I've always gotten the sense that a lot of men and women in the United States Armed Forces enjoy a good game of Call of Duty—the fast-paced first-person shooter is a good way to blow off steam.
But not all soldiers love fast-paced video games—a good number of them like something a bit more strategic. This cool article over at Slate talks to a number of Army soldiers, all of whom are big into Warhammer 40K.
According to the article, 20 to 25 percent of Warhammer players are members of the military. "I've been an infantryman for 20 years," says major Stephen D. Carey, "I'm no stranger to fighting. But I'm a total nerd." Former marine Samuel Corum explains that soldiers are used to following complicated sets of rules, and with its massive rulebook and intricate miniatures, Warhammer 40K is a lot like the armed services:
For service members, the game's appeal goes beyond basic competition. Corum spent a chunk of the last decade living in a meticulously regimented world. Everything, including his uniform and hairline, was heavily scrutinized. "There's an inherent attention to detail that a lot of good soldiers and Marines have," he says. That also applies to 40K. The majority of playable pieces are 1-inch models that must be painstakingly assembled and hand-painted. (The figurines can cost upward of $20 a pop and are sometimes called "plastic crack.") A particularly dedicated artist can spend 30 hours working on a single figurine, making sure to dab a perfectly round black dot in the middle of a white eyeball.
"I'm not fast at [painting]," Army Sgt. Steffan McBee, who's currently deployed in Afghanistan, said in an email, "But it's calming"-and more intellectually stimulating than what he could be doing. "Everyone knows guys need stress relief. And as I tell my wife, [Warhammer] keeps me off the streets and out of the bars."
Makes sense to me. The rest of the article is a good read, taking a look at the military's history with wargaming while sharing some great pictures of soldiers in Afghanistan playing the game.