War Games

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Still, there's a definite gaming advantage in having the fastest system. "Before I got into overclocking, I had no idea the windows [on the vehicles] in Battlefield had a reflection," Young says, explaining how the realism in the game is enhanced with every added gigahertz of video processing speed.

"And the sound card works better now," he adds. "I was always wondering why I was getting killed in the game before, and it turned out it was because I couldn't hear them coming.

"Now," Young says, "I can actually hear people walking up behind me. The game is so much more realistic now, it's almost scary!"

"In my opinion, Battlefield is a little cheesy, as far as how the actual weapons work," says Scott Tindle, showing off the arsenal of weapons carefully laid out in the Rhino-lined bed of his pickup at the Saturday Shootout on Table Mesa Road.

"Take the M-249 Saw," Tindle says. "In the game, we're made to assume a soldier can run while holding the saw and shoot it at the same time, with a spread [of ammo discharge] of only about five feet."

"In real life, you couldn't even hold a saw standing up, let alone fire it," adds Cedar Coleman, whose CZ-75 Czech pistol is another sought-after weapon from the game. "It'd knock you flat on your butt."

Tindle, a trained marksman who takes pains to point out that he took home defense classes at Maricopa Tactical school to learn the proper way to handle weapons and got some personal instruction on the guns from a friend who spent two years in Korea, says he's bothered by all the gun-toting geeks he sees at the shooting range now whose only previous experience comes from playing PC games.

"There's a bunch of guys who've grown up without ever seeing a weapon who only know what they've learned in the games about these guns," Tindle says. He points to a group of younger guys firing off rounds in the center of the group, including a tough-looking bloke with tattoos covering his forearms and a cigarette dangling from his mouth who's firing off rounds from a semi-automatic held at the hip, Max Payne style.

"You can tell by looking at them, the way they're turning around with their barrels pointing at everyone. Those are the guys who've never had training outside of what they learned in Battlefield 1942. Especially when they're waving around an AK like they've got over there. That's not exactly the most trustworthy weapon."

"That gun could go off any minute, if you shift it around too much," adds Coleman, another formally trained gun collector. "The game is forgiving," he says. "Real life is not."

At the very least, Coleman suggests, the yahoos swinging the AK should switch from playing Battlefield to Rainbow Six.

"That game was made by people with military background," he says. "In that game, you can't just run in and shoot everybody. It's a lot more tactical.

"Plus," he says, "in Rainbow Six you can't get recharged health if you get shot. If you get shot in that game, you're pretty much done."

Tattoo boy fires off a few more rounds at some Mountain Dew cans not more than 10 feet in front of him, and Coleman and Tindle shake their heads.

"If you're gonna learn to shoot from a video game," Tindle says, "at least pick the one that's the most realistic."

In a gaming clan, just like in a real infantry, players quickly find their area of expertise. Some find they're best at firing missiles from an off-shore aircraft carrier. Others excel at manning the turrets on the tanks.

For Young, who discovered he could master the difficult task of piloting a helicopter with a few precise mouse-clicks and keyboard strokes, the chopper immediately became his thing.

Young, in fact, got so good at flying the choppers in the Battlefield mod Desert Combat, he began to wonder if the skills he picked up in the game might actually work in the real world. The military, after all, uses its own game, titled America's Army, to train recruits before turning them loose on the real machinery. Eventually, Young became so curious about the science of transference, he wound up spending $15,000 on helicopter lessons at a Scottsdale flying school.

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Jimmy Magahern
Contact: Jimmy Magahern