[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Flight Simulator 9/11

September 5th, 2011 by Benj Edwards

Creepy September 11th Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 Advertisement in ComputerLife - 1995“Safety is a pilot’s first and foremost concern.”

The most defining cultural, political, and national moment of my generation happened ten years ago next Sunday. You know what it is. The pain from that day is still fresh enough in my mind that I barely want to talk about it.

I recently ran across this advertisement for Microsoft Flight Simulator 5.1 in a 1995 issue of ComputerLife magazine. It gave me chills when I first saw it — as almost anything involving airplanes and the World Trade Center does for most Americans. The ad encourages the reader to fly safely when navigating close to the Twin Towers.

The fact that Microsoft designed an ad like this means nothing, of course — I’m not implying any kind of supernatural foresight embedded into a 1995 computer game advertisement. It’s just creepy in retrospect. The World Trade Center’s stature as one of the world’s tallest and most famous landmark buildings inevitably teased human minds to make dramatic juxtapositions like this — sometimes harmlessly, and sometimes — one time — with devastating results.

[ From ComputerLife, October 1995, p.5 ]

Discussion Topic of the Week: Where were you when you first heard about the September 11th, 2001 attacks? Did they change your computer or video game habits in any way?

16 Responses to “[ Retro Scan of the Week ] Flight Simulator 9/11”

  1. JackSoar Says:

    I was in high school at the time, sitting in science class when another teacher ran in and turned the TV on. Initially, it almost didn’t, well, compute. It was just so surreal, and nobody yet knew who had done it or why, so I thought it might have been some sort of horrible accident. All I could think about was how many people must have died when the first plane hit. As the day wore on, and we got more information, the vibe was very quiet and unsettling.

    It didn’t change my video game habits at all. I had a group of friends I used to game with at the time, and we spent just as much time engaging in our hobby as before. Life had to continue.

  2. Xyzzy Says:

    I was asleep at home, since I live out West — my mother was having problems with insomnia, so she came into my room to wake me up as soon as CNN started showing that something was going on. I just remember staring at the screen and thinking in shock, “we’re going to end up in a war over this…”

    It didn’t really have any effect on my gaming or other aspects of daily life… That’s doubtless because, like a lot of people out here, I had no friends, family, or emotional connections back East, so it was more like hearing about a horrible natural disaster in a faraway land.

  3. TheSaintOfPain Says:

    I was 19 at the time, working as a stocker for the deli and bakery of a local grocery store. They always kept a television at the service desk on CNN, and I just happened to be taking some paperwork for my boss up to the desk when the news broke about the first plane hitting the first tower. Of course, as so many others did at that time, I figured it was some sort of pilot error, or something of that nature, that had caused this one-time occurrence; things like that had happened in the past, and I had no reason to think otherwise. However, as I, as well as a couple of customers and another employee were watching, the second plane hit the other tower, and that proved that this was no freak accident. We watched in absolute horror as the events unfolded, sickened, shocked, and horrified.

    The first thought that went through my head after the second plane hit was about my brother, who had signed up to join the Marine Corps during his last year of high school, and was supposed to be on a plane the morning of September 11th, 2001, to head out to California for basic training. In fact, the plane that the passengers allowed to crash into that field in Pennsylvania, rather than the White House, was the plane he was supposed to have been on. Obviously, he didn’t end up on that plane, but he did go to basic about 2 weeks later, and ended up spending 2 tours in Iraq as a transport truck driver between a base in Kuwait into the war zones in Baghdad and Fallujah. He was also one of the extremely lucky ones to make it back alive, and is now at home after spending his 4 years in the Corps.

    To this day, I can never be reminded of 9/11, or any sort of military actions our country takes, without thinking of those who still have family and friends over in the Middle East, and especially those who have unfortunately lost loved ones, ultimately because of the despicable actions of some sick and twisted extremists. My heart, prayers, and condolences always will go out to all of them.

  4. Pete Says:

    I heard about the first “possible” plane strike when I first got to work The second came while I was on the phone with an employee who was coming in late. I asked her to bring a tv and she agreed. We spent the morning all surrounding a 12″ black and white tv while the towers crumbled. Nothing got done that day, of course.

    Being an avid Flight Simmer, I went home and started to recreate the scenario from the pilots perspective. At this time it was clear that jets were used. It isn’t as easy as it seems and I quickly understood more reasons why the towers were chosen.

    Overall, it didn’t affect gaming, but I do find I will go back to New York in current versions of FS and do a flyover, but I won’t go back to FS2000 and recreate again. It was more real than it should get.

  5. Benj Edwards Says:

    Very well said, TheSaintofPain. Great stories, everyone. I hope we can hear some more from other readers as well.

    9/11 changed my gaming habits. My friend and I were so depressed from that event, and a few other negative ones around the same time, that we played Blood multiplayer over the modem every night for a week straight. It was great stress relief.

  6. Thomas Says:

    I was at a friends house. Felt surreal when the news came pouring in. I got that exact same feeling when the attacks in Norway happened earlier this summer. Maybe even more so since Norway is a lot closer to home (Sweden).

    Can’t say that either event changed my gaming habits. I think it changed more inside the gaming industry. Games that were altered, cancelled etc. I wonder when the wound is healed enough so that the gaming industry starts to explore the 9/11 events. It’s already incorporated into movies, TV, books. But I think game companies are alot more careful when taking on something like that. At least here in the west.

  7. Jay Says:

    On the morning of 9/11, I was a recent college graduate, jobless and in a brutal depression, readying to go to a job fair at the local stadium. I awoke to pictures of both towers burning. Just as I got in the car to go to the fair, one of them collapsed.

    I remembered coming home that evening (bizarrely, the job fair seemed so cut off from everything that was happening that news was only filtering in sporadically) and finding all but 2 TV stations (Cartoon Network and Game Show Network, oddly enough) showing the news.

    I do remember spending a lot of time in the following weeks playing videogames in an attempt to avoid thinking about what had happened. I think I even swore off games with violence for a while. Which set me on a long Puzzle Bobble addiction (not a bad thing at all to be addicted to!)

  8. idisjunction Says:

    I was in school at the time, in 8th grade. Most of the day was a blur because I didn’t have access to a TV, so I didn’t know what had actually happened. I can recall how quiet 6th period was when the teacher finally explained what had happened.

    I can’t say that it had much of an impact on my overall gaming habits, though I did take to playing games like Bin Laden Liquors a lot.

  9. Geoff V. Says:

    On 9/11 I was a junior in college. I woke up to my TV, which I used as an alarm. It was set to CNN, which appeared to be running a clip from a bad terrorist/disaster movie. At 8:03(CST) I watched Flight 175 crash into the South Tower. “What crappy CGI,” I thought. Seconds later I realized we were living is a whole new world.

    My University chose not to cancel classes. The professor for my 8:30 class told us that we shouldn’t worry about what was happening, “on the other side of the country.” Men and women were jumping out of 80 story windows to avoid burning to death.

    I also remember uninstalling most of my wantonly violent video games during the next week like Postal and Carmageddon.

  10. technotreegrass Says:

    I was in high school at the time, SAT English and we were all quietly working on some worksheet the teacher gave us when suddenly the principal comes over the PA system, telling us the World Trade Center had been bombed. Nobody spoke but we all moved in almost perfect unison to face the TV behind our desks (weird place for it) and turned it on. I remember thinking how grateful I was that we were allowed to abandon our schoolwork for this, maybe because I live in New Jersey. I guess the principal had the radio on because this was literally just after the first plane and no reporter on TV had a clue what exactly happened.

    We had to move to our next class shortly afterward, and everybody ran because we wanted to watch TV. I watched the second plane hit the tower and both of them fall live, and unfortunately, I was now in English Literature, with a teacher everyone had rightfully nicknamed “The Psycho.” I had barely known her for a week prior to this, and suddenly I better understood why everyone called her that. She was royally freaking out, even though she didn’t know anyone personally who would be there. Her brother is career army and was supposed to be on leave from mid-September to shortly after Christmas, and she was really looking forward to seeing him. Obviously he wasn’t getting such a leave now, if one at all. She repeated it so often with such rising fear that it’s burned into my brain. English Lit became a hellish class. Fortunately she moved to Boston halfway through the semester because she got engaged to her long-time boyfriend, a big shot in a paper company, and is now teaching in some Boston school. To this day, I pity those kids.

    The cable was cut an hour later and we were told to get back to our studies and “not let the terrorists win.” Too late. Nobody did anything that day, we just mindlessly shuffled from class to class, too numb and too worried to do anything, teachers included.

    For six months, I mostly stuck to nostalgic games like Mario and Sonic, so I could stick to fantasy violence and nothing that could put “real fictional people in real fictional danger.” (I love Fairly Oddparents) Nowadays, I can easily play games like Grand Theft Auto and slaughter hundreds, BUT, on the rare occasion I have to fly a plane in ANY game, I am VERY careful not to screw up and knock into a building or some structure that can potentially hold people.

    I also find myself saluting old movies and TV shows that briefly feature the Towers ever since.

  11. arlandi Says:

    i was watching tv with my wife. just got back from work. this was the time when i still put the tv inside my bedroom. the fact that it happened halfway around the world did not stop me from thinking that was the point where the world is changing, and lives will not be the same again.

    but no, it didn’t make any changes to my gaming habit.

  12. Justin Says:

    I was living in Honesdale, PA in an apartment above a print shop. I was asleep on the couch, because I work overnight. My room mate woke me up and said planes flew into the World Trade Center. Said we were being attacked. I couldn’t accept what she was saying and thought it was a odd joke. But I noticed the tears in her eyes and realized this was no joke. I quickly ran to the tv and turned it on. I was blown away by what I saw. Just 125 miles away, planes were slamming into tallest buildings in NYC.

    It did not affect my video gaming habits, but it made me look at online news more often.

  13. Zoyous Says:

    I had spent the night at my girlfriend’s house across town, and her housemate woke us up (we live on the west coast) and told us about the first plane hitting the first tower. We turned on the radio and listened from then on. Immediately I was speculating about the symbolism of attacking the World Trade Center, but mostly was just stunned. My girlfriend and I had been on the road for most of the summer, and had been in NYC just a couple weeks prior. I remember leaving the city and looking back at the skyline and the twin towers, and wondering if I should snap a photograph, but I decided not to.

    After a while I left her house and went across town to my own. One of my housemates was there and was still asleep, so I woke him up and told him what was going on. Somehow telling someone else about it helped me process it a little bit. We spent the remainder of the morning talking with our other housemate. I remember her being very downcast and saying something to the effect that a lot of things were going to change now.

    How did it effect my gaming habits? The main thing I can think of is that it caused Sega/AM2’s “Propeller Arena” for the Dreamcast to be canceled. By most accounts, it was a finished game, just a couple months from release, and a superb online dogfighting game. Apparently it has one level in a cityscape, wherein players could potentially crash into buildings. But what a waste, and what a shame that such a joyous and exhilarating game could be shelved forever due to the possibility of it being associated with 9/11. I reckon there’s ways to get it and play it now via emulation, but I haven’t looked into it that closely.

  14. Ant Says:

    I woke up to my computer’s IRC with friends talking about it. I had no idea what it was about. I turned on my 20″ Sharp CRT TV (still have and use it) from 1996, and all local L.A. news station about it including replays of the planes(?) crashing into the WTC towers. 🙁

  15. Fred Says:

    Living on the West Coast, I woke up to the news of 9/11. I used to fall asleep with the radio turned on, so it was still playing when I woke up, broadcasting the news of a terrorist attack on the WTC. I never fully understood the damage until I turned on CNN about a half hour later.

    It was my freshman year of college. I remember having to visit my bank before heading to class that day. It seemed so odd to me that everything seemed normal while at the bank. No one really seemed to have reacted to it, or even talked about it. All the customers and tellers just went about their business like it was any other day.

    I had two classes that day. The first class was theater, in which we took the quiz we were scheduled to take. The teacher later gave everyone who took the quiz a high score due to the events of 9/11 being traumatic.

    My evening class was cancelled with a note saying that it should be a time to spend with your loved ones.

    As far as my gaming habits, they definitely increased following the days of 9/11. So much of what was on tv was focused on 9/11, that I spent more time playing games since it allowed an escape from all the news coverage.

    I had bought Madden 2002 for the PS2 as soon as it came out, and it was the only game I played the following days, spending time with its franchise mode.

  16. Bob Says:

    i was playing my flight simulator 2000 in the twin towers after that i took it to an exorcist.

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