Multiple branches of the United States Armed Forces are using Twitch to endear themselves to young Americans. They’re also using it as a way to obtain personal information from potential recruits.
According to a report by Jordan Uhl of The Nation, the United States Army has been hosting giveaways on its Twitch channel for Xbox One Elite Series controllers. Part of signing up for the contest involves filling out forms that invite recruiters to directly reach out regarding enlistment. This is renewing criticism of the United States Armed Forces’ recruitment practices and the military’s creeping presence in video games.
On June 30, a stir began when the US Army Esports Twitter account entered into a playful back-and-forth with Discord that culminated with the Army tweeting “UwU” alongside a heart emoji.
— U.S. Army Esports (@USArmyesports) June 30, 2020
This went viral, which was followed by rampant trolling of the Army Esports’ social media platforms, including on Twitch, Twitter, and Discord. Waves of bans followed, with some responding to the bans questioning the constitutionality of a wing of the government barring speech on its social platforms.
While much of the reaction was simply cringing at the exchange between the two brands, some criticized the Army for attempting to present the inherently dangerous work it does as somehow being cute.
— Rod Breslau (@Slasher) July 8, 2020
The US military has been criticized for its aggressive recruiting practices for a long while.
On a larger scale, recruiting practices have been labeled as predatory for decades due to the military’s focus on recruiting from at-risk demographics who may see enlisting as an escape from their current situation. This has particularly impacted the poor, as well as some immigrant communities.
At a more personal level, reports of recruiters regularly violating ethics codes in order to get more people to enlist have popped up numerous times over the years. The biggest recent example came in 2005 during the height of the Iraq War, when numerous outlets including CBS News and the New York Times ran exposees on recruiters blatantly lying to students when discussing their chances of being deployed into combat zones.
At the intersection between downplaying the risks of service and focusing on at-risk individuals is the military’s active efforts in and around video games.
This has taken many forms over the years, with the most notable being the development by the Army of 2002 first-person shooter America’s Army. More recently, esports organizations and tournament organizers have seen the military become regular sponsors. This includes Cloud9 being sponsored by the US Air Force and ESL being sponsored by both the US Air Force and Navy.