What’s Up With The U.S. Army And Esports?

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There’s been a recent influx of new stories centered around the military and esports recently; the National Guard partnered up with Team NRG and the U.S. Army Esports’ Twitter actions led to their Discord dealing with an onslaught of trolls.

What exactly is happening right now with the world of esports and the military?

U.S. Army And Esports

The U.S. Army Esports team was announced in November 2018. The team would be made up of players who were either on active duty or in reserve, and would field players in games such as Call of Duty, CounterStrike: Global Offensive, Fortnite and more.

Their intention, as stated on their website, is to “make our Soldiers more visible and relatable to today’s youth.” Through outreach programs, as well as participating in online and offline events, they hope to show “Soldiers in a different life” as well as helping to “understand the many different roles people can have in the Army.”

The page explicitly states that “Members of the eSports outreach teams are not recruiters.” However their very presence in the esports world, the games they are trying to connect with, and their intentions to bridge the gap between disenfranchised youth and the Army indicate that recruitment is very much an important goal, if primarily by making the Army’s image more palatable.

Internet Reaction To U.S. Army Esports

The way that the U.S. Army Esports team has conducted itself in the online sphere has generated controversy, and even its very presence is contentious; the National Guard’s partnership with NRG drew criticism for its timing during the political unrest in the United States.

In early June, one simple Twitter response from the U.S. Army Esports account triggered considerable outrage: by replying “UwU” to the official Discord Twitter, they drew the ire of thousands of users.

Many consider it unsavoury that the Army would try to engage in “meme culture” solely to appear more palatable and desirable to potential young recruits.

As a result, many users engaged in a tongue-in-cheek form of “speedrunning” where they would enter the official U.S. Army Discord channel and attempt to get banned as fast as possible by linking articles and papers related to the U.S. Army war crimes and atrocities.

The speedrun spams only lasted so long, as the Discord was set so that new users couldn’t post anymore messages.

The U.S. Army Esports received further backlash when they began banning people for mentioning the aforementioned atrocities in their Twitch channel’s chat (an issue, VICE mentions, that could be a violation of the First Amendment.) While Twitch allows for streamers to make their own guidelines for chat on top of the Twitch ToS, the U.S. Army has different standards as a government entity, and as their rules don’t explicitly prohibit those kinds of statements, they may have violated the First Amendment.

The Future Of U.S. Army Esports

Twitch will likely play no role in reversing any of the chat bans from this saga, and it remains to be seen what the U.S. Army Esports channel does in response.

In general, the U.S. Army Esports organisation has been involved in a fair amount of controversy recently. Many critics point to the Army’s predatory actions in luring youth into the military under the illusions of adventure and grandeur, while their banning of users bringing up past atrocities indicates that letting information about past horrors of war seems to be of low priority.

The U.S. Army Esports team will likely continue on their mission, but recent events show that they will consistently be met with hostile skepticism.