The Army is expanding its expertise into the arena of Esports. No, modern war fighting hasn’t gone full AI, but the Army is seeking new ways to recruit new soldiers into its ranks. In 2018, during a time in which the Army aims to increase its numbers by about 25,000 to more than 500,000 over the next four years, it missed its recruiting goal for the first time since 2005.
As the mom of four sons, I am very familiar with the role of video games in young people’s lives, so the idea that the Army is looking at video games as a way toward recruitment makes perfect sense to me. As a way to immerse itself among its target population, the Army is setting up teams of gamers to compete in gaming tournaments across the nation. What better way to reach America’s teens coming of age than to meet them in their own digital world? This effort originated some 15 years ago when the Army created its own First Person Shooter game, aimed at enlisting real world soldiers. The Army now hopes that by mixing with today’s youth, and showing that current soldiers can play video games competitively, they will encourage young people to join their ranks.
Soldiers will try out for the Esports teams which will then become part of the Army’s Marketing and Engagement Team. The video gamer team will operate similarly to the Golden Knights Parachute Team and Army Marksmanship Unit, traveling to special events around the country, and competing in the name of the Army, gaining much needed positive publicity.
The Army’s struggle to keep recruitment numbers up is partly because in our current economic climate there are low unemployment rates, as well as a shrinking pool of 17- to 24-year-old Americans who can meet the military’s entry requirements — about two-thirds are ineligible due to things like poor physical fitness or drug use. The members of the new Esports team will have to be physically fit, in addition to being digitally savvy. By mixing with other competitors at the tournaments, team members can meet young people in their own environment, show the new side of the Army and encourage young people to sign up to be soldiers. Old recruiting methods are still available, but in order to remain successful in increasing their numbers in today’s economic climate, the Army is modernizing its approach. Meeting young people in their arena is a logical next step. Esports is growing exponentially, so the Army is looking to piggy back on its growth.
The Army’s Esports efforts are growing quickly. Soldiers interested in joining the esports team can apply via an online form.