Thursday, August 02, 2007


I don't really know what to blog about at all, so I'll talk about how I wanted to be a pilot when I was little. (please don't tell me that sentence is contradictory- I already know, and I just don't want to re-write it).

The blue angels are in town this weekend, and it kind of comes up in my mind every year when they are in town. :)

When I was little, I LOVED the idea of being a hot shot pilot and having the skill to navigate the complexities of a dogfight. The only thing that kind of worried me a bit was my fear of heights, and how dizzy I get so easily (which I now know is clinical vertigo). But man, I would dream of piloting an F-14 through the skies in tight twists and turns, barrel rolls, and I even imagined myself doing lots more complex things like reverse-throttle hops and inverted high velocity dives...

Well, time went on and that idea kind of came and passed, because of my fear of heights, sadly. Well, years later, the idea was perputuated somewhat, by this new computer simulator that came out called Longbow. It was a helicopter simulator, and Mom bought it for me. Our computer at the time was not designed to run it- the minimum requirements were a computer twice as fast as ours. It took me three months of reconfiguring the computer and learning about how Extended Memory and IR ports work to get it to work, but I did- and I played that game for hours and hours. I got really good at it, too. It was made by a company called Janes, who specialized in lifelike simulators- the manual for this game was about the size of the bible, and you had to know most of it to know how to play. I mastered this game. I could manipulate height, speed, rotor angle, tail rotor angle, rudder, etc, all at the same time. It was the ultimate in multi-tasking. I remember watching other people play in the stores, and guys that had said they played the game lots at home could only come to a hover and shoot tanks one at a time. I remember flying 8 ft off the ground at 140mph targeting and launching missiles at 8 tanks all at once, all while never even being shot down. After a year or so, I stopped playing that game and it kind of left my mind.

About two years later, a good friend of mine from Church who worked at Microsoft (Robert Deupree) told me of a new game they were making, called Fighter Ace. It was set in world war 2, and was only multiplayer. It was a plane simulator, and it was (at the time) massively multiplayer, with up to 40 players in the game at one time. Well, Robert pulled some strings and got me into the Beta program on that game, about a year before it came out. I got on, and started playing with the guys that wrote the game. After I got the details down of how to deploy landing gear, fix flap angle, and things like that, I took to the skies. It was a BLAST, because I felt naturally good at it. Almost all of the developers had private pilot licenses, and were pretty good, and I'd get humbled every now and again by one guy in particular, but other than that, I felt untouchable. I would only die when I had accrued enough damage from the last half dozen dogfights to put me at a severe disadvantage. All of the developers started to recognize me and switch to my team whenever I would get on, and to mix it up I'd pick a different plane to fly almost every time. I tried P-51 mustangs, P-38 lightnings, ME-109s (german planes), Zeros (these were fast and fun, but they were made out of wood and cloth, so they are very fragile) and all sorts of different planes. I could fly circles around those guys- I often tried to mimick the movies and come in above unsuspecting enemies and invert myself for the famous top gun greeting. Sometimes they'd freak out and pull up and we'd both go down in flaming wreckage, but it was a lot of fun to play around with guys.
The next game was X-wing VS. TIE Fighter. It's a space fighter simulator, so physics is a lot different, but a lot of the tactics are very similar. I played that sim for a few years as well, and they had groups of people that would fly missions online together- or online "squadrons". This game was less of a simulator and more about dogfighting, and I wasn't as good at it as the others, but I could hold my own pretty well.

I know computer games aren't a direct translation to real life skill, but I feel there is something there. The first two I mentioned above, were touted across the flying community as amazing simulation games, very closely depicting real world phsyics and complexity.

I just wonder, what would have happened if I didn't have vertigo. If I had joined the air force and became a fighter pilot. It sounds like a dream to me, to twist and turn in the skies, taking part deadly dance of guns and missiles. I know that, with my personality, I would become pretty good. I focus in on something until either I completely dominate in it, or get bored. I just wonder, what would it be like, to do that?

1 comment:

Kat said...

What happened to your dream of being a tow truck driver?