Ah shit. Yes, we know the terrorists could have trained on a flight simulator. Yes, the flight simulators have very realistic representations of major cities (which isn’t “shocking” or “chilling” at all). But are flight simulators a “problem”? I of course say no. This aforementioned article, however, implies that they could be. It also implies that flight simulators may be responsible for the WTC attack.

I’m afraid I don’t follow. Is he insisting that the terrorists got training on the program and then just re-did what they played in the game? If so, is he implying that were the computer program never to exist that Tuesday would have never happened? If so, the man is an idiot. Perhaps they would not have hit the World Trade Center, but they would have done something. The first time I ever took off in Flight Simulator 5.0 (way back in 1993 or so), I slammed my plane into the World Trade Center the first time. And the Eiffel Tower. And the Sears Tower. It’s really not that hard – pick the biggest thing around and hit it.

Dr. Bob Arnot, who is a doctor (or not), even insists that the only way the terrorists knew to hit the WTC is because it was in the game. Oh please – it couldn’t be because the WTC is the biggest landmark on the NYC skyline. By that logic he should be prosecuting postcard manufacturers. Also by that logic the press should be prosecuting the people who gave the terrorists flight training. Oh wait, they already are. Next they’ll go after the manufacturers of box cutters. At least ABC News had the intelligence to question the logic of allowing knives up to 4″ on board and not having a bullet proof door to the cockpit.

Arnot also goes on to be shocked that anyone who can afford $34.95 can learn such deadly skills. I wonder if the terrorists actually bought the software. Like with the Columbine Lawsuit, I wonder if it makes a difference if they pirated the software.

What also bugs me about the article is what Arnot won’t say. He never mentions a partuicular piece of PC software. He also never comes right out and says “they should not have made this software”, but he implies it. What he does in the article is to play on the fears and ignorance of the masses.

The final irony of all of this is that, for example, Flight Simulator is a non-violent game. Like I mentioned before the crashes in the game are unspectacular. It is literally intended to be a clinical simulation of flying a plane – which is why most gamers don’t bother with it, it’s too boring for them. Flight Simulator is also 23 years old It’s not some “new piece of software” – it started its life on the Apple ][. It didn’t even start its life under Microsoft. Flight Simulator is even used over in the Trigon at A&M to help Navy cadets learn to fly (any “real” training they need comes later). By Arnot’s line of reasoning, it could be responsible for any number of plane crashes over the years.

While Flight Simulator could have taught the pilots how to crash into the WTC, it couldn’t teach them how to hijack a plane, smuggle weapons, fake their identification, or kill people with box cutters. Neither will Counter-Strike, BTW.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. People want easy answers and the ratings go to the network that can give them. And while I appreciate the Penny Arcade response, it’s not going to dispel the myth that gamers have such a violent, knee-jerk reaction to criticism because we spend all day on murder simulators.