Super Drake Tracker 2000 EX started out as nothing more than a silly prank at a PAX East panel. It was trotted out by Dan Teasdale and friends to poke fun at Harmonix developer John Drake in front of hundreds of people. After one surprisingly successful Kickstarter and several months of hard work, Teasdale’s dumb in-joke for his pal became a tangible game available on smartphones/tablets and PCs. My love for the off-kilter meant the iOS app found its way here as soon as it went live, and I’ve been “playing” the thing for a few weeks.
The tracker itself is a nice, voyeuristic look into John Drake’s constant flurry of business flights (complete with the occasional comment on a particularly memorable flight), but the novelty of staring at graphs and destinations wears off in a few minutes. My obsession with Penn and Teller’s Desert Bus drew me to the real star of the show, “Drakes on a Plane.” It’s a first-person John Drake simulator where you sit in an empty commercial airliner and wait until you reach your destination in real time. Flights can take anywhere from 90 minutes to 6+ hours and are impossible to pause. To ensure you don’t let the iPad do its thing as you leave for a few hours, you have to keep Drake happy by tapping positive thoughts (Portillo’s, Diet Coke) and avoiding stress-inducing intruders (Dave Lang, Just Dance). The longest I survived was 20 minutes before I angered him by thinking about “This App” for too long.
These touches may not mean much to 99% of the population, but the intent is clear as day; by parodying an important aspect of this man’s life, the creators built a loving tribute to their good friend. We’ve all played games built for the masses or a niche audience, but how often have we tried a game built for one person? Like reading a birthday card meant for someone else, you can sense the affection harbored for them and you feel positively fuzzy inside (I imagine we’ll return to this observation on voyeurism once Gone Home arrives next week).
I had my fill of the joke after a few hours, but not before I bought a Diet Coke for John Drake through a convenient in-app purchase. I wanted have a part in their feel-good prank, no matter how small.