When I boarded my first flight last year, I was about as calm as a washing machine with a brick inside. I took my seat, vacuum-sealed my ears, cranked up a podcast and let the force of the aircraft taxiing wash over me. It wasn’t that bad—fun, even. What nobody told me was that the airplane accelerated a second time. I was frozen in an anxious stupor while the plane climbed into the air. Then, after my feet stopped sweating, I was inhaling cookies reading an ebook, forgetting I was airborne at all.
Flying is a harrowing test of nerve, and at the same time utterly mundane, and that mundanity is the foundation on which developer Hosni Auji built Flight Simulator. It’s a a first-person point and click game, where you fly a real time route from New York to Reykjavik, Iceland. Except instead of playing the pilot, you’re a passenger.
On the five-hour journey, you do everything that real airline passengers can: slide open your window, close your window, lower your cup holder, read an entire actual novel. If the plane’s too loud, throw on your headphones so you can concentrate on some sudoku. Enjoy an inflight film or listen to the ambient coughing and crying baby in the background. If you want, you can even chill on your real phone while the game runs in the background. Flight Simulator doesn’t care what you do. Your only objective is to enjoy your flight.
Although it may not sound like it, the game is surprisingly rich. The space the player sits in is filled with things to poke and prod at, and at no point did I feel let down by not having enough to do. Flight Simulator rewarded my curiosity when I got fidgety and hung back patiently when I just wanted to enjoy the atmosphere. I left the demo feeling refreshed, which is the opposite of how I leave actual flights.
“I don’t think I could have made this game ten years ago”, Auji told me at NYU’s annual Game Center Incubator Showcase last week, where he pitched his project to the New York games community.
Auji had extreme flight anxiety, but became fascinated enough with the rituals surrounding air travel to make a game of it. While the project seems like a cheeky send-up of simulator games, Auji hopes that his game will be used in exposure therapy for others with fears of flying. Flight Simulator is expected to take off Fall 2019 on PC.
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