As a sailor in the U.S. Navy, I'm accustomed to living under the strict authority of my commanding officers. They decide what I eat, where I sleep and what I wear. But there are a few loves in my life the Navy can't control: football, women and videogames.
I am completely infatuated with multiplayer games. Sure, I'll spend time with a game's single-player campaign, but only to get used to the controls and the environments. I rarely buy a game that doesn't let me face off against human opponents (which are usually in abundant supply, since most of my friends are hardcore multiplayer gamers as well). Since we're all in the military, however, a good multiplayer experience sometimes requires a little improvisation.
One airman, a friend of mine I met while stationed in Japan, found himself in the Middle East living out of a makeshift barracks, but he was fortunate to have a small television handy and desperate enough to take his Xbox 360 with him. He had no way to access the internet, of course, but with nothing else to do besides go to the gym and read, he needed his multiplayer gaming fix more than ever. So when Call of Duty 4 came out, he bought it as soon as he could.
We had spent hours playing split-screen Call of Duty 2 in Japan, so he knew exactly what had to happen. While working 16 hours a day and listening for real danger, he still managed to squeeze in four-way split-screen Call of Duty 4 battles on a television barely large enough for one player. Those few precious moments of gaming helped him pass the time during an extended deployment. They also helped convince him to buy a 64-inch plasma screen when he got home.
Videogames have been just as therapeutic throughout my own military career. While I was in the middle of training for my job in the Navy, I began to feel cut off from the outside world. Games like Command and Conquer: Generals helped me get through those feelings of isolation without wasting my money on frivolous things or getting in trouble with the sailors (who inevitably seem to find it wherever they go). Multiplayer was a fleeting experience, but I still craved it. And when I found out a fellow sailor across the hall also had an Xbox, I knew we had to find a way to play together.