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'Are we winning? Oh, yeah, we're owning'

At Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, hundreds of players lined up to play Halo 3 hours before it officially launches.

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--The sounds of machine-gun fire is everywhere, coming in waves from all around me.

But this is Silicon Valley, not Iraq, and this war is just in the Halo 3 universe.

In a big conference room at Microsoft's Silicon Valley campus, 21 large flat-screen TVs are set up in pods of three, allowing up to 84 people at a time to play 'Halo 3.' Daniel Terdiman/CNET Networks

I'm at the Halo 3 launch event that Microsoft is hosting here at its Silicon Valley campus, and I'm in a room that to some hard-core gamers might be heaven.

That's because there are 21 large Insignia flat-screen TVs spread around the room in seven three-TV pods. And each screen is divided among four Halo 3 boxes. That means that in this one room, there are 84 people eagerly playing this hot new video game.

As the minutes wind down until 7:30 p.m., when tournament play officially begins, the 84 or so players are just firing away, having a great time, trying to get in a last few minutes of practice before they put their newfound skills to the test.

And do the players really understand this game? Well, despite the fact that it's brand-new, it is the third iteration in one of the most popular franchises in video game history. Still, it is a new game, and there are clearly some here who don't quite get how it all works.

"Are we winning?" one player yelled as he fired away. "Oh, yeah, we're owning."

I really want to type that he said, "Oh, yeah, we're Pwning," but, well, he didn't.

Finally, 7:30 came, and someone from Microsoft stepped up to a microphone to announce the beginning of tournament play.

"OK, everyone," the man belted out, "Stop the death and wanton destruction, and step away from the consoles."