For all the debates and snipes about the fairness of peripherals and online simulations, such as the sudden disappearance of padlock after the common availability of TrackIR units, there never seems to be a mention to the hindrance a family can have on one’s ability to compete.
Single people, geographical bachelors, those without children or have a spouse that leave the house for hours without calling to ask if they should pick up milk (“I’m not sure what the date on it is — could you go check and tell me what it is?”) are at a distinct advantage over those of us who share a domicile with active families.
One of our squad members recently got married and, not ten months later, became a new father. As he was the last single man in the group to cross over, we reasonably assumed that his flying time would become more unpredictable and usually disrupted, and told him we understood. He didn’t fully fathom it at the time, but has finally come to embrace the “realism” of flying a simulation with the ultimate difficulty setting.
Here’s a few rules of thumb:
1) Prior planning is no guarantee of success.
I cannot count the number of times that I have informed the family that on such-and-such date from X hour to X plus three hours that I will be flying in a tournament online, one that I have been doing my best to coordinate and practice for — despite their best efforts to interrupt me — no less than three weeks. I have stated that I just want these three hours of my life for myself. I have marked calendars well in advance and put a notice on the refrigerator. I have put on my most stern “Daddy Voice.” All in vain.
Invariably, after avoiding enemy patrols, flak batteries, AI wingmen determined to refuse to stay in formation, confused communications for no less than fifty minutes, a spider will make its appearance somewhere in the house and require me to kill it just as the target area comes into view. And right now. NOW. No, not in the approximately twenty five seconds from now when the anti-aircraft guns will score an incredible hit that will instantly vaporize my plane, but… RIGHT NOW IT’S HUGE COME QUICK AND KILL IT HURRY IT’S GETTING AWAY IT’S GETTING AWWWAAAAYYYY!
2) The more intense the situation, the more likely a family member will involve themselves in events.
If one has some idle time that one decides to dedicate to some touch-and-goes in an empty server or offline, the family will happily buzz along to itself, content to give one his space and feed the hobby.
However, fill a server with hungry opponents and dedicated wingmen in a wild melee over an objective that finds one in a swirl of planes and tracers and the virtual pilot becomes the center of household events.
There is a corollary, or subset of this rule:
3) Interference from a family member is its own reward, and only encourages them.
The Yak-1 fighter dips its right wing on its own volition, the splintered wood that runs from the tip to the middle third being torn by the wind that had only now stopped scooping fuel from the self-sealing tanks. With only twenty meters separating it from the ground I whipped my head left and right to look behind me, straining to see where the next slashing attack from one of the three Bf-109’s was going to come from. The tail of the plane was in tatters, and on the last desperate slip it became clear that a huge portion of it had been bitten out of it by a well placed cannon round. I call desperately for help into my headset, only to be met with confused pleas for my location, which is unknown.
“Blah, blah, something something,” says the wife on entering the computer room, “Blah blah trashcansomething blah blah.”
Stick slightly to the left to correct for the drag, scan ahead for options. There! The river and the hills! Report my position, which I’ve finally figured out, and grimace as they say they are two minutes away. A lifetime! Gentle, gentle, she’s not going to put up with anything radical, wait for the attack before the turn…here comes that number two Hun in a diving roll, flash of guns on his wings and nose and TURN! Tracers flash by the cockpit and hiss into the muddy bank beneath me as I zig away at the last minute as the propeller’s wake sprays water behind it just above the waves…
“Something something hate something talking flying something you,” the wife adds helpfully.
A quick throw of the controls to the right, but not too much, as the damaged wing is worth two inches on the stick, and the bridge looms large as another Messer tucks in close behind me, spitting angry tracers that encircle me. Level and push the stick down desperately, then back and to the left to level out as I pass with inches to spare beneath the bridge and to the right of the white concrete span. My pursuer, caught in a millisecond of indecision, erupts into a fireball and shattered fragments splash around me as he catches the structure full on!
“Attention or other pay talk something never,” she seems to babble, but louder than before. Perhaps it’s the adrenaline of the simulation, but her words are coming at me confused, as if I had married a distant relative of Yoda.