Army re­cruiters em­brace Gamer Age

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY MIKE GLENN

You’re a sol­dier work­ing your way care­fully through a bizarre, col­or­ful en­vi­ron­ment filled with ramps and sud­den drop-offs. Your weapon is at the ready. En­emy troops are ev­ery­where. As one “hos­tile” moves into your view, you take aim and fire. Without warn­ing, you find your­self taken out as well, dis­patched by an en­emy sol­dier you never saw. Wel­come to com­bat in the Gamer Age. Un­cle Sam wants you — to play Split­gate. If not Split­gate, then Fort­nite or another role-play­ing game. The Pen­tagon is even will­ing to pay you to do it.

Elec­tronic sports — bet­ter known as es­ports — is a form of com­pe­ti­tion that uses elab­o­rate mul­ti­player video games. Analysts pre­dict the global au­di­ence for es­ports will grow to more than 450 mil­lion by the end of the year and bring in more than $1 bil­lion in rev­enue.

The Army wants to tap into that mar­ket of potential re­cruits and is em­brac­ing es­ports in a big way. Last year marked the of­fi­cial roll­out of the of­fi­cial Army es­ports team. About 6,500 ac­tive and re­serve sol­diers tried out, and about 16 made the fi­nal cut.

“We are a com­pet­i­tive gam­ing team, and we’re in di­rect sup­port of the re­cruit­ing com­bat, but the ac­tiv­ity does stress traits and en­hance skills that are im­por­tant for sol­diers in any en­vi­ron­ment.

Most of the games re­quire ad­vanced lit­er­ary skills be­cause of the de­tailed in­struc­tions needed to set up and get through the quest or mis­sion.

“A lot of those role-play­ing games also have statis­tics you need to main­tain,” Sgt. Jones said. “English and math are two very ex­ten­sive sub­jects” on the mil­i­tary en­list­ment tests.

In ad­di­tion, be­ing a top-level gamer re­quires in­ter­per­sonal skills and the abil­ity to train and in­spire a team.

“We have a lot of sol­diers who have amaz­ing skill sets in this area and we’re show­ing it off,” Sgt. Jones said. “The civil pop­u­la­tion has been play­ing [role­play­ing games] with us for years. The dif­fer­ence is, now we’re out front about it.”

Gen. Hughes said he thought role­play­ing games could be a ma­jor ben­e­fit to train­ing cer­tain kinds of sol­diers, such as novice he­li­copter pi­lots.

“Imag­ine if you had all kinds of mus­cle memory for do­ing some­thing [in an es­ports trailer] that holds you to the same stan­dard and then you put them in the he­li­copter,” he said. “We might get bet­ter pi­lots in the long run.”

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