For my two previous play journals, I had been writing about The Sims 4. I had initially planned on writing my third play journal blog entry about my experience playing The Sims 4 in social mode. However, I scrapped that idea after much consideration. I wanted to try something new and play a completely different game. I had been having a lot of issues with the game running really slow on my computer and crashing. With that, I had decided I wanted to experience playing a game on my iPhone. I have never been much of a gamer using my phone due to the small screen and not being a big fan of the limiting game controls using a phone. I grew up using a joystick and a gamepad, so my comfort level with playing using a touchscreen phone isn’t my idea of great fun. My game playing experience on my phone has consisted of playing Angry Birds a few years ago and Pokemon Go last summer. I wanted to push my comfort level by actually downloading and playing a game that wasn’t a huge hit like those two games.
I have a huge love for anything to do with aviation. One of my earliest gaming experiences involved a game called Kennedy Approach for the Commodore 64. My dad was a pilot, so naturally the first games he bought for our family’s Commodore 64 were games with airplane themes. Kennedy Approach was an air traffic control simulation game that was released in 1985. It was very technical and had a steep learning curve, but I managed to get pretty good at it when I was a child. I’ve always felt that Kennedy Approach is one of the most underrated simulation games ever.
My later experiences with aviation games involved Flight Simulator, which was played heavily by my dad and brother, and some various fighter jet games. For this play journal, I decided that I wanted to check out aviation games. Initially, I found a great airport simulation game on Steam called SimAirport, which was described as “A modern tycoon-style sim where you design, build, and manage every aspect of an airport. Build your terminal, hire your staff, choose airlines to work with, customize flight schedules, build out infrastructure, and manage your airport — from the ground up.“ While this sounded amazing to me, I wasn’t willing to pay $20 for it (although I am tempted to when I have more free time). This was the point when I decided to push my personal comfort. I decided to check out games in the Apple Store and found an airport simulator called, well, Airport Simulator. It was only $0.99, and the graphics looked great. I downloaded it and immediately began playing.
Not a good start – already a warning that the game has problems.
I didn’t read the description of the game clearly, so when I began playing, I realized that the game seemed to be a simulation of managing the taxiway crew of an airport and controlling 7 different vehicles – catering, baggage, refueling, deicer, pushback trucks, jet bridge, etc. Admittedly, I was disappointed and was hoping this game was more like the one I had found on Steam, but I still gave it a chance.
When the game begins, you are given a choice of mission you want to complete. The game pushes the new player to begin a catering mission, which happens to include tutorials for the first time player. The player has to complete each mission before unlocking the next ones. It appears that the player has to pay to unlock some of the more advanced missions.
In this mission, I am loading catering into what looks like a Boeing 747. I noticed that this game never mentions the type of aircraft due to likely intellectual property rights, but they do use terms and images that someone with more knowledge of aircraft would be able to figure out. For example, in a later mission, the player must deal with the airport’s first “Super Jumbo”, which is a term used for the Airbus A380 – the largest passenger jet in the world.
When beginning the first mission – loading a plane with catering – this screen appears and instructs the player to tap “Gate A” (upper left) to expand an information board.
When I clicked on the information board, the only option available was catering, so I clicked it.
This was the point in the game where I realized I would just be operating trucks on the ground at an airport. Immediately I felt that familiar feeling that I would need a joystick…a game pad…or something, to play this game! Trying to use the touchscreen to drive this truck was frustrating for me. In fact, I crashed the truck into the 747 multiple times but the game never warned me or gave me a consequence for doing so, which really made me think this lacked realism.
One of the times I rammed the truck into the plane, it looked like this. I was grateful that it told me to pinch the screen and zoom the camera, as this helped gameplay immensely after that.
I finally managed to get my truck to the other side of the plane. On the upper right is a map view of where the player needs to take the truck. A blue dot was flashing to signify where to go. On the main screen is a yellow arrow indicating where the truck needs to go.
Had a bit of trouble getting the truck lined up properly.
Finally got the truck lined up. The formally yellow square and arrow turned green when I accomplished this.
The screen zooms into the truck’s opened cargo area, and the plane’s doors open. A new set of controls (lower right) appear and directions are given to raise the platform of the truck to the plane’s door.
The game instructs the player to move the catering containers off the truck and into the plane using a swiping motion with my finger on each container to the plane.
I finished this task and it provided me a screen showing my results. This becomes important later, as more advanced missions have a timer and you must accomplish a certain number of tasks in that time period.
While this game wasn’t exactly what I expected, I thoroughly enjoyed trying a simulator game on my iPhone. I still have personal reservations abut playing games on my phone, as I feel they aren’t as complex as traditional video games, and I can’t get over not having a game pad or joystick to use. I believe this game would be a good tool to improve hand-eye coordination, as using the different controls to move the trucks is tricky. This is also a good glimpse into the different aspects of an airport’s ground crew. As I mentioned before, there are games simulating air traffic control, flying, and general airport management, but this is unique as it’s the management of the trucks that prepare flights. This was a great experience for me and it’s made me interested in exploring other games on my phone.