Army recruiters embrace Gamer Age
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.”