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Alejandro Villanueva was playing a very different game before stepping onto the line of scrimmage s a starting offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was on the front lines as a member of the U.S. Army and earned a Bronze Star Medal of Valor during his first tour in Afghanistan as a second lieutenant rifle platoon leader for pulling fellow wounded soldiers from an isolated position while under enemy fire, reports The Undefeated.
He served two more tours and was promoted to captain in 2014. And though you would expect the soldier’s methods of escaping from battle, to be well, an escape, they were actually playing Call of Duty.
“Some like to work out,” said Villanueva to Undefeated, who was commissioned in 2010 after graduating from West Point and going undrafted by the NFL. “Some say, ‘I’m going to read all these books.’ The majority say, ‘I’m going to go to Afghanistan and have a good time whenever I can have a good time.’ Playing video games played a huge role in that — and Call of Duty obviously is king.”
The goal of the game is straightforward: kill or be killed. The game is a worldwide phenomenon, with over 250 million copies of the game sold, which has generated more than $15 billion in revenue for Activision since the franchise was launched in 2003.
Villanueva still uses the game as a way to escape. Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell are immortalized in the game as characters in Call of Duty: World War II, the fourteenth and latest installment of the game’s main series, reports Undefeated.
These football stars are not the only pro athletes who use the game as an escape. NBA, NFL, and MLB players all love it.
“Call of Duty is visceral … fast-paced … competitive … gets your adrenaline pumping. It’s a game that requires teamwork, communication, skill, engagement and attention,” said Activision CEO Eric Hirshberg, according to Undefeated. “Those are all words that could be used to describe playing sports.”