Airplane Simulator

Beyond The Classroom with Serious Gamers

With a projected industry worth over $100 billion, game development students at Penn State Wilkes-Barre have been given opportunities to see how game application can become serious gaming
By: Rachel Olszewski
Guest Written by Brandi Brace, Student Success Services English Tutor

The new Game Development minor at Penn State Wilkes-Barre seeks to give students, not only the skills necessary to create games that are immersive and fun to play, but the understanding of the vast potential that is the video game industry. With Newzoo, a market intelligence company, projecting an industry worth over $100 billion in 2017, this is no small market, and the breadth and variety within the industry is more expansive than most realize.

One topic that is covered in the game minor is the concept of serious gaming, or gaming intended to be more than just entertainment. One example of serious gaming is that of simulations used for training purposes.

In order to show students one of the types of “games” used for training, members of the Game Development minor went to Aviation Technologies at Wilkes-Barre Scranton Airport (AVP). There, thanks to a generous donation of time by Aviation Technologies, the students each got hands on experience with the simulator. Idalo Masi, a flight instructor, gave in depth explanations of the simulator’s strengths as well as an explanation of what he looks for in terms of training simulators.

Idalo explained that the simulator offers the opportunity for students to practice techniques and maneuvers for much less than the cost of training in an actual airplane. While it isn’t enough to practice in a simulator, the skills learned are directly transferrable, and the difference in a first time pilot who has spent time in a simulator is noticeable compared to those who don’t get the opportunity. Additionally, he explained that the hours logged while in a simulator are able to be counted towards the flight hours needed when training for a pilot’s license.

Depending on the plane that the student is training for, there are different panels available for the simulator. This allows the layout to change in order to mimic the controls for each type of aircraft. With 3 axis motion feedback, the simulator allows the students to feel what it is like to fly in an actual cockpit. This gives the students a realistic understanding of what it’s like to fly a plane.

To begin their experience, the students in the Game Development minor each watched the tutorial videos that prospective pilots watch before training on the simulator, then they got an opportunity to try one or more of the simulator exercises. The types of training they participated in included, taxiing the plane, take-off, different in flight exercises, and landing.

Throughout the process, the students were able to notice design elements that mimic those of games intended for entertainment. These design choices include, visual cues (gates to fly though, directional indicators, and destination markers), auditory feedback (encouragement or correction of technique), statistical analysis of performance, and the added element of motion feedback.

An additional surprise when the classes arrived was that Aviation Technologies entered each of the students into a drawing where two students won a free hour of in-air flight training. The extreme generosity of the company as well as the friendliness and encouragement of the staff added greatly to the experience.

The students echoed their appreciation, with Alan Hilenski saying that it was an “awesome experience.” Meghan Carlson noted that while it was “a bit freaky… it was fun.” Overall the experience was something unique and exciting. The students enjoyed the novelty as well as the information that they learned while there. Malcolm Sciandra summarized the experience saying that it, “gave me a good idea of the technology's current state and progress. It gives you the opportunity to try your hand at flying a plane without enduring the pressure of actually taking to the skies.”