In-Flight

The drink cart slams into my elbow. I wince in pain, pulling my arm in and grabbing the offended bones.

"Coming through," drones the flight attendant, 10 seconds too late and oblivious to my agony. In my headphones, I hear a fairytale klaxon sound. I reach to the seatback in front of me, surveying the sickly-green imaginary poker felt displayed on the touchscreen. I'm holding garbage cards — 8-4 unsuited. But I caught a lucky break, not having been raised off the big blind, and getting an 8-4-K of hearts on the flop. Two pair. But TommyG is raising, suggesting he might be holding kings, or worse, the flush.

TommyG's in a middle seat 5 rows ahead of me. I eyeballed him when I ran to the bathroom during a bad hand. He's maybe 19, wearing a red cowboy hat which deforms when his head leans back into his seat. He's not a math player, he's just goofing off 30,000 feet above Central America. I re-raise, and the two of us chase out the hangers-on. My two pair wins the pot.

"Crap!" exclaims TommyG, breaking the quiet of the unwritten airplane compact. Nowhere is silence more sacrosanct than on an airplane deep in the throws of post-dinner inflight entertainment. Several people look up at the bobbing red cowboy hat. "Sumbitch!" he continues, with a deep southern drawl. Short stacked, he drops.

The game we're playing is an inflight poker tournament made inexpertly by a company called eFlyte. The stakes are non-existent — the opportunity for bragging rights with 7 complete strangers scattered throughout the cabin. The software is terrible. The interface is unnecessarily arcane. The touchscreen controls are reminiscent of 1980s-era ATMs.

Under the seat in front of me sit no fewer than 4 superior gaming platforms: Sony PSP, Nintendo DSi, iPhone, laptop. And yet the opportunity to play games with complete strangers overwhelmed superior game design and technology.

The irony of travel is that one is often completely alone while surrounded by people. By comparison, on an average workday in the basement, I am in fact entirely alone, yet feel completely surrounded by the starfield of constant internet contact.

That human connection, no matter how banal — and regardless of the red cowboy hat — trumps it all.

Comments

I'm sure I am not the only one wondering this. What prevented you from walking past other players and peaking at their cards?

Also, what were you doing over Central America?

protagonist42 wrote:

I'm sure I am not the only one wondering this. What prevented you from walking past other players and peaking at their cards?

Also, what were you doing over Central America?

Well, it's known that if he writes for a magazine, it dies...

Maybe some guerrilla with a penchant for thinking outside the box managed to get rabbit hired to write for a government so as to hasten its demise.

So he's writing political propaganda for a medium sized magazine. Thanks a lot Rabbit, I'll never get a subscription here.

You could totally peek if you were sitting next to someone, or if they were right in front of you.

As for CA: I'll never tell.

Shoulda flown Virgin Airlines, I heard they let you play DooM on a wonky controller over in-flight ethernet.

edit: By the way, you've got a typo up there. I think you meant "he continues," not "hey continues." Oh god, I've become the internet spelling guy that I hate. Suicide time.

This message has been brought to you by the Society Against Limping In With King and Weak Kicker.

This piece contains interesting thoughts I'd like to see further explored.

Personally, I'm antisocial. Even if the in-flight poker or game or whatever was superior, I'd probably choose an inferior game that didn't involve interacting with another human being in real time. I don't think I'm the only one, but dissecting different personality types is probably out of scope of comments on your article. And, I don't have your way with words.

This brings back memories. About 8 years ago, I worked on a dev team that produced in-flight entertainment software for several airlines. One of the systems we produced was an in-flight gambling product for live stakes.

You would be amazed at how much time is spent getting software approved to run on an airplane.

Fanatka wrote:

You would be amazed at how much time is spent getting software approved to run on an airplane.

You think that was bad? Try working with flight critical software.

And with good reason - this is the situation you want to avoid

IMAGE(http://fourquestions.us/images/airplanebsod.jpg)

I'd be interested to see some numbers about how this is affecting the gaming industry in general.

With the advent of gamefly, I probably haven't bought a game that doesn't have a significant multiplayer component in over 2 years. I'd love to support studios that are cranking out immersive single player experiences (I'm looking at you, S.T.A.L.K.E.R. and Metro 2033), but I just haven't got the time or money to play more than one or two single-player games each year.

If I can multi-task and combine gaming with socializing with friends, so much the better.

Rabbit, you should know by now to get the window seat.... No drink cart elbow connection, and you get to wake people up when you need the bathroom, not the other way around. Sounds like you had fun in CA but are unwilling to share your inside "some agency to be unnamed" scoop with the rest of us.

beeporama wrote:

Personally, I'm antisocial. Even if the in-flight poker or game or whatever was superior, I'd probably choose an inferior game that didn't involve interacting with another human being in real time.

I'm with you. We could be best friends and never talk.

ClockworkHouse wrote:
beeporama wrote:

Personally, I'm antisocial. Even if the in-flight poker or game or whatever was superior, I'd probably choose an inferior game that didn't involve interacting with another human being in real time.

I'm with you. We could be best friends and never talk.

...

I've only flown to Mexico, so all these little gadgets and cool doohickeys were lost on me. But as a child, you could bet I dreamt about playing Super Mario Bros. 3 on one of those awkward in-flight control systems.

Who would have known that the secret to fun on an airplane would be to (kinda) socialize with people through games?

Grammar Nazi moment: by 'throws,' you mean, 'throes.'

Too bad this sort of thing is unlikely to show up on any flight I might take (I usually fly Southwest).

secondary edit: I wonder if it would be possible to use Microsoft Hearts Network on a plane flight?

doctorfrog wrote:

Grammar Nazi moment: by 'throws,' you mean, 'throes.'

It's true!

I blame the proofer.

rabbit wrote:

I blame the proofer.

Yeah, I never trusted that guy.