By Scott Hughes, Northwest GuardianMay 18, 2012
JOINT BASE LEWIS-MCCHORD, Wash. -- What has been dubbed the first institutional competitive video game match between bases went off without a hitch May 10 at the JBLM Warrior Zone.
The FMWR-sponsored contest was an exhibition with only bragging rights on the line, but it marked an important first step for inter-base online competition. JBLM's Halo shooter team squared off against a team from Fort Riley, Kan., prevailing three rounds to one in a convincing best of five match-up.
More importantly the contest showed Better Opportunities for Single Service Members organizers that seamless online play between bases is indeed possible.
"I'm really pleased with how it went," Bill Strock, Warrior Zone recreation supervisory specialist, said. "We connected, no hiccups, no nothing. All (our) guys are smiles. I think the Fort Riley guys are excited."
There was reason for those smiles. The JBLM Halo team has been practicing every Saturday since they organized on March 29 after the BOSS Team Shooter Competition. The team's dedication finally paid off May 10. The game of choice was "Halo: Reach," the most recent first person shooter from Bungie Studios. The sci-fi themed game requires quick reflexes and a keen eye but the JBLM team said the key to their victory came down to simple allocation of resources.
"We did it by memorizing where the weapons are on the map, that's what we did," Spc. Joel Maisln, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 94th Field Artillery, 17th Fires Brigade, said. "Best weapons, that's what we focused on."
Once the Soldiers had these weapons at hand, winning the fight was just a matter of effective communication between teammates.
"I was a little nervous, missing shots I should have hit but I felt comfortable with the group I have," Spc. Elvis Downs, B Btry., 1-94 FA said. "This is strictly teamwork here. I could go online and just play randomly but that's not really testing your skill. This is team on team; it's intense."
It's this over-the-top action that has fueled the continued growth of competitive gaming across the nation. In April CBS announced partnerships with TwitchTV, a video game broadcasting network, and Major League Gaming, a prominent eSports league, to stream competitive gaming matches online.
Strock said he's felt quite a bit of enthusiasm from other installations about setting up their own teams to challenge JBLM and Fort Riley.
"We have Fort Carson (Colo.) interested," he said. "We've talked to Hawaii. We've gotten a lot of little bites from little installations. We're gonna see how this goes and then we should be able to help them grow too."
On the topic of growth, Strock said he'd like to see JBLM's competitive gaming circle expand. The original JBLM team was split into two, one specializing in Halo and the other in "Call of Duty," a modern military shooter. The "Call of Duty" team recently disbanded because half of the Soldiers had to deploy and Strock is eager to get that group up and running again. He also mentioned expanding the competitive teams to include strategy games such as "League of Legends" and possibly other games. He envisioned an "all out blitz" with half a dozen or more teams eventually competing.