Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Confessing Another Obsession

I've shared, or perhaps inflicted a number of my obsessions on this blog: Godzilla, Lovecraft, Ancient Egypt, necromancy, The Tomb of Horrors. These are the subjects that I return to again and again. I'm not sure why. I think everyone has these odd little things that they just like for reasons that are buried deep in their psyche.

If you've read my fiction, you'll notice that I have a thing for WWI flight. Open-cockpit flying, the time part of the danger of flight was that your plane might shed its wings. Biplane flight is beautiful. It doesn't isolate you from the fact that you're flying. I don't know where I picked up this particular twist in my psyche, but I've taken several rides in airplanes older than my parents, and loved each one. But that's expensive and inconvenient. When I want to get that feel of flight, I turn to WWI flight sims.

I'm lucky in my obsessions. They're pretty obscure. Whereas there will be several WWII or jet flight sims or games put out in a year, dedicated WWI flight sims tend to be few and far between. Because I obsess about this sort of stuff, I collect them. Old WWI flight sims, new WWI flight sims, the different editions of the same flight sim. I love cataloging them, writing about their differences, analyzing the way the genre has developed and changed.

I was, for example, ecstatic when, in 2005, Atari released their early arcade games on PC. At last, I could play the original Red Baron again!

Atari's 1981 Arcade hit, Red Baron

At the same time, I'm keeping up with the most recent WWI flight sims, such as 777 Studio's Rise of Flight, which is quite astonishing in its detail.

The Black Baron of Bennington in 777 Studio's Rise of Flight

There have been a large number of these sims since 1981. I count about 70. Luckily, a lot of them are out of print or were unpopular, so for less than $20, I can acquire an older piece of software with what are often some very nice manuals. With DOSBOX, I can now play the majority of these. For example, I've acquired Cosmi's War Eagles, which is just about the oldest WWI game I can find for the PC. It came on a 5.25 inch diskette. Remember those?

Flight Sims have come a long way from Cosmi's War Eagles

The internet, especially Ebay and Amazon, have been extremely helpful in discovering and locating these older games, especially the really weird and obscure titles like Manfred von Krashenbern’s Flying Circus. And it's really a chuckle to watch these bundles of polygons that the brain somehow translates into flying planes.

Everybody has their little quirks, and this is one of my perennials. Sometimes, I won't touch a flight sim for a year, but I've always come back to them. And I love them all, from the prmitive to the goofy (Red Baron Pizza included a free flight sim in some of their pizzas in 2004. It's hilarious!) to the unforgiving modern sim.

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