By Ms. Brittany Nelson (IMCOM)October 19, 2018
FORT SAM HOUSTON (Oct 19, 2018) -- The U.S. Army completed its first esports tournament playing Street Fighter V at PAX West, Seattle, Washington. Staff Sgt. Eric Mack won first place and took home a two-night stay at the Mandalay Bay MGM resort, the Street Fighter V game, an exclusive Army Entertainment Esports jersey, a tournament coin and a $250 gift card.
The esports tournament consisted of eight preliminary matches at garrisons across the world, four of which were live streamed on Twitch.
Mack won the preliminaries at Joint Base Lewis McChord and has been gaming since 2010. He learned about the Army's tournament while watching another stream on Twitch. As soon as he heard about it, he knew he had to enter.
"The tournament at my garrison had tough competition. Some players spar with professionals, and the pool was made of 64 players," Mack said.
Refugio Orozco, USAG Alaska marketing director, created the tournament after the idea sparked a few years ago.
"In 2015, when I worked for Family Morale Welfare and Recreation marketing, we had a sponsorship with Xbox to have giveaways for Soldiers. I felt if we added a competitive element the Soldiers would connect better," Orozco said.
The final tournament at PAX West, an annual gaming convention, opened the doors to numerous connections for Soldiers.
"PAX West was pretty much awesome. I met a lot of good people there and well-known faces in the fighting game community. I met people from Microsoft, Sony, Capcom, Nintendo, The Behemoth, and Bandai Namco. The vice president of Bandai Namco even gave us a tour," said third-place winner Sgt. Kalyntae Williams.
Esports was a way to connect Soldiers, Orozco said.
"Army MWR provides comfortable environments for a lot of different ambitions and recreational activities. We also do that with rec centers but we've never had an open tournament for Soldiers to connect to. I felt like we were missing an area for connection to the Soldiers. Esports filled that gap; it connected gamers and Soldiers to each other," Orozco said.
Esports also benefits Soldiers when it comes to their Army duties.
"Video games require quick reaction and decision making; using what tools you have when you are put in certain situations. You have to know how the game works. Compared to my job, you cannot make any mistakes, and you have to be quick with fire missions and have attention to detail," Williams said.
Mack also uses video games to help him through the Army and his everyday life.
"Video games help build on mental toughness by being in stressful situations in competition. It has helped me personally become more resilient. I overcame a depressing situation for my family and me with the support of the fighting game community," Mack said.
The final tournament was a double-elimination round, like preliminaries. All of the tournaments were commentated by Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Jones, a military police officer stationed at the Hammond, Louisiana, Station Commander for the United States Army Recruiting Command. At the finals, Jones was accompanied by professional esports commentators.
The Army plans to host more esports tournaments in the future.
"This is just the beginning. The Army is leading the way in esports for the Armed Forces. This is the first of many esports initiatives. There are so many titles they are into, we can go in so many directions. This is relevant to Soldiers so we are going to continue in the future," Orozco said.