Military esports are using Twitch and Esports in attempt to increase recruitment numbers

By: Will Myers

military esports

The U.S. Army has ventured into the world of Esports. Normally I’d be excited to see Video Games becoming more mainstream, but what the U.S. Army is doing is actually a bit shady. They are utilizing the emerging video game industry and the platform Twitch as a tool for their own benefit. This is mainly because the target demographic of recruitment is males ages 17 to 24 which directly corresponds with the main demographic of people who play video games. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy explains that “what we found is we’re getting millions of leads of 17- to 24-year-olds to feed into Army Recruiting Command.”

Although they seem to be targeting an appropriate age group for military recruitment, their influence on their Twitch viewers does not seem to discriminate by age attracting children as well. This is in response to recent failed recruitment goals. In 2018 they fell short of their goal by 6,500 soldiers, according to APNews reports. Sgt 1st Class Christopher Jones says that they are doing this to “connect America to its Army through the passion of the gaming community”, but in reality, they are just trying to meet their recruiting quota. The more recruits they have, the more money they receive from the government. All of this seems okay on paper but when you delve deeper, you realize why the Army is being unethical with their recruitment practices.

U.S. Army Esports team at an event

When talking about the recruitment process the Army has been through with their Esports endeavor, Ryan McCarthy referred to interacting with recruits as “getting their finger on the pulse” of those newcomers. The way McCarthy phrases this is a bit peculiar. Instead of saying something like ‘we are excited to see the possibilities of these new recruits‘ he instead relates it to having their “finger on the pulse” like they are trying to grab a hold of people who are curious, and that doesn’t sit right with me. It feels like they are conning people through the avenue of Esports.

The Army is trying to coax people into active service using Esports, like somehow the experience of playing video games, especially first-person shooters, has prepared them for the combat. The target demographic tends not to have the skills required for the military but are more impressionable and responsive to the outreaches from the Army because they play video games that glorify combat. They appeal to the same impressionable youth through offering signing bonuses, salaries and scholarships that may lead people to register for military service without thinking it through all the way. They do not care about Esports, the qualifications or the people they recruit, all they care about is numbers. People have been outraged that this is what taxpayer’s money is going towards.

U.S. Army Esports Logo

The U.S. Army has a very active Twitch channel where they attempt to further their recruitment agenda. One initiative they have taken on is a giveaway of an Xbox Elite Series Two controller. The Army has been posting links in their Twitch chat to that giveaway EXCEPT the link didn’t take people to the giveaway. No, it did not take them to information about the giveaway. No, it did not take them to the Army homepage. No, it did not take people to view the model of controller. It took people directly to a recruitment form used to get information from possible recruits.

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People were filling out this form believing it was related to the giveaways, but in reality it was a way to get your contact information for recruitment purposes. This ploy to get recruits is straight up deceitful, especially coming from an established institution like the Army. Twitch promptly intervened and stopped them from posting giveaway links, ensuring that nobody would be fooled by this any longer.

The Army has had a huge problem with people in their Twitch chat trolling them. This includes spamming things about war crimes and parts of history that the Army is not proud about.

U.S. Army Twitch Channel Chat

They have been dealing with this by banning people in their twitch chat who they deem as inappropriate. The funny thing is that the Army’s Twitch channel is considered a public forum where they cannot regulate speech so banning people can be viewed as unconstitutional. Katie Fallow from the Knight First Amendment Institute claims “under the First Amendment, [the Army Twitch channel] cannot bar speakers from that forum based on a viewpoint.”

Since the Army is a government agency, they cannot suppress those who are speaking out in their Twitch chat. An U.S. Army Spokesperson replies to this by stating users are only banned “for behavior intended to harass, degrade and intimidate”, not for people’s viewpoints. This is a gray area that does not have legal precedent to it so there is no ruling currently. But the one thing that is for sure is that the U.S. Army Esports is a public relations nightmare.

All this controversy caused the Army’s Twitch channel to pause their efforts in Esports. This was first reported by a well-established Esports journalist Rod “Slasher” Breslau in a tweet.

The Army has utilized this time to review their methods of recruitment to attempt to get the public on their side. They recently started streaming again and have cut back on banning users and giveaways despite their Twitch chat still “trolling” them. Who knows what the future holds for the U.S. Army’s Esports division, but as of right now the future doesn’t look very bright for them.

Do you think it is unethical for the U.S. Army to use Esports as a mean of recruitment?

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