Within the Pentagon's long debate: Do gamers make good soldiers?

Within the Pentagon’s long debate: Do gamers make good soldiers?

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In May, US forces created a new hostility. In a seven-hour twitch stream, Air Force and Army soldiers fight a potential battle: “Hello Infinite” is a popular first-person shooter video game. More than 1.5 million people logged in to watch the Air Force win the Army’s first inter-service gaming championship.

The event in San Antonio featured competition and camaraderie. But as military leaders begin to embrace gaming, it has found itself in controversy. Over the years, gaming in the military has been a mere military hobby, but now it is evolving into a strategic, well-measured venture, seen by many as a means of recruiting, retaining, and training America’s combat force.

Senior Pentagon executives are increasingly embracing gaming, facing recruitment challenges and facing an increased talent pool with iPad and video game controllers. Each branch of the Army now has an Esports team, the military sponsorship of the Gaming League is growing, and service members can easily go to the Army-created Discord Channel and chat with thousands of other people about their love of games like Call of Duty and Hello.

But some leaders are skeptical of gaming, arguing that it weakens new recruits so they move away from basic training. Moreover, the military The use of gaming channels and influencers to subtly recruit young audiences has drawn strong criticism from gaming experts and lawmakers.

Amy J., a foreign policy colleague at the Brookings Institution. “It’s a good line,” Nelson said. “Assimilating the culture and the generation where they are now … and using it to their advantage on the battlefield, but [it’s] There is no such thing as exploitation in recruitment. “

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The military has a long history of gaming. In the early 2000’s, the Department of Defense poured in millions of dollars to create a shooting video game called “The Army of America,” which made people look like soldiers, exploring mission combat and other aspects of military life. The game became a hit, with millions playing it. Research launched by MIT in 2008 found that “30 percent of all Americans between the ages of 16 and 24” had a more favorable view of the military.

But other military-style shooting games, such as Call of Duty and Medal of Honor, became so popular that the Pentagon version lost its popularity. With the rise of online gaming, military officials recognized that they needed a new approach. Twitch was used for Amazon-owned online platforms and livestream gameplay. Military members began playing games like Call of Duty, “Valorant” and “Hello” while interacting with a large audience and discussing military life, according to a news report.

At the same time, the military relies on technology to shape its future. Enhanced reality, artificial intelligence and automatic and unmanned weapons with increasing technical skills called for recruitment. In February, the Naval Research Office unveiled a study showing that playing a first-person shooting game can make a really good fighter. The researchers said that playing the game could improve cognitive processes, peripheral vision and ability to learn functions better.

“People who play video games are quick to process information,” said Ray Perez, a program officer in the Office of the Warfighter Performance Division of Naval Research. “Ten hours of video games can change the structure and organization of the human brain.”

Despite this, others in the military have condemned the gaming culture. In February, Army Major John-Mark Thibodeau, head of medical preparation at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri, criticized video games as a reason why young recruits are physically unfit for the military. “The skeleton of the ‘Nintendo Generation’ soldiers is not hardened by pre-arrival activities,” he said in a statement. “So some of them break more easily.” (The Department of Defense later removed his comment from the statement.)

Capt. Oliver Parsons, an Air Force officer and founder of Air Force Gaming, said the more formal gaming activities benefit soldiers. According to a survey of 35,000 airmen, more than 86 percent of people between the ages of 18 and 34 are known as gamers.

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Parsons said that in order to promote mental health and retain talent in times of epidemics, gaming needs to develop a culture that is accepted as a hobby. “We are not robots. We’re normal, average people, “Parsons said.” If the military doesn’t embrace gaming culture, the military will “go somewhere.”

Since 2019, when Parsons sent an email to the two-star general about building a gaming community in the Air Force, Branch has become a leader in promoting gaming culture.

To recruit for the Army Hello Championships in San Antonio, the Air Force held an internal competition with 350 players to find its best players. The top eight members were sent to San Antonio, where hired gaming coaches led his team to the top four. (Parson did not provide a budget for his gaming venture, but Air Force spokesman Armando Perez said travel orders for gaming tournaments are often funded by airmen’s units.)

Rod Breslau, an industry consultant, said he was concerned about the military’s involvement in sports and gaming. Over the past few years, Breslau said he and others, including Jordan Uhl, have tracked how the military used streamers on Twitch to promote military life, block conversations criticizing the armed forces on government-backed gaming channels, and gain easy access to the pool. To shape young viewers with their perceptions of war.

The military scrutinized this in 2020, especially when the rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez sponsored the House amendment to ban the military from using Twitch for failed recruitment. “War is not a game,” she said on Twitter. “We should not associate military service with ‘shoot-em-up’ style games and competitions.”

Breslau noted that since then, “the heat has definitely subsided,” and allowed the military to resume sponsorship of its sports activities and outdoor gaming leagues, raising serious concerns about the future.

“The main thing is that the US government is using this flow of sponsorship and twitch and all these tools … for recruitment,” Breslau said. “People should know that this is the last game.”

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