Video games have looked to the military for inspiration for more than four decades—at least as far back as 1974’s Tank . Contemporary shooters that meticulously recreate the weapons, equipment, and uniforms of soldiers represent many of the biggest games on the market today, their profiles only elevated by the recent surge of esports. Now, however, two organizations are looking to bridge the gap in the opposite direction. The Military Gaming League and U.S. Army Esports seek to link the gaming communities that exist among the active duty military and veterans with the wider esports world. These organizations bill themselves as using competitive play to humanize the military and build a more nuanced representation of those who serve.
One could be forgiven for being dubious about those motives. In 2018—the same year both MGL and Army Esports began official operations—the U.S. Army failed to meet its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005, when the Iraq War was at its height. There’s a real and justified concern about the American military-industrial complex moving so directly into the world of gaming—a space predominantly filled with young people, no small number of whom are lonely and impressionable. In talking to the individuals running these new military esports ventures, however, it becomes clear the reality is far more complex. The Military Gaming League logo. “I saw there was a space there, an emptiness, where military service-members and veterans didn’t really have a space to play with each other, compete, make their own way through the esports world,” Travis Williams, chief executive and co-founder of Military Gaming League, told EGM. “That’s how I began thinking about having a league that’s catered specifically towards service-members and veterans but that also caters to their emotional needs of the individual, helping with PTSD and stuff […]
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