Every other week Scott Jon Siegel contributes Off the Grid, a column about card games, board games, and everything else non-digital.
Last time we boarded a trans-continental flight, we discovered that non-digital gaming options for solo flyers were sorely limited. The feasible solution? Invent new games! Here are some (questionably) fun, single-player activities to occupy your time on those lengthy jaunts across the ocean.
The Newest Steward(ess)
Carefully watch the various flight attendants as they perform the synchronized pre-flight intstructional dance (you know, the one with the seatbelts and air masks). Try and spot the newest additon to the flight staff, based on which attendant is least in sync with the others. Bonus points if you eventually ask him/her how long he/she's been on the job.
What you win: A smug sense of self-satisfaction and superiority. Not to the mention the chance to flirt with a potentially cute flight attendant. Which is a game in and of itself.
This is a game of wagers, played with yourself. Open up a few bags of those airline pretzels. Start yourself off with three pretzels, and put the rest aside as the "house." Each round, bet one, two, or three pretzels on which side of the cabin will be next to press the "flight attendent assistance" button (the one that makes that "BING" noise and puts up a little light). If you win, you take from the pot as many pretzels as you put forward. If you lose, put your betted pretzels in the pot.
Strategy comes in watching out for the tell-tale signs of a potential button-press, like someone searching for a pillow, or that all-too-familiar sound of "getting sick."
If you lose all of your pretzels, you can kindly offer them to the person sitting next to you. Or just eat them yourself. Whatever.
What you win: Pretzels. Duh.
This is a drinking game. Wearing your stylish in-flight headphones, peruse the radio stations made available to you on your armrest, looking for something you actually find tolerable. For every time you make a complete revolution around the stations without finding anything, take a shot. See how quickly you go through those tiny bottles of liquor.
What you win: Either something enjoyable to listen to, or utter drunkeness. You win either way, really.
This game is a standoff between you and the person reclining into your lap. The game is simple: Do all you can to convince the person to stop reclining their seat, short of asking them directly (since that never works). Suggested strategies include elbowing, forcing your knees up against the seat, or coughing violently in their ear.
What you win: Slightly more mobility in crowded economy seating.
Try to sleep through the majority of your flight. That's it. You can use any tools you have at your disposal: sleep masks, ear plugs, pills, and copious amounts of alcohol are all viable resources. Just try to sleep through it all.
What you win: An international flight not spent staring out the window or playing stupid games.
Before the plane lands, try to guess the number of cellphones that will be turned on / make noise from the time the plane's wheels touch tarmac, to the time the seatbelt signs are switched off.
What you win: A startling realization of just how phone-obsessed your culture really is.
Get off the plane as quickly as possible once the fasten seatbelt signs are switched off. Strategies include gathering your luggage quickly, and hovering one hand over your seatbelt.
What you win: What do you mean "win"? Don't you want to get off that airplane as fast as humanly possible? This isn't a game, man. Run!
Any other good solo airplane game suggestions? Place them in the comments! (preferably before 2:00pm CET tomorrow. Thanks.)
Scott Jon Siegel is a fledgling game designer, a professional blogger, and a mediocre cook. His words and games can be found at numberless, and he has an eight-hour flight back to the States to look forward to tomorrow.