Culture Military

Mario goes to Afghanistan

Anger. Rage. The cries of a furious Army Ranger echoed through the hooch. Profanity was used in more creative ways than classic authors could ever hope to muster. Tempers boiled and one could almost hear the faces get redder and redder.

Must be playing Mario Kart.

That’s right. It was my third deployment and someone had brought a Wii to hook up to our squad’s TV (yes, we were lucky enough to have a TV). That same person had made sure to bring Mario Kart along with him, and to be honest I’m not sure how the four controllers made it through the entire four months without being slammed into the plywood wall and into a million pieces – actually, now that I’m thinking about it, I can’t be sure that they did make it.

The cries of despair as a blue shell rocketed forward — blowing the first place player into last — is just one of many video game experiences I remember on my deployments. That same deployment, I was playing Far Cry 3 almost non-stop, barring a trip to the gym, required training, and of course any missions we were on.

I’ve never really been a huge video game person, but I’ve had my runs here and there. I’m definitely a sucker for a good story. So series like Far Cry, Fallout, and Mass Effect always caught my attention. I also like simple games like Mario Kart and Mario Party, that are fun for 20 minutes, but don’t ultimately suck you in entirely.

And I liked all of these things about ten times more during a deployment.

Escapism is important every once in a while — we kick back and watch TV with a beer here and there, and (as long as it’s in moderation) it’s nice. It’s nice to forget about the endless monotony of the cubicle or to rest the weary limbs after a day of demo at the construction site — or during a tedious, violent, or profoundly boring deployment. Games can serve this purpose.

What’s more is that, within the context of escapism, they are a test of a sort of skill — something that books or film or television can’t quite offer. Sure, unless you’re a professional e-gamer this skill doesn’t translate into the rest of the world, but it’s a challenge nonetheless… and many service members relish the chance at proving themselves in any sort of challenging situation.

Video games have proven to be a unique form of reprieve during this long, long war we’ve found ourselves in. Especially as we’ve been semi-permanently “dug in” and have set up facilities that can support gaming. TVs, Xboxes, Playstations, Wiis, and gaming laptops are commonplace in bases in war zones, even if you’re busy and frequently going out on missions.

There’s nothing quite like getting back from an objective, squaring everything away (as necessary), eating some food, and sitting back on a ratty, dusty couch, grabbing a controller, and diving into the fantastical worlds in the screen ahead.

Unless it’s Mario Kart. Then, just be ready for the most competitive people in the world to clash in the most competitive game in the world.

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2 years ago

I have heard how infamous Mario Kart is for angering people and ruining friendships (much like Monopoly?), but I hadn’t seen it before. But now this visual is immensely clear from your writing. I can’t stop laughing.

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