"Aye, aye, sir, as soon as I've
finished killing this mob!"
- A Military Man's Guide to MMOs
by Karas LightStrider
The number of active U.S. military personnel worldwide is 1,390,765, according
to statistics found in a US
Department of Defense Military Personnel report issued on June 30,
2005. Such a huge number is difficult to comprehend, and I have to digest
it on a more personal level. As an active member of the US Navy, it has
been my fortune and pleasure to meet dozens of people from many different
walks of life in many parts of the world.
One thing I have learned is never take someone at face value.
When I first started playing Everquest it was cool, but not something
that you talked about out loud. It was usually discussed in hushed whispers
among those whom you most likely had introduced to the game, or had introduced
When I joined the Navy in December of 2001, I suffered "withdrawal"
from Everquest. The period during which I had no contact with my guild,
or the game, drove me nuts. However, our lives were regulated from sun
up, to sun down. Granted, Navy boot camp is only an eight-week program,
but similar programs for many other branches of the Armed Services are
Once we made it through our "Battle Stations" (it was a final
test), we were allowed to touch email and the web. The first thing I did
was go to our guild website. I hear the gasps of, "You didn't email
your parents?" I did. It just came a bit after the time I took to
check the site is all.
After graduation, I started to look around to see who else played MMOs.
I started frequenting a local internet café and found many different
military people playing different games. Army individuals were playing--you
guessed it--America's Army. Navy folks played Everquest or Dark Age of
Camelot. And Air Force personnel were found to be playing a lot of Asheron's
There is no doubt that a considerable number of military personnel play
MMO's. However, I had many questions regarding how they were able to play
with the crazy schedules, deployments and tasks that military people are
saddled with. In search of answers, I turned to a shipmate of mine, onboard
the USS RAMAGE (DDG-61), based in Norfolk Va.
Chris Zehnlechandler, a 20-year-old Operations Specialist onboard the
Ramage, has been playing MMOs for the past four years. The following is
a sit-down question and answer session I had with him about MMOs and the
Karas: "Chris, how has being in the military affected your
ability to play MMOs?"
Chris: "Being in the military has no effect on me, but it
does affect my playtime. I'll play when I can, but it does get aggravating
when your friends get ahead of you because you were deployed for weeks
at a time."
Karas: "What MMOs have you played or currently play, and
for how long?"
Chris: "I played EverQuest for about a year, reached the
level cap and then switched to EQ2. I reached level 30 with a ratonga
monk, and then decided to switch games to WoW, where I am currently."
Karas: "So during the four years you were playing MMOs and
in the military, did you ever introduce anyone else to the game
Chris: "I've introduced people to MMOs; mostly ones that
play D&D so they are already 'open' to RPGs. They tend to find MMOs
easier to play because of less items to carry around, such as manuals,
pen, paper and dice."
I nodded in agreement, memories of my teen years flooding in. I even
had a little bag I carried that held all of my "accoutrements"
I'd need to play a single campaign.
Karas: "So how many others do you know of in the military
or on ship that play MMOs?"
Chris: "For the time I've been in the military, I've met
maybe 15 or so people that played EQ, EQ2 and WoW. They seem to be the
most popular of the MMOs onboard. Until something new and better comes
out, that is."
Again I nodded and smiled. Oh yes
I can think of one
Karas: "How long would you say you play for in any given
session, and how does that affect your home life and work?"
Chris: "I'd say I play for about 3-7 hours a day, and it
really doesn't bother the family much, since most of them play as well.
I introduced my wife to EQ, and it's been smooth since then. I have a
53 Night Elf Rogue and a 26 Dwarven Hunter, so you can see I definitely
devote some time to my playing."
Karas: "Are you in a guild? If so, do you feel your military
training comes in handy, ie; organizational skills, discipline and leadership?"
Chris: "I am in a guild on the Stormrage Server, World of
Warcraft. The people in the guild are all mature; some are even military
as well. It helps being able to use different tactics and organization.
Everyone respects everyone's ideas and opinions."
Karas: "When you're gone for a long period of time, what
withdrawal do you feel? If you do feel withdrawal, how do you cope with
Chris: "I don't have the strange ticks or angry attitude
that some get when they are removed from their source of relaxation. I
just wait out the time, but sometimes you can almost feel the tension
release when you finally get to play. For me there is no real substitute
for my MMORPGs, and no alternatives are going to suffice."
I'm certain Chris echoes the thoughts of many sailors and military personnel
across the country.
I know when I'm onboard and underway, the only solace I have is turning
to a good fantasy novel to help pass the time, until I can re-enter the
wonderful realms created by the hands and minds of highly skilled developers.
It's either that, or pick up a swab and hit the poop deck. I'll choose
the former, thank you very much!
Others on the ship, who wished to remain unidentified, told me that they
had gone so far as to even log on from Internet cafes overseas! Knowing
what the US dollar to Euro conversion rate is shows me that they are truly
dedicated to the games they play.
It is true that MMOs seem to provide a companionship and a solace that
military personnel often need in the midst of their different world. Friends
are friends, no matter where they are, and people who do what you like
to do and you do it together, make for the best kind of friends, online
or off. In this regard, military people are no different than civilians.
We maybe just have to work at it a little harder sometime to find the
What's that? Uh, yeah, just a minute...er...aye, aye, sir, just killing
one last mob!
Author's Note: I would like to thank Chris for his taking
the time to sit down and talk to me about the military and how it affects
his ability to play MMOs.
Credits: Pictures were contributed by Karas and used
Editor's Note: Do you know of military members who play
MMOs and wish to relay their stories? Share your stories and experiences
in our forum. If you wish to talk to our military guy directly, email
him at [email protected]