The US Air Force has launched its own e-sports tournament with the official debut of Air Force Gaming on November 11.
The pilot season will see gamers compete in Call of Duty: Black Ops – Cold War, League of Legends, and Rocket League with more games planned for the global rollout.
Initially, teams at eight Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC) bases are competing in the pilot program to crown the gaming champions of the command. However, there are plans to expand the Air Force Gaming League to all Air and Space Force installations in January, 2021.
For the pilot, AFGSC teams formed to compete with each base hosting playoffs and base championships before the final major command championship.
More than 80% of airmen ages 18 to 35 identify as “gamers,” and play between four and 10 hours per week, said Col. Marc Adair, AFSC director of operations. This community creates a fun outlet for airmen and space professionals stuck at home during the global COVID-19 pandemic.
“Air Force Gaming’s mission is to create an inclusive gaming organization for airmen of all ages, ranks and backgrounds,” Adair said. “We are confident that by establishing a unified hub for community and competition, Air Force Gaming can help promote resiliency, retention, teamwork and mental well-being for service members around the world.”
The pilot season is set up with AFGSC as base locations within the command are in isolated areas where remote play may have its challenges. This will provide much needed feedback on how successful the program will be and if there any limitations to hinder the enterprise launch.
During the first ever “All-Air Force” and “All-Space Force” Call of Duty E-sports Team qualifiers on November 14, more than 600 airmen formed 200 teams to compete in the tournament. The tournament winners will represent the Air Force and Space Force at a Call of Duty: Black Ops-Cold War event at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado, Dec. 11.
The gaming program started as a grassroots effort on Discord, a voice, video and text communication platform run by a small group of Airmen who shared a love for video games. Capt. Oliver Parsons, a Force Support squadron officer who is credited as being the Air Force Gaming creator, implemented the program globally based on the adoption and enthusiasm from participating players. AFSVC then initiated the gaming concept from a small group of Airmen who showed a love for games and the Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, e-sport Spark Tank initiative that took place in January. As these efforts evolved, AFSVC sought to deliver gaming to the field.
“We are intentionally starting small with Air Force Gaming, but have big goals,” Parsons said. “By organizing this pilot season, we will ensure that all coordination is in place to scale the program globally and make Air Force Gaming a unifying community available to all airmen and space professionals.”
Parsons said he collaborated with Rally Cry, a tech company specializing in developing e-sports infrastructures, to create a customized platform for the Air Force. The unified hub was able to reach more than 2,000 interested players in less than 48 hours of the experimental launch.