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Monday, August 13, 2018

Microsoft Flight Simulator to Plane Stealing?

By LUDWIG VON KOOPA - The simulator is blameless.

You may have heard that over the weekend, a Horizon Air ground-crew member, Richard Russell (29 years young) of Seattle stole a Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 airliner for a suicidal joy-ride — after doing some tricks (including a barrel roll, which he always wanted to do), he crashed into a small island and died. He was the only person in the plane. Since that airliner does not operate via keys — one has to go through many intricate actions to get it flying via the control panel — the Labo's Vehicle Kit master key was not found responsible.

Now here's the interesting part — Russell wasn't a pilot. He never flew a real plane before. He just worked at the airport. While he was flying around doing tricks, an air traffic controller tried to help him fly the thing, but Russell claimed that he didn't need help, because he had “played some video games before. ... I know what I'm doing, a little bit!” While it appears that instantaneous mastery of a vehicle is one of the traits that the Labo key grants, since there wasn't a key slot in the plane, Russell must have gotten his flying skills the old-fashioned way:

Microsoft Flight Simulator. (Or a competitor product, but let's say it's Microsoft Flight Simulator.) Microsoft Flight Simulator was one of the longest-running franchises in gaming history, and the definitive representative of the simulation genre. Simulation used to have a much larger share of the gaming market back when gaming was the domain of hobbyists. Now Microsoft doesn't develop the franchise anymore.

A Horizon pilot interviewed anonymously by the Seattle Times stated that, given enough time spent in Microsoft Flight Simulator, one could figure out how to use the plane. The specific plane in question is actually available as an add-on for Microsoft Flight Simulator X, complete with training manuals and documentation.

Unfortunately, it doesn't seem like Russell knew how to land the plane. Microsoft Flight Simulator, if he so chose, would've given him the opportunity to figure out how to land it. I just want to make that clear. Planes are safer than cars! (And planes get hijacked a lot less than cars do.) Playing Microsoft Flight Simulator is not a death trap. Microsoft Flight Simulator didn't make Richard Russell take a plane and die, just like “violent videogames” don't make people commit mass murders. It didn't plant the idea in his head. There's no evidence of that, and it's probably ignoring cause and effect. He was a depressed sort of dude. He didn't want to hurt others. Just himself. He might've ended up regretting his actions as he was flying around... if only he kept playing the flight simulator to land the thing. (Yes, I blame his demise on not playing games enough.)

That said, it's still a better way to kill yourself than going to France.

Ludwig has never played Microsoft Flight Simulator and probably never will, but it makes sense for a gaming website to mention it at least once, right? Ludwig's articles tend to have a pro-airplane bias to them ever since the Cars vs. Planes Splatfest. Ludwig doesn't recommend you kill yourself, because then you'll miss out on future KoopaTV articles. (If KoopaTV ceases to exist, all bets are off.)

KoopaTV has made its own simulation game, simulating the dynamics of a presidential primary. You can play the game, The Wonderful 1237, right here!
While the Nintendo Labo wasn't responsible for this incident, it will be responsible for copy-cats.
Microsoft Flight Simulator has been revived at E3 2019.

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