Online gaming and eSports are huge among young people in the United States. Therefore, the military sees it as a recruiting possibility. Yet, one Democratic congresswoman wants to stop the tactic of recruiting through such venues dead in its tracks. 

On Wednesday, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-NY), introduced an amendment to the House Appropriations bill that would ban the military from using funds to maintain “a presence on Twitch.tv or any video game, eSports or live-streaming platform,” for the purpose of recruitment.

Twitch is a very popular live streaming platform used by an estimated 17.5 million people every day, but Ocasio-Cortez said she believes the military should be banned from recruiting through video games streamed on the website.

“It’s incredibly irresponsible for the Army and the Navy to be recruiting impressionable young people and children via live streaming platforms,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “War is not a game, and the Marine Corps’ decision not to engage in this recruiting tool should be a clear signal to the other branches of the military to cease this practice entirely.”

The popularity of online gaming continues to grow. The eSports industry is predicted to reach more than $1 billion in revenue by the end of 2023. Over 380 million people tune into televised professional tournaments hosted in large sporting arenas filled to capacity. In the past year, the online gaming industry boasted over 600 billion minutes of watched content.

The Army, Navy, and Air Force all have teams that compete in video game streams online. The Army, however, said its account has paused streaming to review internal policies.

Ocasio-Cortez's amendment to stop Esports recruiting defeated

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Back in January, the Army West Point eSports Club was recognized as an official club by the academy. Deputy Director of the West Point Simulation Center, Victor Castro, helped the cadets get their channel off the ground. The Army’s website posted an article on the club. 

“The U.S. Army Recruiting Command already has its own eSports team,” Castro said. Players vie against other teams from nearly 20 other colleges including those from the Ivy League and the Big Ten, in very popular online military-style games such as “Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege” and “Hell Let Loose.”

“They’ve learned how to live stream and already built all those mechanics. What we plan to do is leverage them and say let’s compete with you, but you host it,” Castro added. “Some people on their team have fans and get 5,000 viewers. So, we will create a demand that recognizes the Army Black Knights have an eSports team and will give them the supply as the demand increases.”

According to the Army’s article, faculty researchers at West Point believe that online gaming, from an academic pillar-building perspective, has proven to have cognitive benefits, such as increased memory and the ability to concentrate and focus more deeply during a stressful situation.

However, this week, the Army and Navy’s Twitch channels were accused of violating the First Amendment after banning Jordan Uhl, a social media troll, from their stream for posting about military misconduct.

Rep. Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed amendment to the House Appropriations bill faces a long uphill climb before ever being made into law. The budget written by the House will go through numerous committees and votes before being sent to the president. And this amendment will no doubt come into the crosshairs of lawmakers.

The people who want the military banned talked about the “gamified war propaganda” and singled out the military for taking an active role. Yet, with 17.5 million daily users, they do not mention banning the games themselves that portray warfare. And it is ludicrous to believe that the armed forces are the only ones recruiting on Twitch.