For military members, video games are not just a fun way to unwind during downtime, they can provide much-needed stress relief and are an opportunity to connect with friends and family.
For these reasons, the United Service Organizations (USO) has focused part of its mission on providing military members with opportunities to connect and relax with video games. Many of these games require players to form collaborative relationships with other gamers, during which service members can discuss the challenges of their lives beyond the screen.
Beyond featuring dedicated gaming areas at a growing number of USO centers, the nonprofit hosts gaming events, including the “Operation Play it Forward” Streamathon, which took place over Veterans Day on the USO’s Twitch channel, twitch.tv/theuso. Sponsored by USAA, Pratt and Whitney and GEICO Military, the second annual Streamathon was a 72-hour gaming experience, tripling 2020’s 24-hour event.
Service members from around the world were joined by family, friends and special guests, including USO gaming ambassadors, entertainers and celebrities like Linkin Park’s Mike Shinoda, Pittsburgh Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster and Twitch streamer Tfue. As part of the Streamathon the “Battle of The Branches,” presented by GEICO Military, featured service members teaming up with top gamers to compete in “Call of Duty: Warzone.”
“Members of the military community, military supporters, celebrities and fellow gamers connected with us during an exciting 72 hours of gaming with some of the most popular video games and creators out there right now,” says Callum Fletcher, USO Director of Global Gaming Operations.
In recent years, the emergence of platforms such as Twitch and Discord has allowed service members to connect with their family and friends while deployed or serving in geographically separated locations.
Since the inception of its gaming program, the USO has hosted 90 events featuring USO gaming ambassadors, celebrity engagements and tournaments. In addition, the organization is planning to open more gaming centers in the months to come. With the support of Razer, gaming centers will soon be well-equipped at Marine Corps Base Quantico and Eglin Air Force Base.
To learn more about how the USO gaming program has evolved, visit uso.org/gaming. More information about USO entertainment programs can be found at USO.org/MVP. To join the USO Discord, head over to discord.gg/theuso.
“Gaming provides the military community with opportunities for stress relief and entertainment,” says Fletcher. “And thanks to new technologies, it also provides connection to loved ones, civilians, veterans, and the broader community of gamers.”