Call me a coward. I chose college over war. It took some convincing from my family, but I didn't hand in my papers for deployment to Afghanistan. Luckily, I had that option. Millions that have served before me did not have the choice, and paid the ultimate sacrifice.
Two of my buddies died over there. A third had an axe to the head, barely surviving. A fourth recently took his own life - PTSD from multiple deployments likely the culprit.
Yet, I still have the warrior's brain. Recently doing some research of my ancestral heritage for my namesake, I discovered my branch of the Spearin family had fought in the American Revolution, enlisted during the War of 1812, died fighting with the Union Army. Decades after our family migrated from Maine to Canada, my great-grandfather served in the First World War. Another great-grandfather enlisted during the Second World War. It seems inherent.
What these warriors did not have was a choice. They could not exercise their warrior's brain in the virtual world. Anyone who has served - whether in combat or training - will know the feeling. The influence stays with you - discipline, decisive thinking, comradeship... grit.
I enlisted in 2002. I spent five years training as an infantry soldier and bagpiper. When the time came to ultimately decide whether I should be deployed, I couldn't figure out what I would gain from a six month tour. What would I learn?
There is so much material to learn from - games are an immersive medium that we have not fully understood their affect on people playing. I am fascinated by this concept. It led me into professional journalism and game design. They are separate, but one day I hope these visions will intersect, so I can help contribute to games' maturation from their distortion of reality into a meaningful experience.
In the wake of recent tragic events, some accuse violent games as a breeding ground for violent behavior in reality. For me, I don't have violent tendencies in the real world. I have well over 100 virtual kills in the past week. I had the opportunity to be in an environment where I could kill people in real life - and I didn't take the opportunity. Human nature has a violent history and that likely won't fade away completely. However if we keep the conflict in virtual worlds, it might lead to a noticeable reduction of violence in the real world.