Battlefield 1943 - The Mysteries of Aviation


After an unusually long rainy season, summer has finally arrived. July was overcast, wet and relatively cool, but the last week has been roasting. Also, it is clothes-sticking-to-your body humid.

Anyway, it's definitely summer now. This time of year makes me think of Battlefield 1943, because I played it non-stop one summer a decade ago.

So here's a thing about that.

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There's a cable running from our router to the back of my PS3. My SDTV is as deep as it is wide. I have heard of HDMI, but I think it might be the name of a band. It is 2009 and I am playing Battlefield 1943 "on-line".

I and 23 strangers are about to wage war on a Pacific island. We will shoot each other on foot and in vehicles, while striving to capture flags and claim the island for the US Marines or Imperial Japanese Navy.

With our allegiance already chosen for us, we have the opportunity to select our class: gunman, man with gun, or man with a slightly different gun. In a few short seconds our match will begin.

We spawn on the deck of an aircraft carrier. The more team-minded members of our group are already aboard the transports, hurtling towards the beaches and our first flag. Time is of the essence, yet several of our number, myself included, are yet to leave the ship. This is because we understand that there is more to this game than just capturing flags.

We want to fly.

Carnage69 has a very good internet connection. He was moving while the rest of us were stuck in internet mud. He makes a beeline for the only aircraft on our ship and before we know it he's speeding along the deck, rotors whirring, desperate to bring death to the hapless Americans on the other side of the island. I am annoyed, because I wanted that plane, but I'm also happy for my teammate. I stand and watch as he heads straight for the island. I can just about make out the explosion as he crashes into the beach.

The excitement among the rest of us is palpable. We now wait for the next plane to spawn.

Shit, it has spawned and Tony*the*crab91 has claimed it. We watch as he drives off the side of the ship and straight into the ocean, like one of those pathetic homemade contraptions that people sometimes launch off piers in countries where people have nothing better to do. He gets no air. Tony has left the game.

The next plane has appeared and it is mine. My hands tremble as I start the engine. No, that's the wrong button; I get it on the second attempt. The deck disappears below me as I take to the sky, higher and higher I climb in an effort to avoid smashing back into my own ship. But not high enough.

The sea is rising up to meet me.

Am I upside down? How do I readjust my position? I clip the water and go into a death spiral. I can hear my teammates cheering me on from the ship: "wanker", "take the boat next time" - "you fucking cunt fuck" - "Does anyone want to meet in Home?".  I am dead and dead embarrassed.

We all know that it is virtually impossible to pilot a Battlefield plane, yet we insist on trying. It is as if EA doesn't want us to take to the skies. Up is down, left is right, right is machine gun; machine gun is a boat. We are unperturbed, all utterly convinced that next time we will master aviation.

I'll spend the rest of the match doing what the game wants me to do. I will play properly, while watching others ditch planes into the sea, cliffs and trees.

Next time though, next time I'm going to nail it.

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