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Ambulance: The Game

Get out of the WAY!

Okay, so I had a pretty kickass idea for a video game the other day. Maybe it already exists, and it was one of the various options in the GTA games, but I’d take it a bit further. The idea was first planted in my by this student I had in my freshman composition class a few years ago. He had a confidence and maturity that far exceeded his fellow freshman. I came to find out that he was actually 21 and had spent the years since high school riding in an ambulance as an EMT. Once, he looked at me with a gleam in his eye and said, “my team and I never lost a call.” That is to say, every person their ambulance team picked up lived long enough to see the hospital. Awesome, and good for him.

If you think about it, being in an ambulance has got to be one of the most intense, stressful things anybody can do on a daily basis in the city. You think you’re upset by traffic? What about the guys who have someone bleeding to death in the back seat? I can only imagine the cursing. Well, I can only imagine how I’d curse, at any rate. Think of the video game you could make based on ambulance calls! Each mission would have you on a tight clock, racing across a busy city to get to a victim before he or she died on site, stablizing the person there, and then shooting them to the hospital before they died. I’d have each mission be bracketed by a story–the story of the person who you are running to save. Mission #1: little girl gunned down in gang crossfire at an inner city playground. You fail in the mission? Guess what the mission failed screen is: the girl’s funeral. Crying mom. People in black. Weeping multitudes. Do you want to see that? Hell no you don’t. Drive, dammit. DRIVE.

If you pass the mission, you get to see the little girl living her life. Ramp up the pathos, make you tear at the eyes. Feel like a hero.

This wouldn’t be GTA, though. You’re an ambulance–you can’t run people over, you can’t kill people. Yeah, you can bash up cars and drive on the sidewalk and break the traffic laws, but you’ve got to balance it with public safety. All the missions happen in the same city; you learn the roads, know the traffic patterns, figure out the best routes to the various hospitals. Make a wrong turn, and your patient dies. Get stuck in traffic, figure a way out. Kill somebody? Mission failed. Use the siren.

There’s more to it than driving, though. You’ve got a team in the back working to keep the victim stable. Figure that, with the driving, there will also be prompts for hitting certain buttons in certain orders to get the medics in the back working to top efficiency. The screen will have the victim’s vitals running; the longer you go, the more complicated it is to keep them alive. You’ll need fancy fingers.

Each mission ups the stakes. Start with the little girl shot after school. Move on to a mass casualty event–a bus accident or explosion–happening on a holiday. Icy roads. At night. Have one during city-wide rioting–now you’re not only dodging traffic, but angry mobs. Have another one during an earthquake or tornado. Alien Invasion. Zombie Apocalypse. The possibilities are endless. Keep an open-play option there, too–just drive around and make relatively normal calls. See how many you can get there alive, learn the city in the process.

Upgrade your ambulance. Pimp out its design. Custom sirens, decals, lights, hubcaps. Hire new and better team members–better paramedics, better EMTs, better drivers. Soon you’re driving the A-team of the ambulance world; the team that drives into the alien invasion and saves all the school kids from PS122. Badass. It almost makes me wish I were a game designer.

I’d play that game. I’d like, for once, to play a game where it wasn’t about being vicious or cruel or violent. It’s action, but it’s about saving a life. It’s about everything that makes humanity noble and good.

Flying Cars Means Flying Drivers

You may not know this, but a couple years ago the flying car was invented. If you don’t believe me, google it. It isn’t quite like the flying car of George Jetson–it’s more like a little airplane you can drive to the airport and home again. This has some technophiles, aviation enthusiasts, and motorheads pretty excited, and for good reason–it’s a pretty cool gadget, especially for only 200,000 dollars or so. That said, let us pause for a minute and ask ourselves: are flying cars a good idea?

If you need help considering this idea, let me help you out: flying cars means flying drivers.

You know drivers–those people you curse at on the interstate every day? Those assholes who cut you off in traffic or rear-end you at stoplights or who turn left from the right hand lane or who don’t know how to use turn signals or rotaries or their gas pedal? Remember those people?

Should this man really have his pilot's license?

Do we really want those jackasses flying through the goddamned air?

Science fiction futurescapes are regularly awash in flying cars. Scenes of incredibly complex skyways clogged with high-speed antigravity skimmers and hovercrafts and what-have-you are, in many ways, synonymous with the future and where we’re headed. What isn’t really considered, however, are the consequences of all those vehicles flying through the air.

Consider this: According to the  US Census Bureau, there were 10.2 million car accidents in 2008 alone and, in those accidents, 39,000 people lost their lives. This is for ordinary, terrestrial automobiles driving on roads with guardrails, embankments, rumble strips, street lights, and so on and so forth. Ten million accidents, and all the drivers needed to worry about were two dimensions of traffic.

So, say you were to add a third dimension to this. Make cars fly like in the Jetsons or the Fifth Element–let’s say they can make the technology cheaply enough and cities can redesign themselves around it to some extent. Do the number of accidents go up or down, do you think?  

  Let’s be honest, here–it would be a public safety disaster. Not only would you still have the same number of goons crashing into one another, but now, after they crash, they don’t just stop, but fall from the sky in a fiery ball of steel, glass, and screaming people. Also, they don’t just fall onto some street below–they crash through your roof, they careen into school gymnasiums during assembly, they hit power plants. Fatalities go way, way up, even if the number of accidents stay the same.

All it takes is one drunk, and whammo--there goes the neighborhood.

Even if we spot these new-fangled flying contraptions with high-end navigational computers that mostly control the vehicle, that can’t be relied upon to completely ensure that horrible accidents won’t happen. Say we cut the numbers by two thirds to account for AIs controlling the cars (which strikes me as optimistic, but whatever), that still leaves a good 3.3 million accidents and, since they happen in mid-air, they’re far more destructive than the ones on the ground. Can you imagine 3.3 million small plane accidents every year? To put it in perspective, there are fewer than 100 such accidents per year today.

The reason it gets so deadly (and the reason it isn’t now) is because flying cars makes average people into pilots and asks them to fly around dense urban areas. We can presume getting a license would be harder, but since when does having a license prevent people from driving cars? The problem here isn’t so much the flying part as it is the idea of cars that fly. Cars are personal transportation devices, available to just about everybody, and driven by the directive of the operator. Modern pilots, in addition to extensive training, need to file flight plans before they go off somewhere, need to obey control tower commands, and, above all, aren’t flying between buildings. Flying cars are, essentially, like having the Return of the Jedi speeder bike chase happening all the time, except instead of trees, they’re zooming around apartment buildings, Walmart, and IHOP.

So please, future people, don’t pine for the flying car. I pay enough insurance as it is, thanks.