Why the US Army is getting serious about esports

In a bid to counter flagging recruitment numbers, the US Army is turning to esports to encourage young adults to join its ranks. The US Army has reportedly been targeting competitive gaming tournaments to speak to potential recruits, and this follows on from previous efforts to establish their own esports tournaments within the armed forces.


© U.S. Army

It’s a bold move from the US Army, particularly as video gaming has long been seen as a fairly antisocial and sedentary activity. But it reveals how far-reaching the esports phenomenon has become, and it’s hoped that the initiative will boost recruitment figures and increase morale within the ranks.

Why is the US Army getting involved in esports?

There have been reports that potential recruits are less and less willing to speak with US Army recruiters over the telephone at the moment, and so the army has been attending various esports tournaments in a bid to talk one-to-one to those most likely to join the service. As a result, many competitive gaming tournaments that cover titles like the battle royale game, Fortnite, as well as the sports simulator, Madden NFL, have been targeted by the US Army.

Such esports tournaments are largely attended by young males who are a core part of the US Army’s potential demographic, and the recruitment drive is being made in a bid to remedy the army missing its recruitment goal by 6,500 soldiers. The US Army has been struggling to hit its required numbers as a result of falling unemployment rates and it’s hoped that their new esports-based initiative could reverse the trend.

In addition to this, the US Army has offered an extra $200 million in bonuses, and even implemented waivers for poor health or bad conduct which is especially important as many young potential recruits had previously been declared ineligible due to lack of fitness or drug issues. However, it’s not just these recruitment drives at competitive gaming tournaments that reveals just how serious the US Army is getting about esports, as they have also found success in hosting their own gaming tournaments.

The US Army’s first esports tournament

In July 2018, the US Army surprised the gaming world by hosting their first live streamed esports tournament. This was a worldwide event that focused on the Street Fighter V fighting game and it was open to all active-duty Army service men and women. The tournament was organised by Army Entertainment and featured eight garrisons who each hosted a local tournament, and there were live streams from Fort Bliss, Fort Gordon, Fort Wainwright and Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The winners from each garrison went on to the finals at Seattle’s PAX West arena on 1 September, and the gaming was streamed live via the Army Entertainment’s Twitch.tv channel. What’s particularly impressive was the way that the tournament took many aspects of other top competitive gaming events such as having shoutcasters that included Sergeant 1st Class Christopher James who is reportedly a serious gaming fan.


© U.S. Army

Just like many other esports tournaments, the US Army’s Street Fighter V competition also included some very respectable prizes for the winners. While the prize pool didn’t quite match that of The International, the fact that winners could receive a $500 gift card, a two-night stay at the Mandalay Bay MGM resort in Las Vegas, as well as tournament coins, Twitch merchandise and special Army Entertainment Esports clothing will have helped to make the gaming action even more intense.

Why esports and army life go hand in hand

It’s fairly surprising that it’s taken the US Army so long to take advantage of the competitive gaming phenomenon. After all, anybody who has ever played first-person shooters like Counter Strike Global Offensive, Call of Duty and Rainbow Six will understand how the fast-paced action could be perfectly suited for those interested in a life in the army.

This is a concept that the US Army seems to be well aware of, as they have gone on record as stating that competitive gaming can even boost a soldier’s fitness by increasing hand-eye condition, reaction times, and even improve metal focus overall. As a result, the US Army’s plans to hold tryouts for their esports teams make perfect sense, and with further plans to travel to various esports tournaments around the US, it looks like real efforts are being made to bridge the perceived disconnect between the army and the younger demographic.

It’s something that many top esports organisations are getting involved in too, as ELEAGUE reportedly partnered with the US Air Force earlier this year. The US Air Force had previously sponsored the ELEAGUE CSGO Premier Event, and they had also partnered with the successful esports team, Cloud9 to show that esports and the army could benefit as a whole.