To preface this entire article: I am a veteran. I was US Navy that went greenside with the Marines for flight ops with two tours overseas. This article is not dismissing the military as an idea and is not being written from a place of ignorance. Moving on: the US Army started up their own Twitch channel for esports recently and immediately many had concerns about this more aggressive recruitment tool. The military has always recruited heavily at a young age and even using games as well, but it looks like making a Twitch was one step too many, because people had words to say during its debut stream.
The US Army created its own esports team back in 2018 as a marketing push, which they were very transparent about. Making a Twitch would be any esports team’s next step but with military propaganda backing this move, the reception was less than ideal.
In a recent report made by VICE, the recent Call of Duty: Warzone stream was met with a barrage of comments regarding war crimes and the Army infrastructure regarding recruiting for war at a young age. Despite the Army’s weird attempt to look harmless with their “UwU *hearts* responses, the internet was not going to let this particular marketing push go without a hitch.
Industry Analyst Rod Breslau shared a clip from US Army Ranger Joshua ‘Strotnium” David telling the audience “I’m bigger than you” in response to the onslaught of messages:
just having a good time with the US Army esports twitch stream @JordanUhl pic.twitter.com/qnjyxg1KP0
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 8, 2020
“I think every post that I do from now on is going to say ‘UwU’ in it, just to flex. Y’all gonna go talk all that crap to my angel on the esports team, the nicest person in the entire world. Little internet keyboard monsters is what you are. I won’t stand for that. I’m bigger than you.”
As one would expect, that response didn’t go over too well and the comments became, even more, overwhelmed, this time referencing specific instances such as the MSF hospital bombings in Afghanistan back in 2015.
Related: Ghost Recon: Breakpoint Perspective From A US Army Green Beret
Here’s the thing: the US Army (and other branches) recruited at a young age is nothing new, nor is using video games as a method of enticement. That being said, those recruitment efforts were always done on a small scale, making it easier to gauge – and control – the reaction from hopefuls. With Twitch, there is no control. This is a community that is as passionate as it is interactive, so controlled recruitment isn’t going to go the way they expect when going the streaming route.
It will be interesting to see how this strategy evolves in the wake of the most recent reception and what the moderating team aims to do to in terms of chat control. If they limit chat completely, that will backfire. If they leave it untouched, that will backfire. Personally, I feel that the military shouldn’t be on Twitch at all. Even as a veteran myself, there are just some lines that shouldn’t be crossed and this blatant romanticisation of what it’s like is just wrong and it gets people killed.