The Marine Corps Recruiting Youtube channel recently released a two-part video series titled “Marines Challenge Four Elite Gamers” wherein marines invite four internet-gaming personalities, known as Melonie Mac, WhosChaos, StrangRebelGaming, and TheWarOwl, to perform a series of physical challenges with the express purpose of seeing if their gaming prowess can translate into real-world military skill. The first video, focusing on basic exercises, was released on April 12, 2021 with a follow-up video about firearm use and infiltration tactics released May 20 of the same year. The Youtubers featured in the videos have also released their own companion series with each video title referring to the event as “Inside The Battle.”
The videos are filmed and edited in something akin to reality television and involve confessional interviews from the invitees intercut with whatever activity they are performing at the time. The first video of the series shows the Youtubers attempting basic exercises expected to be regularly completed by marines, such as push-ups, pull-ups, and a ten-mile run. Their trainers insist that their somewhat-lacking performance is merely the beginning of a long journey to becoming stronger. The second video mainly consists of a competition between two teams of marines each led by two of the gamers; the teams either defend or attack a mock building using laser-based training rifles. The video series ends with the four Youtubers being told they embodied the work of the marines in their training.
While not discussed in the videos themselves, the purpose of the video series is obviously to advertise marine recruitment to a gaming-interested audience, particularly fans of the four participants. The sound bites used in the videos mainly emphasize how good of a job the gamers are doing with the training, quickly picking up on the use of firearms, leadership skills and battle tactics, while experiencing some difficulty with physical exertion and regretting the lack of “respawn points in real life,” as put by Youtuber TheWarOwl. The message is clear: gaming skills can translate into real life military prowess and other gamers watching with their own video-game expertise might be fit for the marines themselves.
The use of video games as a means of military recruitment is not new, at least in the United States, and has not been without controversy. Last year, the US Army started their own channel on Twitch, a streaming platform for video games, but faced trouble when they banned viewers from live chat who would ask about alleged US war crimes. According to civil rights lawyers like Katie Fallow from the Knight First Amendment Institute, these bans constituted a violation of free speech, and accusations such as these caused the Army to pause their streaming schedule. Before that, the Army even produced a free-to-download, military-simulator video game called America’s Army: Proving Grounds in 2013 that lets players “engage in small unit tactical maneuvers and training that echoes true-to-life Army scenarios” according to the game’s website.