through (combat) flight simulators:

A silly DOS game that is awesome. A popular method of dying was running into birds.

Star Wars: TIE Fighter
A silly genre game that is awesome. Obviously not technically a "flight" simulator because you're in space, but it reinforces the point that you're expendable and that you're going to die by giving you a crappy space-plane and pitting you against well-defended hordes. It'd be rude to call it unrealistic, but it's a lot of fun. Also, the pilot's information screen is really well designed. I'm annoyed that we don't have that technology yet.

MiG-29 Fulcrum
A less silly game with well-designed missions and pretty good graphics that is awesome. The day I figured out how to land my plane without crashing was a turning point in my youth.

IL-2 Sturmovik
A not-silly, brutally realistic WWII historical combat flight simulator that is awesome. Damn, though. You can run out of ammunition, fuel, and Hope rather fast. And that's if your engine doesn't malfunction on the way to combat. Your planes are also really slow.

There, that's done, but you can see the progression, and the similarities. Flight Simulators are fun, but they're also a good antidote to action movies and first-person shooters. You die more in flight sims, and you deserve it more, and you feel it more. A lot of the time you spent at least ten minutes flying out, maneuvering for position, until you get slaughtered if you're not Good. Then, even if you're Good, you could get slaughtered by   two or three enemies, or just by plain dumb luck from people shooting at you from the ground.

Frankly, it makes you glad you're not a combat pilot In Real Life.

That's how it applies to my writing. It reminds me that guns are dangerous, and if they're going to go off in my story, there should be a chance that the person aimed at will die. A good chance. There won't be any of this: "James Bond dodged the machine gun burst that spattered around his legs as he ran". There can be this: "James Bond dropped behind some cover and crawled away from the machine gun to a better position" or, better, "James Bond avoided being shot at."

If the survival of a character in combat is based on dumb luck as opposed to smart luck, it'll be clearly labelled as such and used sparingly. There's a reason people were so impressed by any ace that survived shooting down five enemies.

If combat appears in my fiction: everybody can die, but they don't have to.

The brutal boredom of combat:

That'll teach you to expect a soundtrack to your air war.


Still, planes are cool. There's a lot to be said for being a knight of the air, and given the option of hanging out getting trench foot and flying around in the air after having a nice meal at the aerodrome, I don't have to tell you which one I'd choose. I'm going to die anyways, it's WWI.

Planes are also really good introductions to Science Fiction. It's a man relying on science to achieve his objective, or at least Not Die. The fiction part comes from the fact that there's a lot more possibilities for character development when you have lots of downtime with ladies followed by moments of sheer terror in a rickety science-mobile.

250 words? Yes
Project "Untitled"
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Reading - ?



  1. Ever play Wings of Glory? Those were the days. Man, I must have shot down, like, a lot of zeppelins... once I learned to come at them from above and, preferably, drop bombs on them.

  2. That does seem a good strategy. That's probably the reason why the combat utility of zeppelins decreased as the flight ceiling of airplanes increased.

    They're still awesome, though...


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