MEDIA-CRASH

FEBRUARY 3 2009 07:20h

Videogames Tests Landing Plane On Hudson River

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`Hero on the Hudson` challenges players to steady a plane nosediving towards the busy river.

First came the heroics of landing a crippled passenger jet on the Hudson River in New York City. Now there are the video games.

"Hero on the Hudson" challenges players to steady a plane nosediving towards the busy river. In "Double Bird Strike," the goal is to evade flocks of birds -- a suspected cause of the US Airways jet's near disaster Jan. 15.

Both are free online games created by units of MTV Networks, a division of Viacom Inc. Free games, which make money by selling advertising, are seen as a promising segment of the $22 billion U.S. video game industry.

Players can try to emulate the skill of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger, who won acclaim for his smooth emergency landing on the Hudson River that saved all 155 people aboard.

"Hero on the Hudson" has been played more than 1.4 million times since it was launched Jan. 21, said Kate Connally, spokeswoman for its creator AddictingGames. Average success takes three tries.

"If you land it correctly like the pilot did, then the passengers come out and cheer on the wing," she said. "The payoff is the joy of having saved all the passengers."

The plane sinks with burbling sounds if you fail.

"Double Bird Strike," which launched Jan. 18, may be trickier. Scott Roesch, general manager of creator atom.com, said it took him at least a dozen tries to succeed.

"The decision to launch the project was made within 24 hours. It really is a story of heroism," Roesch said. "The more we started to think about, the thing that the plane was hit by birds was amazing."

Among those conducting 147,000 tries on "Double Bird Strike," he said, are mothers at home. Before playing the game, viewers must watch a laundry detergent commercial featuring models on a catwalk.

In the 2008 election year, politics mixed with online gaming.

Several of the most popular games, Roesch and Connally said, featured Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, the outdoorsy governor of Alaska. "Hunting with Palin" by atom.com drew more than 1.6 million tries.