Waffle: Games On A Plane

By John Walker on April 12th, 2011 at 10:50 am.

With jetlag.

‘Waffle’ are occasional columns of meandering thoughts, not intended to make any helpful points.

As the transport industry embarrassingly crawls along behind progress, we’re finally getting close to a place where gaming on the move is viable. It’s insane that what’s been holding us back for so long is basically plug sockets.

Clearly there are many who have been gaming on the move for years. But they’re those who can afford laptops of such epic prices as to make a mortal man cry, with battery lives not even long enough to complete Homefront, twice. Genuine opportunities to conveniently game, on non-bank-destroying machines, while hurtling at impressive speeds, are really only appearing now, I’d suggest. I made that really specific, because there’s no internet access up here on this plane, so I can’t check.

Flying to America on a secret mission for RPS, I experienced the most extraordinary good fortune in being upgraded to BA’s “Club World” – their confusing name for Business Class. For those confused by BA’s naming system, here’s a handy guide (don’t worry – we’ll get back to games eventually):

World Traveller = Economy, or We Hate You Class. It’s a class in which the airline (and indeed most others) puts those they look upon with disdain for either not being millionaires, or not working for a giant corporation who don’t notice travel costs. Here you are crammed into a four inch wide seat, fed slops, and have your knees whittled away by the chair in front over the ten or so hours of your flight. Somehow tickets for this class still cost over £500, which apparently isn’t enough for you to be carried with more dignity than cattle. Here you are provided with nothing at all in the way of electricity or happiness.

World Traveller Plus = Premium Economy, or We Hate You A Bit Less Class. I believe the role of WTP is to ensure those sat in WT are aware what they’re not getting. There’s nothing enormously special about it – they’re the sorts of seats you’d hope for on a cheap coach – but at least you can sit down without losing a limb. Otherwise everything is the same. Occasionally you may find a cigarette lighter or weird, alien power socket, but in my experience they’ve never worked.

Club World = Business Class, or Hello Money! The leap up from WTP to Club World is astonishing. I’m not sure what “Club World” is supposed to mean, or how it conveys the opulence they want to offer. It sounds like the most ambiguous club imaginable. “We’re all people on a world! Join in if you are too!” It belies the remarkable change of interest in you as a passenger, where suddenly the thousands of pounds your ticket has cost you buys you into a place where the chairs are made of bed, and the food is delivered in separate courses

As I type this I’m ludicrously reclined, my legs up on the footrest that only moments ago was acting as the base of my nap-site. I’m surrounded by complementary drinks and complimentary staff. Amazing things happen here, like people getting a cup of freshly ground coffee because they asked for it, not because the flight’s one trip down the aisle with the treacle-tar pot had made its sorry way by. And most amazing of all, there’s a plug socket.

First = First, or Shangri La. I’ve no idea what happens in there. If it’s better than Club World, then I can only imagine each passenger is splayed out in a four poster queen-sized bed, being fed rich meats and mead by scantily clad elven attendants, while chamber quartets calmly strum Bach. I imagine they have plug sockets too.

What’s exciting about the socket in Club World is it’s not one of those odd emPower things – the little round port for which no adaptor is kept on board, and of which none has worked since 1994. I mean an actual AC socket (albeit Euro/US), into which, via a standard adaptor, I can plug my netbook.

My netbook is an HP/Compaq 311c, bought after Jim raved so enthusiastically about his. Its key feature being that it can play games thanks to the Intel ION chip. Yes, ION 2 is upon us, and I’m woefully out of date. But since I’m no more likely to write a tech column than I am to cough up a rhinoceros, those worrying that I might be about to talk about dated specs can stay calm. Da compooter make da pretty pikshurs.

Learning of my upgrade the night before my trip, I sprang into optimistic action. Giving the netbook a clean install of Windows 7, due to its having become sludgy of late (and this time remembering to partition off a chunk for Linux), and then set a selection of games downloading on Steam. What can this machine really do, and what can be satisfactorally played on the still somewhat confined space of even a rather special aeroplane seat?

I decided not to deliberately try to set it on fire with, say, Crysis 2, which it would obviously not cope with. But how about some 3D stuff from a few years back? I brought with me Psychonauts, King’s Bounty: The Legend, Torchlight, and Portal. And I’m delighted to report it plays all four without a problem.

Portal is where it struggled the most, requiring me to turn down most of the options while still letting me play at the full widescreen resolution (1366 x 768). In that giant room at the end, the one with all the turrets, it was a little choppy. But certainly very playable. However, it did teach me the limits of my little infra-red Microsoft Optical 4000 mouse. Firing portals while running isn’t something it’s happy with. But I still saw GlaDOS off to her temporary grave, and very happy about it I was.

Psychonauts has always struggled without a 360 controller, but I didn’t have time to set up the drivers before I left, and also considered that the site of me sat playing games with a controller on a plane might be the final clue everyone needed to realise I shouldn’t be anywhere near such a class and have them revolt and put me through the nearest emergency exit.

But Torchlight is where I spent most of my journey, merrily chugging through the levels without having to watch my laptop battery empty so fast it made a noise. (If anyone might wonder how I managed this, after my recent divulging of a need to be doing at least two things at once, I came up with the most beautiful solution. In-ear bud headphones playing a podcast from my iPhone, big BA noise cancelling headphones over the top playing the sound of Torchlight. I’m good.)

Which means, so long as you’re upgraded to a class you could never afford if you saved up for a year, gaming on planes is a completely viable option, even without lugging a bloody great Alienware laptop onto the plane, which would likely prevent its taking off.

Trains were of course far ahead of planes in thinking of offering a sliver of their electricity for those who’ve emptied their bank accounts for the pleasure of being in another place for a bit. And some, and by “some” I mean “almost no”, train routes have introduced wifi along their tracks.

That’s what we really need. Plugs and wifi, everywhere. It’s my understanding that a number of domestic US airlines have got the internet up in their jet-streams, but to the best of my knowledge this is rarely offered on international expeditions. But it’s far from the norm, and the chances of its becoming commonplace soon match the speed with which such vehicles caught up with the concept of electricity.

With planes, such innovations tend to only appear with new stock, so while BA are adding shiny new 777s to their fleet with much more potential for the airborne gamer, it won’t reach most places, and indeed on most airlines, until the older planes have all fallen out of the sky from old age.

So in about 2045, I reckon we’ll all be able to enjoy a game on the move. Admittedly by then games will be played on devices fitted directly into our eyes, and the tech will be banned from aeroplanes because – despite no evidence whatsoever – the airline industry will have decided it interferes with the electronics on board, so it’ll be useless. But those of a retro mind will be able to dig out their 32-core ION9 netbook and settle down to enjoy a game of the recently released Half-Life 3.

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106 Comments »

  1. Rii says:

    I’ve never been on a plane, but I should think it fairly obvious that the Economy/Business/First distinction dates from a time when air travel was confined to the elite rather than – as is the case today – merely the reasonably well-off. I perhaps shouldn’t be surprised at a Brit opposing the shift to nomenclature less obviously disdainful of the proletariat.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Yes, we like nothing better than to keep the lower classes in their place. Racist much?

    • Bilbo says:

      Have you kicked a pauper today? I have. Just to remind him of the pecking order, eh wot

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Fucking peasants.

    • John Walker says:

      Yes, that’s clearly what I was objecting to. What a sensible and reasonable comment you’ve made there, about the class that costs £5,000 for a return ticket. Sigh.

    • Baboonanza says:

      I agree whole heartedly with the OP. It is shocking that in a post-class society we have such ridiculous names. I would suggest the following, more egalitarian terms:
      Economy – Pikey Class
      Business – Wanker Class
      First – Cunt Class

      Much better.

    • 12kill4 says:

      Marx was a troll.

    • DiamondDog says:

      The reasonably well-off? If only, my dear boy. Have you seen some of the ghastly plebs they allow on aeroplanes these days!

    • Lilliput King says:

      Bab: Awesome.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      I don’t know, Club World to me sounds more like excentric-jetset-”I have to attend this dubstep party in that London club tonight, it’s the only place where they have these 10kW speakers that go all the way down to 12 Hz so you can really feel the bass as it is intended.”-”we can detox/sleep it off on the return flight”, not exactly the replacement for “Business”, but I guess Business-People need to have a bit of excitement once in a while, if only in categorization.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      “I have to attend this dubstep party in that London club tonight, it’s the only place where they have these 10kW speakers that go all the way down to 12 Hz so you can really feel the bass as it is intended.”

      I have a friend who talks like that about the speakers in his car. And in general. I hate him.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      Teddy, I fear everybody has at least one acquaintance who talks like that. Must be some Kevin Bacon grade phenomenon.

    • Rii says:

      @Baboonanza: I wholeheartedly support this proposal.

      About the Brit thing: sorry. Reading about the Brits in Tibet recently has put me in an uncharitable frame of mind.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      [comment redacted by author] that’s not the forum to argue political history.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      The last time the British were “in” Tibet in any meaningful sense was over 100 years ago. I assume you feel equaly uncharitable to all other nations that have been involved in bloodshed in the same timeframe. So, pretty much every nation on earth then.

      Or is it just us lucky brits who are held accountable for the actions of people who were born in the same geographical area as us well before any of our grand parents were alive?

    • Rii says:

      @Ergates_Antius: I – wait, no; just go away.

      So … does anyone want to talk about power generation and management on airliners? If the Ram-Air Turbine kicks in, you know you’re in some serious shit.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I am also sorry and was also feeling uncharitable.

      Edit: Actually, no I’m not. You don’t get to excuse racism by just saying “I read something and was feeling uncharitable”.

    • Ovno says:

      Not to get into this but, the British are not a race, we are a nationality.

      Therefore he may have been guilty of negative national stereotyping but not racism.

      For instance calling Americans stupid is not racist its just not very nice….

      _____________________________________________________________

      This has been an informative and patronising lesson in the difference between a race and a nationality by Ovno, please come again….

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      The whole concept of race is imaginary so technically “caucasian” isn’t a race either.

      Racism is the term used to describe bigotry towards people of a certain creed, colour or nationality. It’s not a perfect fit, but it’s the best word we have.

    • Ovno says:

      Not at all…

      Race although an useless concept is mainly based on the colour of someone’s skin or other readily apparent traits, which have no effect on someone’s abilities, views or predispositions and therefore is a very very poor way of pre-judging someone, also your race cannot be changed.

      Whereas…

      Nationality can and does effect your abilities (due to the level of training and teaching available within your nation), views (due to the effect of national media and identity) and predispositions (as for instance those in who grow up in equatorial areas are not predisposed to winter sports (though can be surprisingly adept in non predisposed activities)) and therefore does have some merit as a basis for pre-judging someone, also your nationality can be changed and after a period of naturalisation someone from one nation can become virtually indistinguishable from a native.

      Hence why it is important to remember the difference between the two and not cry racism when someone implies that belonging to a certain nationality implies something about a persons abilities, predispositions, views or even personal hygiene, as they are just being a dick not a racist.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Nope, or at least not in my country. To be racist means to support a theory according to which humans can be divided in races. You can pick an absurd criteria to determine races, religion or nationality for example,
      but it has to be backed with a general theory.

      What was present here was just some kind of absurd generalisation that, if indeed probably the source of racism (And language too, so well…), cannot really be defined as such, unless of course the man had a whole theory of races based on nationality.

      And this: “The whole concept of race is imaginary so technically “caucasian” isn’t a race either.” does not work. Why? Because pretty much every concept is based in our minds.

    • Tengil says:

      Sorry, but the British are more or less the worst offenders in all of human history. The death-toll of your fondly remembered empire makes Hitler or Stalin look like amateurs.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      @Ovno & Tatourmi : I acknowledge and understand the difference. My point being – we don’t have better word for it. Unless you can suggest one?

      Also, dislike of people from a different nationality has caused far more warfare and death than dislike of people who are a different colour. Most wars occur between neighbouring countries*. People in neighbouring countries* usually look the same. So it is in no way a “lesser” thing.

      *(country/state/princedom/country/villiage)

      @Tengil : Ludicrously over-simplified view of world history aside: Irrelevant. No-one alive today in Britain was in anyway involved in or responsible for the events to which you refer. I refuse to be held accountable for actions carried out before my grandparents** were born.

      **(Or my parents, or me for that matter)

    • Rii says:

      @Tatourmi: “Absurd generalisation”? Absurd insofar as it is a generalisation perhaps, but hardly one of an absurd character.

    • choconutjoe says:

      @Ergates_Antius:
      Xenophobia might be a better term in this case. Failing that, national stereotyping, bigotry and prejudice are all potentially relevant terms here.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      @Rii: Yes absurd in character. The majority of British people are not disdainful of the proletariat, the majority of British people *are* the proletariat. As is obviously true in every country. We don’t all live in country houses and split our days between riding around on horse back and kicking peasants. You seem to be basing your views on watching historical dramas or something.

      Similarly: Most french people don’t ride around on bicycles with strings of onions around their necks smelling of garlic, most german people don’t stomp around in jackboots shouting orders at people and most irish people aren’t lazy and feckless.
      Maybe you should get on a plane and visit rather than just sneering from afar. Or just keep your offensive opinions to yourself. Eithers good.

      @choconutjoe: Yes, but they’re not very catchy are they.

    • Ovno says:

      Indeed If I remember rightly not to be judged by the sins of your father is one of the most commonly accepted parts of human rights across the world.

      As for the lack of a word, I’d say it is nationalism, as to view your nation as superior is to view others as inferior.

      And finally as for the British Empire was the worst in history thing I think you’ll find the excess and brutality of the Roman Empire by far outweighs even the worst of the what the British did.

  2. Premium User Badge

    Nathan says:

    For many taking a laptop with them abroad will only ever be the preserve of super-top-secret not-RPS business-missions. As far as I’m concerned, plane trips were invented to finish off Phoenix Wright.

    • Baboonanza says:

      So you think he’s flying over for a Portal 2 viewing?

    • Deano2099 says:

      Except the latest game in the series (Edgeworth Investigations 2) isn’t being translated to English, which RPS would be kicking up a fuss about were it not for it not being a PC title dammit.

      Of course, there will be a fan-translated ROM-hack along at some point, but it won’t be by the same translation team, y’know, the ones that re-write all the jokes and half the plot points so they work in English.

    • Crane says:

      Fuck, for a PW game, if someone translates the fucking thing I will go through it MYSELF and edit it into something not-horrible.

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      Nathan says:

      I wasn’t making any comment about what he was flying over for, but given it’s probably gone Gold, I’d be super surprised if it were Portal 2.

    • Premium User Badge

      shoptroll says:

      I’d be super surprised if it wasn’t Portal 2, let alone Valve related. Someone on the Facepunch forums recently visited the office and they said there were journalists there playing the game for previews I think. Although I thought companies can use Steam to distribute preview builds for select users?

      Anyways, we are talking about the company that’s running a near 3 week long ARG to promote a game that’s already been announced, gold mastered, and as close to the center of the collective gamer consciousness as possible.

      Something is afoot, and the timing of such a trip is awfully suspect, but I’m not getting my hopes up for anything earth shattering… yet.

      EDIT: Wait. Quinns in Utah? Interesting.

  3. Meneth says:

    Last time I went by train (last summer, in Norway), they actually had free WiFi. The only problem was that it loaded very slowly and one had to register an account with the company (NSB).
    After finally manging to register an account (took 15-20 minutes, so not quite as bad as GfWL at least), it still wouldn’t let me past the company’s website, so I gave up.
    The electrical sockets worked fine, though.

    • Archonsod says:

      Most trains I’ve been on in the UK offer Wi-Fi onboard, if you’re willing to pay for it (or you can use it for an hour free). It’s not that much faster than simply using my mobile and the 3G network though, though if all you’re using it for is access to Steam or whatever it’d probably do the trick.

    • Meneth says:

      In the end, due to how slowly the internet loaded, I just played for a while in offline mode.
      Hopefully the WiFi will work better next time I need to go by train somewhere. If not, I’ll just play offline or read a book.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      Sounds like you went on Bergensbanen. The WiFi on Gjøvikbanen is much less crap; I played Borderlands online with some friends on that one (only dropped out twice or so).
      Also, if you don’t have enough space for your mouse, you might want to play a game that doesn’t require one, e.g. Cortex Command.

      Edit: Some busses also have wireless internet, and the service provicer (bBox) lets you pay by SMS. I don’t think there were power outlets though.

    • Meneth says:

      No, it was the train from Oslo to Lillehammer.
      I did have enough space for my mouse. I wouldn’t if the person next to me had been using the space allotted to him, though.

  4. gorgol says:

    Amusing yet slightly depressing article.

    The description of economy class is exaggerated but still disturbingly accurate.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I’ve flown with Ryanair (it wasn’t my choice). In Economy (it was even less of my choice). It was worse than John’s description.

    • gorgol says:

      Actually you’re right. I’ve only flown Ryanair once, but it was worse. Ugh. And the baggage ludicruosness meant it wasn’t even cheap. Never doing that again.

      But Ryanair is a bit of a freak in how bad their customer service is. The other airlines I’ve been are not quite as bad. I usually quite enjoy the food for example :P

    • Baboonanza says:

      RyanAir can burn in hell. It’s the only company I have ever encountered that actively goes out of it’s way to make it’s customers feel like worthless scum.

    • gorgol says:

      Hmm, indeed. The only possible defence for them would be lower price, but they don’t actually have lower prices. They’re just absolute cunt rip-off merchants with great marketing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Economy in transatlantic flights is more bearable than Ryanair, where you only have to endure the horror for an hour or two, thankfully. At least it was in Air Canada (which even had a plug socket in Economy on the return journey!), haven’t travelled with anyone else yet.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I genuinely thought the wings were going to break off. They almost never found my luggage. The attendants were all foul-tempered goblins. The food tasted like rubber. The seats were so small that my friend was practically sat on my lap. The captain sounded drunk. The in-flight movie was a musical.

    • gorgol says:

      The inflight movie was a musical?! Oh the heartless horror :(

    • CMaster says:

      @Teddy
      Thats erm odd, as Ryanair planes don’t actually have TVs.
      Must have been a replacement from another airline.

    • Kollega says:

      I see everyone saying that RyanAir’s customer service is darned awful, but did anybody figure out the real reason for it? Hint: the name of the company should have been a tipoff - try to guess who runs it.

    • gorgol says:

      EDIT: nevermind. Delete.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      CMaster: If it helps, I couldn’t see a screen anywhere on the plane.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      I’ve taken international flights for a total of less than £60 per return flight on RyanAir. It’s hell on toast, but tolerable for a few hours, and as far as I know nobody else is as cheap. I’ve paid more for one-way train rides in economy class. I went with the slightly more expensive EasyJet once, and the flight was about the same except late enough that I couldn’t get my train and had to hang around waiting for the first one in the morning, which was not optimal.

      Real airlines are of course much more pleasant, even in economy, but I’ve never been able to justify the additional expense to myself.

  5. Dzamir says:

    Just use an iPad, and you will have 9 solid hours of gaming :-)

    • Meneth says:

      I could buy a decent computer for the price of one, so no thanks.

    • Delusibeta says:

      Aside from the price (£450? You’re having a laugh), there also the problem that the majority of iOS games are, frankly, over-glorified Flash games. I realise there are exceptions (Infinity Blade is Medieval Punch-Out Shiny Edition, GTA Chinatown Wars is a DS port) but they’re very much in the minority. That’s not saying that they’re *bad* or anything, just that if you have an internet connection you can play them (or the games they ripped off) for free.

    • Kaira- says:

      What I’ve heard, iPad is pretty much a perfect platform to play those oldie-goodie SCUMM adventure games.

  6. Tusque D'Ivoire says:

    I ate a waffle while reading this. I like waffles.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Waffles are delicious frozen potato treats you can (with a little ingenuity) prepare in the toaster.

      Hold that thought, mister American! Because: you’re wrong.

    • kalidanthepalidan says:

      Potato waffles?!? Mind = blown. So are they our/American’s equivalent of hash browns (except in waffle form)?

    • Garret says:

      I am from America, and my waffles are not made out of potatoes.

  7. Stuart Walton says:

    Cut off the corner of every plaing card in a deck to fashion yourself your very own travel deck. Small enough to fit on any tray table. You can then have 9 solid hours of solitaire. No charging necessary.

  8. aldo_14 says:

    Singapore Airlines has, at least for the jumbos, power sockets in economy. Which is nice (actually, the whole plane is very nice – I just wish they had more routes I could actually afford to fly on).

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Every jumbo I’ve ever flown on has been absolutely wonderful, even in Economy.

    • Dozer says:

      This. I flew Singapore Airlines to Australia last year (after being chauffeured to Heathrow by Mr Walker, no less) which is a thirteen-hour flight followed by a ten-hour flight in each direction. The economy seat was spacious enough for me, and I’m 6’3″. The food was pleasant. The flight attendant would bring me my choice of drinks when I asked. The seat-back entertainment was great; it had a wide choice of films and music which kept me entertained. The most frustrating thing about the experience was when they would interrupt me in the middle of a film to tell me the system was shutting down because they’re about to land. No, dammit! Just keep flying for another 30 minutes and let me finish watching this German-language indie film about a romance across the Berlin Wall!

      Got the window seat I’d asked for in 3 of the 4 legs. The seat next to me was empty in those three legs too. In one case I had three seats to myself. The aircraft were three Boeing 777s and one A380.

      Charging socket wise, the only thing I looked for was a USB socket so I could charge my iPod. There was one, but it’s connected to the in-flight entertainment so you can put your music on a Flash drive and listen to it through the aircraft’s headphones. So when I connected my iPod, it thought it was connecting to a PC of some description, but then somehow failed to enter “I’m a USB drive now, k?” mode and shut itself down.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      I’ve done the same flight with Singapore Airlines and was very impressed with their entertainments system. I watched at least 6 or 7 films in total (there and back).

  9. brog says:

    Your description of the treatment of economy class passengers brings back unpleasant flashbacks of the time I was stuck in Schiphol overnight being treated like dirt by the staff because I’m not a [swear] businessman and therefore an inferior class of being.
    It took me quite a while to figure out what their problem was, actually. Usually people are nice and treat other people nicely! It’s true! And usually businesses dealing with customers make an extra effort to do so. Airlines make a special effort to cultivate looking down on economy passengers.

    • Dozer says:

      If they didn’t, then the people who can afford Business Class wouldn’t pay for Business Class if Economy is good enough. For the same reason, the first passenger trains (in the 1840s or whenever) had 3rd Class carriages without any roof. And supermarket economy brands have really ugly packaging. It’s to scare the people who can afford the more expensive version into buying the more expensive version. That said, my experiences with Singapore Airlines economy class was fine; they exceeded all my expectations last year.

    • brog says:

      Dozer: I know that’s the reasoning behind it, but I don’t buy it. Business/First class have luxurious seats, better food, power sockets. If you’re travelling for work, your work is still going to pay the extra so that you can either work on the plane or get some sleep to be in good condition for whatever meeting you have the next morning. I’m not asking that they remove these differences; they take up more space on the plane and so fairly cost more for the extra fuel.
      What I’m asking is to not be treated like scum by the staff. To not be snubbed, insulted, lied to, treated verbally as an inferior class of human. (And maybe just a smidgen of extra leg-room?) This really isn’t necessary to encourage people to pay more. And as you mention, Singapore Airlines is lovely – they don’t treat Economy passengers like dirt, and it works; I fly with them whenever it’s an option.
      (Unfortunately I’m stuck around Europe for a bit and they don’t do local Europan flights.)

    • Teddy Leach says:

      How exactly did they treat you badly? I’m more interested than anything else.

    • Mirqy says:

      My company doesn’t pay for business class travel. They pay for an extra night in a hotel to let you recover from economy class, because that’s still cheaper than business class.

    • brog says:

      warning, long rant:
      Our flight was delayed several hours by snow. Once we got on the plane, we then had to wait a couple more hours because there was ice on the wings and the de-icing truck had run out of fuel. So there was no chance of a connecting flight from Amsterdam that evening, and we were given the choice to either get off the plane, stay in B’ham for the night, and fly sometime whenever they could reschedule us, or else stay on it and they’d put us up in a hotel once we got to Amsterdam and a flight onwards the next day. We took the second option. Arriving in Amsterdam we were informed that while we could stay in a hotel, the flight the next day left at 10am and it could take 2 hours to get between the airport and hotel given the snow, so we’d barely have any time to sleep (it was already 1am). Instead we were offered camp beds set up in the airport lounge; this seemed like the best chance to sleep. After walking to the other end of the airport it turned out that “airport lounge” just meant in the middle of the airport, but we went to sleep, only to be woken at 6am by airport staff telling everyone they had to get up now. (There were lots of other people sleeping there too, some of them were coughing all night; the next day we were coughing as well, and were quite ill for the next week.)
      So it turned out staying in the airport afforded us less sleep than the hotel would have, because we hadn’t been informed of this arbitrary waking time.
      The airport staff said they couldn’t help, but we should go to the desk for the airline and they’d be able to give us somewhere to rest for another couple of hours until the flight. At the airline desk, of course, after we’d explained the situation we were told “no, we can’t help, you’re only economy class what do you expect?” and then she immediately started talking to the next person in the queue with an expression of disdain for us.
      There were some other complaints, but this is far too long already.

      TLDR: delays, more delays, misinformation, 4 hours sleep, plague, dismissal.

      (oh, and the airline was KLM)

    • Joe Duck says:

      I fly every weekend from Schiphol (in economy, btw) and by now it feels almost like home.
      I am very sorry about your experience, but if it is any comfort, I can tell you that what happened to you is by no means uncommon. Schiphol in Christmas is a very, very special place, as all of us who live near it know. In winter Schiphol you get to combine many interesting factors.
      The first one is what has already been mentioned and not different from anywhere else in Europe: they know that economy class victims have no real choice. And people who have no choice gets the legal minimum treatment. You get all that the law forces them to give you. And when they dare, a little less.
      Second, Schiphol has, as was proven this last two winters, the worst snow handling capabilities in all Europe. Specifically this winter 5 cms of snow were capable of stopping the airport while north of here in Scandinavia there were no planes delayed with 10 times that amount. Belgium had to cope with much more snow and Brussels airports operated more time than Schiphol. Ditto for the London Gatwick, Frankfurt and Paris. Schiphol is a cheap airport and it shows all the time.
      And the third and most important is that Dutch culture does not include customer care as one of their core values. Living here I can attest that the Dutch have many, many wonderful qualities. Customer care, attention, solidarity, warmth or even politeness are not any of them. They are direct. Extremely and painfully direct.
      I will stop here and not tell you my woes or experiences, because if I start with KLM and their relationship with that strange concept called “truth”, I will bore even myself.

  10. CMaster says:

    I had a “proper” laptop (ie not a netbook) in ultraportable format that was very good for gaming. Source games at native resolution smooth as you like, even stuff like Company of Heroes ran well. Really good battery life too (though gaming brought it down). The ASUS U35JC. It got stolen though, which makes me sad. It seems they now have a step up in the U36JC. Acer do something of very similar performance in the 3820TG
    The Sony S and Z series and the Alienware M11x also run in this line of things, but cost dramatically more (~£1000 as opposed to the ~£600 for these)

    • Kaira- says:

      I bought Acer-laptop once, not going to make the same mistake again. The two years I’ve had has been nothing but trouble after trouble, culminating at the point where after reinstalling Win7 on my laptop, the GPU driver’s Acer provided wouldn’t install even from the command line, and when installing the driver’s from ATI, GPU started acting really wonky. Other troubles: touchpad broke, the line-in port for headphones broke, line-in port for power-cable actually melted the cable(!), hinges of the screen have weakened, hard-drive was faulty, constant overheating despite regular cleaning… the list just goes on and on.

      Then I bought HP laptop and I’ve been happy ever since.

  11. President Weasel says:

    I was upgraded from cattle class to cattle+ on JAL last year, and as well as the noticeably less uncomfortable seat there was a handy-dandy power socket on the seat in front. It makes such a difference.

    Speaking of smallish form factor laptops or netbooks on which you can game, I have a 6 hour train journey looming and want to play some Dwarf Fortress. Can anyone recommend a machine for the doing of this?

    • Delusibeta says:

      I don’t know much about Dwarf Fortress, but I’ve heard it’s quite CPU intensive. I would suggest looking into laptops with a Core iSomething processor, or whatever the AMD equivalent is.

    • Koozer says:

      Dwarf Fortress doesn’t work on a netbook. It cannot handle the awesome power invoked by the mighty lava flows, the sound of searing flesh drowning out the screams of dwarves.

    • President Weasel says:

      I usually turn off the in-game sound effects because they are too realistic and disturbing.

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      I have the feeling that DF maxes out every CPU you throw at it, while being moderately playable on all but the lowest of specimen. Look for something with an insane battery, and maybe a kernel-extension / bios setting that lets you switch to a lower power stepping manually.

    • Baboonanza says:

      A netbook would be ok for learning to play, just make sure you play a small/pocket world and a choose a small map for your fortress. It also doesn’t really use multiple cores so that won’t help too much (besides off-loading OS stuff). Keybindings might be a bit of an issue on a laptop keyboard though.

      Once you get to a bigger fortress you need something mighty though.

  12. Teddy Leach says:

    Lucky sod.

  13. RagingLion says:

    Ooh secret mission. I’m calling Portal 2 for that.

  14. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    Fascinating read, and congrats on your upgrade. I only have intracontinental city-hopping flight experience, in aeroplanes that were not exceptionally uncomfortable and always found the view out of the window more fascinating than fumbling around with my anemic MacBook. On a tangential note, shame about the 3DS’ battery life, I hope Nintendo gets their act together for the first revision and manages iPad like stamina.
    What about games on a zeppelin? Are there electrical sockets or is it all baccarat, all the time?

    • Dozer says:

      They had a very lightweight grand piano on the Hindenburg. And a smoking room. And great big windows so you could watch the Atlantic go by at 8000ft.

      Shame that the political environment they grew up in meant that America (the world’s only supplier of helium at that time) wouldn’t give the Germans helium to fill it. They might have lasted a little bit longer.

      The Hindenburg could only carry 50-72 passengers (according to Wikipedia). But that was OK, because there were only 50-72 Germans with the disposable income to pay the fares in the mid-30s!

  15. K. says:

    When playing on a train, I like to use a trackball instead of a mouse.
    Needs considerably less space, works on uneven surfaces and is more trainrattle-resistant when your whole body shakes due to rough tracks.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Richard Beer says:

    It’s not called Club World because it’s a club for people in the world.

    It’s called Club World because it’s a world for people in clubs (golf clubs, gentlemen’s clubs, investor clubs etc).

    I was upgraded on BA once. It really is a different world in there.

  17. The_Great_Skratsby says:

    Did a 23 hour long haul on a shiny A380 earlier in the year. Alas my Asus G53 wasn’t the most convenient machine for economy class, but that’s where the handheld console toys step in.

    However I did manage to speed run Liberty Island with the Gep-Gun in Deus Ex at the terminal lobby during a Singapore stop over and finish the battery with Just Cause 2 on arrival at Heathrow.

    How about that Razer ‘Lookatme-I’m-a-Gaming-Netbook’ thing however? Could be an interesting alternative this side of the Alienware M11X.

    • CMaster says:

      Honestly, the M11x really isn’t that great. I had a lighter, thinner laptop with a bigger screen and comparable performance for about 60% of the price. It’s a good attempt from Dell, but honestly doesn’t compare that favourable to the external-graphics equipped ultraportables.

    • Tatourmi says:

      Well, as far as I am concerned I am very pleased with my M11X. Good overall performance and admirable resistance (Survived a most infortunate glass of champagne). It won’t run absolutely everything (It failed me on Shogun total war for example) but is still good overall. My only problem so far is the screen, a little too shiny, but that is not that much of a problem for me.

    • CMaster says:

      @Tatourmi
      Maybe I came across a little wrong – I’ve only heard good things about it.
      It’s just that most of what it does, is done better (or at least as well) by cheaper machines without the “1337 Gamer” branding.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    You can whine for England, John. I salute you.

    KG

  19. JYzer says:

    “I imagine they have plug sockets too.” What, the scantily clad attendants? Crikey.

  20. AlexV says:

    “In-ear bud headphones playing a podcast from my iPhone, big BA noise cancelling headphones over the top playing the sound of Torchlight.”

    Yo dawg, I herd you like headphones…

    (sorry)

  21. Sajmn says:

    I believe air-plane ticket prices are a matter of space and time

    (and fuel, obv.)

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      Does that mean the price changes in a gravity well?

    • Joe Duck says:

      Almost anything I can think of is a matter of space and time. The only exceptions I can think of are God and Episode 3.

  22. Navagon says:

    It’s a sign of the times that by the time that these newfangled plugs will be made available to the masses they’ll already be obsolete.

  23. Rii says:

    It’s kind of ironic that the closest thing we have to a universal power plug/socket – USB – was never intended to function as such. Pity about the 5W at 500mA limitation.

  24. Premium User Badge

    emotionengine says:

    Thanks for sharing that, was a good read. Nice description of in-flight class politik et al., too. Most of my long haul flights have been Europe-Asia routes on various airlines (though never with BA) on We Hate You Class and the experience was uniformly grueling on all of them – except the one time I flew Zürich-Helsinki-Seoul with Finnair two years ago. What a pleasant surprise that was. Boeing 777, if I recall correctly, and although this was Cattle Class, I had access to a personal entertainment system in my seat with an LCD all to myself, phone for waking someone up on the other side of the planet, and yes – the Holy Grail – a power socket for my laptop! Overjoyed, I decided to hand Finnair my Favouritest Airline Ever Award then and there, and was tempted to announce this to the next flight attendant who would pass my seat (whilst giving her a hug). but ultimately decided against it. Afterall, I now had some serious gaming to attend to…

  25. Baboonanza says:

    Possibly in spirit, but not in scale. The British Empire simply had more people available to persecute than the Romans ever did.
    OTOH, I think Mao may have topped the British Empire all by his little (sociopathic, egomanic) self.

    Edit: Damn you reply system! DAMN YOU TO HELL!

  26. Premium User Badge

    drewski says:

    Noise canceling headphones really are mankind’s greatest invention. Until hovercars, anyway.

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  28. CrazyBaldhead says:

    Enough is enough! I have had it with the motherfucking gaming on this motherfucking plane!

  29. bascule42 says:

    One of the last times I was on a plane was back in ’06 flying from Heathrow to Bejing – economy class. Man did BA make a mistake giving free booze away on a 10 hour flight. We just got carried away – just one more tiny bottle of wine, they’re only small bottles right? At one point there 6 of us hanging about near the back of the plane like we were in a pub or soething. Was absolutely wankered by the time we landed. It took 20 minutes to sign a travellers check to the satisfaction of the hotel clerk.

    You want fun? Try a 3 hour Air China flight. No boarding gantry, steps down to 3 little trolly buses – one thing “the empire” didnt teach the world is how to queue in an orderly fashion. Wings seemed way wobblyer than any other A320 Id been on before. Lovely landing on the arse end of a hurricane. What a hoot.

    I don’t own a laptop.