The Army has a variety of extracurricular teams. This includes a shooting team, a football team, and now, an e-Sports team. E-Sports is the name given to the rising tide of competitive video games. If you aren’t aware, e-Sports is a nearly billion-dollar industry and is rising rapidly in popularity. 

The Army e-Sports team may be new, but the relationship between video games and the military goes back to the beginning of digital gaming. According to many reports, video game technology has evolved from programs that were financed and sponsored by the U.S. military. Spacewar!, the game that most identify as being the first video game, was developed at MIT through funding from the Pentagon. 

The Global War on Terror is the first war to be fought with servicemen raised in a culture where video games are a common recreational activity. I spent countless weekends playing Battlefield with my platoon mates wired up on Xbox. Others played Halo, or even earlier multiplayer shooters such as the iconic Goldeneye played on the Nintendo 64 platform.

It is impossible to ignore the influence that video games have had on our modern military culture. 

Video Games as Recruitment Tools

For men my age, video games likely acted as a recruitment tool, and sometimes intentionally so. The United States Army has published a series of video games called America’s Army. These first-person shooters currently have four main releases; a fifth one is on the way. While this is the first game published by a branch of the armed forces, the Army had previously aided in creating the game Full Spectrum Warrior. The game focused on tactical decision-making over first-person shooting. 

Various branches of the military have also aided in advising on video games. As a teenager, the video game Close Combat: First to Fight guided me to the door of a Marine recruiter. The video game was created with input from the Marines of 3/1, who had recently returned from the 2nd Battle for Fallujah. The game put you in the seat of a Lance Corporal team leader and armed you with realistic USMC weaponry and squad-based tactics. As fate would have it, my Squad Leader and eventual Platoon Sergeant was an advisor for the game. 

Yet, this input and advice have not always been met with praise. Six members of DEVGRU were punished for releasing classified information to the game designers behind Medal of Honor – Warfighter. The SEALs did not seek the permission of their command to work with the game designers. The information released was related to the combat gear the team utilized. 

The Unmanned Aircraft Systems Operators (15W) remote pilots of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and Unmanned Aircraft Systems Repairer (15E) with 2-6 Cavalry Squadron, 25th Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, conducted Advanced Aerial Gunnery training at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Sarah D. Sangster)

On the Ground Benefits of Video Games

While it may be difficult to believe, video games offer numerous benefits to their players. According to a study conducted by the Radboud University Nijmegen, and published by the American Psychological Association, video games offer numerous cognitive benefits. These benefits include superior problem solving, greater creativity, and spatial ability. According to the study, gamers often have “faster and more accurate attention allocation and higher spatial resolution in visual processing and enhanced mental rotation abilities.” Players of first-person shooters have proven to “allocate their attentional resources more efficiently and filter out irrelevant information more effectively.”