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It’s not just Twitch: The military has a history of using video games to reach young people

Remember America’s Army?

An open laptop, a cellphone displaying the Twitch icon, and a set of over-ear headphones all sitting on a table top.
The US military is using Twitch to reach young people.
Phil Barker/Future Publishing via Getty Images

The US military is trying to get people interested in enlisting with the help of Twitch, a highly popular video game streaming platform — so civilian gamers are now using government-moderated chat rooms as an opportunity to troll the military.

“They would ask about Eddie Gallagher, the Navy SEAL that was turned in by his fellow Navy SEALs for alleged war crimes, and that Trump later pardoned — just kind of asking really unpleasant questions about the military,” said Matthew Gault, a contributing editor at Vice’s Motherboard who has reported on the trolling and spoken about it on an episode of the Reset podcast.

In response, the military banned users from its chat rooms, a move that’s been called out as an act of government censorship. “That’s yet to be adjudicated in a court of law,” Gault said.

Others are taking note of these Twitch streams, too — and taking action. In July, US Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a known gamer, proposed an amendment to a House appropriations bill that would have permanently prevented the military from spending part of its budget on Twitch.

Through Twitch, “Children as young as 13 and oftentimes as young as 12 are targeted for recruitment forms that can be filled online,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a speech on the House floor. Despite failing in the House, the amendment garnered more votes than expected, Gault said.

But here’s the thing: This isn’t new for the military. The Army developed its own game, America’s Army, to improve the military’s image in the early 2000s. We cover that and more in the final episode of Reset, published today. Take a listen:

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