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‘Airplane Mode’: Quirky new video game lets you sit through a long-haul flight in economy class

Aug 28, 2020, 6:29 AM
Airplane Mode game...
Airplane Mode, a new game, offers all the excitement of flying long-haul in economy without any of the tedium of arriving in an exotic location. Credit: Airplane Mode/AMC Games

    (CNN) — What do you miss most about traveling? If you answered, “being stuck on a plane with crying babies while playing Sudoku,” then this is the game for you.

Designed by New York-based game developer Hosoji Auji, “Airplane Mode” claims to be “the most realistic flight simulation ever created.”

A press release issued by AMC Games, the game’s publisher, cheekily bills it as “the only flight simulation game where players can experience the intense excitement of being an economy class passenger on a long-haul flight.”

In this uneventful simulation game, players experience a flight in real-time and seek out things to keep themselves busy.

There won’t be any drama or heroic side missions, with the exception of the occasional crying baby that you have no control over on the plane. (Much like a real flight.)

“We launched AMC Games to give developers a platform to realize their unique vision,” Clayton Neuman, vice president of AMC Games, tells CNN Travel in an email.

“‘Airplane Mode’ immediately stood out to us as something different — a totally deadpan, 90% earnest and serious simulation that’s 10% winking at the player.”

The designer, Hosoji Auji, tells CNN Travel that through developing the game he discovered that everyone seems “to have a strong opinion about flying. And while there have been 30-plus years of flight simulation games, the passenger experience has never really been taken into account.”

In a time when traveling long-haul is a rarity, the game might be a good reminder of what we dread about flying — and make us miss those marathon flights a little less.

Though the game isn’t expected to be released until later this year, there’s a trailer offering a taste of what players can expect. It kicks off with one of the more annoying things about flying most of us have experienced.

The player is watching an inflight movie when the pilot disrupts the show with a long-winded announcement over the PA system. Then, passengers experience random mishaps ranging from turbulence and delays to bad Wi-Fi.

The good news? “Crying baby not guaranteed on every flight.”

The game designer has meticulously recreated other inflight details as well.

For instance, players will find an aircraft information card and inflight magazine “filled with travel articles, crosswords, and Sudoku” in the backseat pocket (see the screen grab at top of this page).

In addition to a range of hit movies from the 1930s, players can also view an inflight safety video — produced by IFC, a sister company of AMC known for its offbeat comedies — and a flight tracker on their inflight entertainment system.

Other ways to kill the time include rummaging through your carry-on bag, where you may find some exciting personal belongings like a book, a pen and — wait for it — headphones.

Worst case scenario, you can always open the window shade and look at the “fairly accurate satellite imagery of your flight path.”

There are meal services, too.

“A large part of the commercial flight experience is largely predictable,” says Auji. “Our goal was to design this standardized flight and then layer it with delights, annoyances and idiosyncrasies that the frequent flier will surely find relatable.”

Though the timing couldn’t be better, given how much many of us miss flying, the game has been in the works for several years.

“‘Airplane Mode’ has been in development since 2017,” says Neuman. “Our intention is to give players a unique gaming experience, and the flights in this game are meant to be timeless and nostalgic. Our hope is that players will see this as a gaming experience unlike any other that evokes fond memories of traveling.”

Says Auji, “When I first started work on the game I wasn’t really sure how people would react to it. Since then, some folks have found it calming and cathartic, others cited the term ‘torture.’ That’s when I thought, perhaps we have something here.”

There are two flights available, a six-hour journey from New York’s JFK Airport to Reykjavik and a shorter 2.5-hour flight from New York to Halifax, the capital of Canada’s Nova Scotia province.

No price has been announced yet, but the game will be available on PC and Mac computers, according to the developer.

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‘Airplane Mode’: Quirky new video game lets you sit through a long-haul flight in economy class