Ships are launched. Kings are crowned. And Hollywood holds chic movie premieres. So how do you announce a new video game? To Synapse Software of Richmond, Calif. -- makers of Blue Max a new air-combat video game -- the answer was obvious: You stage some air combat.

On August 24, Synapse rented Schellville Airport in Sonoma County and flew in half-a-dozen vintage World War I biplanes. While members of the press swilled local champagne, stunt pilots put on a spectacular display of loops, stalls, and dogfights. Later perhaps emboldened by the bubbly, the press people took to the skies themselves to compete in an aerial bombardment competition. None of the flour-bag bombs hit their intended targets, the Synapse executives, but one crashed onto an awning, narrowly missing a 12-year-old boy who was several thousand points into the screen version of Blue Max and obviously on a roll.

Was the game so absorbing that it could blot out the attack from above? "Oh, it's all right," said the boy, "but wouldn't say it was awesome."