The “Twitch” amendment to the Pentagon’s spending bill is dead. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), had proposed to ban the military from or severely reduce the military recruiting through the e-sports gaming community.
Her amendment barely got 50 percent of Democrats in the House on board and was roundly defeated by a 292-126 margin on Thursday. All House Republicans were in opposition while Democrats were split 126 for, 102 against. Thirteen House members did not vote according to the Esports Observer.
Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment to House appropriations bill H.R. 7617 was put forward by her on July 22, along with a separate amendment seeking to halt recruiting activities at public schools.
The NY representative took to Twitter and then addressed the House prior to the amendment’s vote to try to swing support.
“War is not a game,” she tweeted. “Twitch is a popular platform for children FAR under the age of military recruitment rules. We should not conflate military service with ‘shoot-em-up’ style games and contests.”
Ocasio-Cortez has frequently said and posted on social media that children as young as 12 are targeted for recruitment by the military.
She told the New York Times earlier this week, “Whether through recruitment stations in their lunchrooms or now through e-sports teams, children in low-income communities are persistently targeted for enlistment. In many public high schools where military recruiters have a daily presence, there is not even a counselor. As a result, the military stops feeling like a ‘choice’ and starts feeling like the only option for many young, low-income Americans.”
That statement inflamed a fellow Democrat. The New York Post reported that Max Rose, a Democrat in the House who represents parts of the Bronx and Staten Island, was outraged by some of her comments. Rose served in Afghanistan and took her to task over her comments.
“This is incredibly insulting as it perpetuates the limousine liberal trope that soldiers are idiots who only get duped into enlisting,” Rose said.
“That very disparagement follows veterans when they come home and struggle to find employment,” Rose added. “This amendment treats the military as some insidious organization, not a career choice that taught me — and millions of others — invaluable skills and an appreciation for the values and freedoms of our country.”
Representative Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.) also spoke against Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment.
“We ought to cast a very broad net to encourage young Americans to serve their country in the military — especially those I would point out living in Gary, Indiana, in disadvantaged communities, many of which don’t even know that opportunity exists,” he said.
The Army, Navy, Air Force, and National Guard have a presence in online competitive gaming, called e-sports, through sponsorships and partnerships. They also have e-sports teams composed of active-duty personnel. The U.S. Military Academy at West Point also has an e-sport team.
According to a post from the Esports Observer, in 2020, the Army signed deals with Complexity Gaming, Call of Duty League, and Chicago Huntsmen, while the Army National Guard partnered with “World of Warcraft” guild Complexity-Limit in April. The U.S. Navy has signed deals this year with DreamHack and ESL, Twitch and DBLTAP, and partnered with Evil Geniuses to train its “Counter-Strike: Global Offensive” squad.
The Marine Corps and Coast Guard have eschewed the e-sports community for recruiting purposes. The Marines have released the following statement explaining their decision: “This [eschewal] is due in part to the belief that the brand and issues associated with combat are too serious to be ‘gamified’ in a responsible manner.” Ocasio-Cortez has frequently referenced the Marine Corps’ statement.
However, Marine recruiters do understand the draw of e-sports which, according to Military.com, attracts 72 percent of the young men and 49 percent of the women aged 18-29. Marine recruiters attend e-sports tournaments and in January the Marines, in association with the Esports Stadium in Texas, launched an Academic Excellence Program. The program offers free game time to high-achieving high school and college students.
Ocasio-Cortez has no plans on stopping here. She posted on Twitter, “The good news: a majority of the Dem party supported this amendment. That’s a really solid start for this being the first time this issue has been brought before Congress. We’ve made great strides since *that* Senate FB hearing, but we’ve got a lot of room to still improve!”