May 27, 2022 - Technology

Members of 6 U.S. armed forces to compete in esports event

Members of the Air Force Gaming team. Photo Air Force Gaming

Members of six U.S. armed forces are competing in a Halo Infinite tournament in San Antonio this weekend in a novel and federally sanctioned esports event.

Why it matters: It’s the brainchild of an Air Force captain, Oliver Parsons, who believes gaming can help morale and assist members of the military who might be struggling mentally or socially.

  • The event is being produced by Rally Cry, an organization that coordinates esports efforts that are intended to have a social good aspect.

Between the lines: Parsons says he personally felt the benefits of gaming in 2016, while stationed in a frigid part of North Dakota.

  • “I began struggling with mental health, depression, anxiety and seasonal affective disorder,” he said. “Me and my wife kind of turned to video games as an escape.”
  • But he recognized that escapism could exacerbate his depression. He noticed he felt better when he was connecting with other gamers through multiplayer matches. He wanted to build on that.
  • Parsons soon got a two-star general’s permission to start an Air Force Gaming group and organized a 200-team Call of Duty tournament with airmen in 2020. He says his organization, which also involves the newly formed Space Force, now has 25,000 members, and is part of the Air Force’s Morale, Wellness and Recreation program.

Some members of the Air Force Gaming group may be wrestling with the stresses of warfare, Parsons says, but for many, the help they need is just to deal with the ordinary grind of work.

  • “Even if you love your job, if you work 90 hours a week, that grind is going to get to you. This community provides a way to disconnect but still stay connected.”

Popular games for Air Force Gaming include Halo, Call of Duty and regular old Dungeons & Dragons.

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