Learning to Fly
In order to fully understand Arctic Awakening's player character, I decided to go on my first flight lesson and see the world from his virtual eyes.
A great story hinges on believable characters, and the best way to achieve this is to write "in character." To get into a character's head, you must fully understand your character from the inside out. Since Kai, the player character in Arctic Awakening, is a pilot, I couldn't think of any better way to get in that character's head than to experience flying a plane myself (plus, I'd always wanted to fly a plane, so it was a great excuse!).
I signed up for a flight lesson with Oklahoma Aviation at the nearby Wiley Post Airport in Oklahoma City. A few days later, on a crisp cloudless morning, I found myself standing outside of Hangar 14 and climbing into a Cessna 172 Skyhawk.
There was a quick "ground school" where we went over the basics of flight controls such as how to turn using a combination of rudder and ailerons, how to taki using the pedals, how to read the basic instruments, etc. All of this can of course be learned online, but it was still great learning them within an actual plane, as our character would have.
The moment where it really clicked was when we lifted off the ground and the instructor gave me control of the plane. I've flown plenty of flight simulators, but you can't get a true sense of the sensation until you've sat in the cockpit of the real deal. It was at this moment that I really felt I could understand our character's love of flying and at least a sense of his mindset as he went to work every day.
Overall, it was a great experience that was both fun and beneficial to our story creation process. Games are a multidisciplinary artform, and I feel it's important to get out there and integrate elements of the real world into your work. I'm just glad I didn't have to experience a crash to truly connect with Kai's story!