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Navy Looking for Gamers After Disastrous Esports Launch

Goats and Glory, the U.S. Navy’s esports team, is looking for new sailors to refresh its roster of Twitch streamers. According to an August 22 admin memo, Goats and Glory needs new sailors to play games in front of a camera to help with the military’s recruitment effort.

“The Navy Esports Team significantly contributes to the multi-faceted outreach campaign of CNRC [Commander, Navy Recruiting Command] by engaging with prospective Sailors online and at gaming venues,” the memo said. “Centennials [Gen Z] are moving into digital spaces for most of their content consumption and social interactions, and the Esports domain is one of the most popular and vibrant online arenas to date. Connecting and attracting the best talent requires the Navy to be in the same spaces where those future Sailors reside.”

When military esports teams launched in 2020, the Navy was explicit that it was not trying to recruit anyone using video games. It was odd given that the team was run through Navy Recruiting Command and the streamer’s official handbook said the whole thing was a recruiting effort.

This new memo looking for streamers is also explicit. The streamers are to make connections with people interested in the Navy and travel to high schools and colleges across the country in service of that goal. “Goats and Glory team members operate at the Navy Esports facility, which is specifically designed for the team to practice, stream, and compete,” the memo said. “Team members will develop a routine streaming cadence, encouraging followers and viewers to interact with the members and outreach content, and compete against high schools and colleges across the country.”

The launch of the military esports teams was a disaster on all fronts. Goats and Glory vanished for a few months after one of its streams included jokes about Nagasaki and a racial slur. A National Guard streamer repeated white supremacist talking points about genocide. The Army’s Twitch stream couldn’t handle the amount of chatters asking about war crimes and courted a free speech controversy.

Many of the Twitch channels went quiet for a few months before starting up again. Some simulcast to Facebook. Since 2020, most of the teams have been quietly streaming to small audiences. Occasionally, the audience still asks about war crimes. But the military won’t be leaving these digital spaces. They need them. Every single branch of the U.S. military is struggling to make its recruitment goals and the Pentagon has to meet its potential soldiers and sailors where they are. Increasingly, they’re online watching other people play video games.

Once reviled by U.S. politicians, video games have become an important connection point between generations. The State Department even seems to think it can use video games to help instill American values in the youth of Saudi Arabia.

The State Department is soliciting applications for a $45,000 grant with the goal of using U.S. gamers to train an esports team in the Kingdom. “This program should engage with Emerging Voices (EVs), particularly in the age group of 18-30 years, on key U.S. government priorities such as STEM education, gender equality, and English language learning, and to promote studying gaming related college majors in the United States and help develop an eSports culture in Saudi Arabia,” it said.

The video game industry has come a long way since the days of Senators holding up light guns in Congress. Now both the DoD and State Department see video games as important pieces of their diplomatic toolkits.

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