In the competitive world of Counterstrike: Global Offensive, the top players are aided by the best coaches, computers, and support money can buy. The US Army CS:GO team is different. Consisting entirely of in-service personnel, the team relies mostly on talent and grit to succeed. Despite the all-encompassing demands of the United States Army, soldiers have always found time to practice their skills and hone them against the world’s best.
“From the Friday night barracks WoW sessions to the cobbled-together LAN parties on a dusty FOB in Afghanistan; video games have become an integral part of many Soldiers’ lives . US Army eSports is comprised of the best of the best. We aren’t only skilled at games, we are the face of the United States Army in this digital age of global eSports competition.”
With the United States Army’s Recruiting Command greenlighting an eSports program, these long-held gaming traditions are thrust into the limelight. USAREC hopes that the eSports program will be able to reach a new audience that might have been unreceptive to traditional outreach efforts.
In today’s digital age, the eyes of the world’s youth are increasingly affixed to the eSports scene. And they have come of age to begin enlisting.
22 year-old SPC Jacob Alirkar, (JakeAK) , has been playing CounterStrike since he was 9 years old. Back in his rural town of Tooksook Bay, he developed a skill and passion for CS:GO through hours of CounterStrike: Source and CounterStrike 1.6. However, he never considered really going competitive until the year before he enlisted.
These preliminary CS:GO competitive experiences as two seasons in the ESEA and some time with LAN parties in Anchorage. Alirkar admitted cheekily that “we did horrible [in ESEA]. [However, in Anchorage,] we placed 1st and never lost a map.”
During talks with the team members, this became a common theme. mBooMs would borrow the computer at his brother in law’s house while young. “We got a family computer when I was twelve. I started playing CS:S and really enjoyed its simplicity and competitiveness.” This led mBooms to play scrimmages with his friends and enticed him to play competitively.
However, the family computer had its disadvantages. “My parents always hated when I gamed into the night, but as long as I kept my grades up they didn’t mind me playing during reasonable hours.” Of course, this came with a caveat: they took away the router as punishment.
However, others turned down even greater spoils for CS:GO. M-Eight, who came over from Russia, played games at LAN Centers with his cousin. In his own words, he “finished school, turned down hockey scholarship, and joined army in .” M-Eight has no regrets, stating that the Army “is a family-like bonding experience.”
Finally, Stork1e also got his start playing CS1.6 in cyber cafés, eventually falling in love with CS:GO as well. Eventually, he paid for an ESEA membership and never looked back.
All of the CS:GO A team members interviewed are themselves soldiers. Yet the are able to somehow make time to scrimmage and practice. This subjects all of them to the whims of the Army’s administration and relocations. Stork1e cites this lack of continuity as one of the team’s biggest hurdles. “We ran into teams that have been playing together for many seasons and even years.”
Other members also cite time zone differences contributing significantly to the challenge. M-Eight admits “we have 2 players from Alaska, some Central Time Zone players, and a few on the East coast so time zones cause issues for how much time we have together to practice.”
Currently, the team’s record sits at 6-7; they won the first six games, then proceeded to lose the next 7. All of the players are very optimistic about the future, regardless of win/loss ratio. JakeAK cites his time so far as a “great experience. I found a team that I can be consistent and we are working on our team chemistry [and] also with our communication.” For a fresh team that is going up against near-professional level teams, the results have been remarkable. M-Eight looks forward to a time where “we have consistent 5 and are able to practice together past few games have been very promising for the rest of the season.”
The Army team continues on this optimistic note. mBooms notes that the next season should be “a lot better showing, as the program only grows.” And indeed that camaraderie and teamwork that soldiers are known for around the world will be tested as the eSports team continues to develop and grow.
-Written By Templar0451/Michael Su