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Lisa and Jesse Tomlin discuss the aftermath of their session playing Tom Clancy’s “Desert Siege” video war game against other networked players at the Misawa Entertainment Center.

Lisa and Jesse Tomlin discuss the aftermath of their session playing Tom Clancy’s “Desert Siege” video war game against other networked players at the Misawa Entertainment Center. (Wayne Specht / S&S)

Saturdays are good killing days for Lisa Tomlin.

She’s not only killing time, but also the would-be assassins roaming the confines of a 17-inch video monitor at Misawa’s Entertainment Center.

Beginning at noon, and frequently lasting until Sunday’s wee hours, Tomlin and other aficionados of computer war games convene at the center across from Edgren High School at Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Tomlin usually attends with her husband, Senior Airman Jesse Tomlin, a plumber with the base’s civil engineering squadron.

Lisa said she got interested in gaming at the center because of the strange hours her husband kept.

“He would come home at 4 a.m. on Sunday, and I began wondering what was going on,” she said. “One day he took me along, and now I’m addicted.”

On a recent Saturday, the Tomlins sat in front of video monitors as other players logged onto a local area network through a server in another portion of the building.

Going by the moniker, “Big Bad B*#$h,” Lisa and her husband, “Dr. Lovefinger,” armed their fingers on their mouses. They participated in a clan match, playing Tom Clancy’s “Desert Siege” war game against players seated in other rooms.

“It was a good day,” Lisa said after a 20-minute gaming session. “I killed 19, my personal best.”

“She’s killed me more times than I care to remember,” said husband Jesse Tomlin. He said he started playing video games as a child with what now seems to be a relic: a Nintendo console.

Alan Frost, president of the entertainment center, said the community benefit organization has been around under different names for the past three years.

Just 15 or 20 regulars show up every week but that figure increases during Misawa’s harsh winter months.

“We came about because there isn’t a lot of things to do at Misawa, so we created a nonalcoholic environment that gives people another option, and to learn about computers,” Frost said. He launched Misawa’s first users group, which evolved into the entertainment center.

Besides gaming, Frost said, people can bring their computers and learn how to do “case mods,” or installing computer components such as fans, video boards and hard drives.

“We’ll be offering some classes like Internet security and how to network, if there’s interest,” he said.

“Right now we’re keeping it wide open. We can’t charge fees because we’re a nonprofit organization. People just have to log in when they get here,” — but gamers may make donations used to buy snacks and beverages.

Although most players are from the military, the facility also is used by employees of computer companies who have contracts with the Air Force, and who share their expertise with others at the center.

“We have a wide range of people from hard-core techo-geeks to new users just looking to get smarter,” Frost said.

Frost lauded Chief Master Sgt. Charles Clymer, formerly the top enlisted person for Misawa’s 35th Fighter Wing who has since moved on to a new assignment, for finding the center’s location in Building 775, an aging military family home across from Edgren High School.

Joseph Piper, a senior airman and an Air Force carpenter, used to meet with co-workers on Saturdays to play video war games at his work section before he learned about the entertainment center.

“Coming here is nice because you don’t have to lug a monitor. I just use one already here,” he said.

Piper does bring his keyboard and $2,000 computer tower, a case with clear plastic sides that reveal electronic cards holding an Athlon 1.6 Ghz processor and a tachometer that shows how much of the computer’s processor is being used.

“I like the social interaction during team play with friends,” he said. “It’s entertaining, a form of escapism for me. I’m getting killed all the time.”

Senior Airman Ryan Reichert, an electrician, calls coming to the center “a big bonding experience for me.”

He has less than $1,000 invested in his “case,” which holds a 1.47 GHz processor, a pair of 80 MB hard drives and 512 MB of random access memory, adequate enough to handle any of the games played at the center.

“It beats watching television,” he said, “a great place to hang out.”

Frost said the center has its own web site, www.misawa.com/mec, where useful information and popular games played there are posted.

He said while the entertainment center slowly is growing in popularity from word of mouth, he also has other plans afoot.

“We’re taking baby steps establishing a wireless network on the base,” he said. “And we’ll film a 20-minute skit along the lines of Stars Wars, using state-of-the-art modeling programs.”

Some of the popular games at Misawa Entertainment Center

• “Battlefield 1942”: A multiplayer game featuring players storming the beaches of Normandy, driving a tank across the deserts of northern Africa, piloting a fighter plane during the Battle of Midway, and commanding a battleship at Guadalcanal.

Players also get behind the wheel of 35 historically accurate WWII vehicles and fight a raging battle on land, sea, or air.

It allows players to go online with up to 64 players to take part in a raging battle that requires teamwork and cooperation from each member in order to achieve victory.

• “Medal of Honor”: Set during the most trying years of the war, 1942-1945, gives players a sense of the courage it took to survive the landings at Normandy, the assault at Arzew, a rendezvous with the Resistance outside the village of St. Lo, and the push through the heavily defended border of Germany itself to take the bridge at Remagen.

Players must advance through over 20 levels to accomplish specific objectives and goals to succeed and advance. Fully realized 3-D worlds utilizing the powerful Quake III engine, and more than 1,000 unique character animations offer unsurpassed level of realism.

Multiple online options including team combat and traditional last man standing modes.

• “Ghost Recon”: Players in “Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon” are invited to lead a brand-new squad as they focus on covert military strikes and international peacekeeping missions that do not always go as planned.

Conducting extensive missions on foot, the Ghosts occasionally have assistance from troops in tanks, helicopters and close air support.

In many cases, they work with international military forces and NATO to fight against rising dictators and rebel groups.

Players scope out enemy defenses, blow up a bridge to stop an advance, raid a rebel base and rescue an American pilot shot down deep in enemy territory.

The Ghosts also are the squad the Army uses when it needs to push their latest and greatest equipment and weaponry to the limit under fire.

Squad members could be responsible for the M-136 Anti-Tank Rocket that they have to carry on their backs. Firepower this intense would knock a normal soldier off his feet in a second. For The Ghosts, it’s just another day, just another job.

• “Red Faction”: “Red Faction” is one of the top-of-the-line first-person shooter games. It is based on miners working on Mars who decide to rebel against the corporation for which they labor.

The player takes on the role of one of the miners, to lead the battle against the corporation.

Weapons provided are standard but entertaining, including handguns, machine guns and sniper rifles, rail guns, rocket launchers, detonators and a fusion gun.

The level design is the game’s most impressive feature, boasting Geo-Mod Technology, the ability to damage every piece of the level around you. The graphics and frame rate are high-end and nothing has been spared for the sound.

• “Operation Flashpoint”: “Operation Flashpoint” is a total conflict simulator in which everything happens for real — including the speed of sound. If the bullet’s faster, it’s a silent death for you, private, say its developers, Bohemia Interactive Studio of Prague, Czech Republic.

“Operation Flashpoint’s” Cold War visuals draw the player deeply into the action.

For the first time in a game, the player controls and commands not just soldiers of all levels and squads but also a range of vehicles: military and civilian, land, sea and air, from cars, armored personnel carriers and tanks to military helicopters and aircraft.

The realism comes from personal knowledge of the developers, Bohemia Interactive. The Prague-based team members all are ex-Czech soldiers.

The game draws on their military training and experiences. “Operation Flashpoint’s” single missions, campaign and mission editor provide for a unique action gaming experience.

The developers say their military expertise also is in evidence in the artificial intelligence applied to the game’s infantry: They think, move and act as troops would in a conflict situation.

— Wayne Specht

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