Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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October 10th, 2006

Game Idea #41: Air Traffic Jam

Had this idea earlier in the year. Figured I’d pull it out now since the well is a little dry this week.

High Concept:

Air Traffic Jam is the game of high-speed and high-stakes air traffic controlling. You run a major metropolitan airport’s control tower, and it’s up to you to make sure that flights arrive and depart safely and swiftly. Battle bad weather, the clock, and maverick pilots in this game of quick thinking and quick reflexes.


Nintendo DS

Why it needs to be made:

We’ve all been stuck on a flight that’s been delayed, rerouted, or had to circle before landing. What better way to kill some time and some stress than with a game where you get to be in charge of the very predicament you’re stuck in?


You can see everything from your high perch up in the control tower. You can survey the entire airport: the terminals, the jetways, the planes, the crews, and the runways. You also have every single technological gadget at your finger-tips. Radar screens of the entire surrounding area, real-time weather maps, and tons of schedules and statistics. Armed with all this information, it’s your job to make the sure the planes in your airport stay clear of each other and stay roughly on schedule.

Air Traffic Jam is an “action puzzle game.” Each level of the game is played as a single shift in the air traffic control tower. You start with a set number of planes at the airport, and using the DS touchscreen you have to plot them a path that gets them on their way to their destinations: first on the ground, and then in the air. But you also have to be aware of the planes that are entering your airspace, and make sure that you’re giving them paths that they can use to safely land and then taxi. Make sure that you’re not giving the planes directions directly into severe weather, and make sure they can land somewhere (be it at your airport or someone else’s) before they run out of fuel.

Why it will be fun:

Puzzle games are just darn fun. A well-designed puzzle game will be easy to learn, but difficult to master. Like Tetris, the longer you play Air Traffic Jam, the more quickly we throw pieces (planes) at you. It’s your job to figure out how to fit them onto the board (the runways and terminals), and then how to clear them (departing). But beyond that, there’s also something really fun about seeing little people do your bidding in a game. So Air Traffic Jam might be able to have a little bit of that classic Lemmings feel to it.

Final Thoughts:

While I don’t like the idea of real-life air traffic controllers playing fast and loose with my life, it’s a fun little fantasy to think about for a game.

5 Responses to “Game Idea #41: Air Traffic Jam”

  1. Erin commented:
    posted October 14th, 2006 at 6:18 pm

    Puzzle games are my favorite! I like the idea of using weather patterns and maps — and nice nod to “Top Gun” with the whole “maverick pilots” aspect. :)

  2. puzzle gamer commented:
    posted October 16th, 2006 at 10:55 am

    Isn’t this game going to be very stress-full. AFAIK air traffic controllers got the most stress-full job, but main idea if puzzle games is to relax and have some fun.

  3. Wizzel Cogcarrier Wizzleton IV commented:
    posted October 25th, 2006 at 11:44 am

    The more violent the game, the less stressful it is to me. Crashing a few planes out of pure spite would be a huge release after a couple hours of innocent direction })


  4. Fletch commented:
    posted January 7th, 2007 at 1:05 am

    Sounds like an air control version of Trauma centre. WHICH I LIKE!

    That’s one thing about the DS and trauma centre that I really like - the pair have opened the way for game concepts that are really unusual and can make real life occupations entertaining.

    Top notch, I’d play this without a doubt. :D

  5. Alexis commented:
    posted March 21st, 2007 at 4:05 pm

    I love this idea, it would be very challenging and good for the mind! it sounds very engaging! i would love to buy this game. it would be cool if you could play it at airports while waiting for a flight for a few dollars. i think it would be worth the couple of bucks if it keeps you out of complete boredrom with a delay or cancellation at the airport! :)

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