The U.S. Army is using video games and esports to recruit young Americans into its ranks, according to Stars and Stripes.
Many people are not interested in speaking to military recruiters over the phone these days, so the recruiters are reportedly participating in gaming tournaments for titles like “Madden NFL” and “Fortnite” to reach their target audience. The Army also wants to create a “functional fitness” team to compete in CrossFit athletic events and replace its aging “Army Strong” slogan.
Earlier this year, the service held a “Street Fighter V” championship series for active-duty service members and streamed it live on Twitch. The tournament consisted of eight garrisons, with the winners from each garrison later competing at the grand finals at PAX West in Seattle, Wash. on Sept. 1. Esports tournaments can help develop a soldier’s outlook and overall fitness by improving hand-eye coordination, mental focus, and reaction time, the Army said.
These moves come after the Army missed its recruiting goal this year for the first time since 2005. It fell short by about 6,500 soldiers despite offering an extra $200 million in bonuses and approving some additional waivers for bad conduct or health issues, according to the Associated Press. The service is also dealing with low unemployment rates and a shrinking pool of potential recruits. About two-thirds of Americans between the ages of 17-24 are ineligible due to things like poor physical fitness or drug use, according to Stars and Stripes.
The Army reportedly plans to hold tryouts for a variety of esports teams. Members of those teams will be part of the Army’s Marketing and Engagement Team based at Fort Knox, Ky. Not only will they travel to esports events around the country, they’ll also beta test Army apps, and training and simulation software. The service will cover the costs for any certifications, competitions, or other requirements, a spokesperson told Stars and Stripes.
“They will be in a support role to help young people see soldiers in a different light and understand the many different roles people can have in the Army (and) help the Army address the growing disconnect with society,” they said.