A new website was recently launched to give active-duty Marines the opportunity to compete in video game tournaments on all-Marine teams.

Marine Corps Gaming is the service branch’s unofficial platform to connect Marines to military esports and to one another, said Capt. Michael Maggitti, who is spearheading what he hopes will become an official esports program within the Corps.

In addition to community building, the website will be used to identify gaming talent for the Dec. 10 Call of Duty Endowment Bowl, an annual tournament pitting the best in Call of Duty service branch teams against one another.

“The C.O.D.E. Bowl is the biggest stage to highlight the community ... in a way that the Marine Corps will understand it,” Maggitti, the emergent technologies officer for Recruiting Command, told Marine Corps Times. “It will open a lot of eyes in a good way.”

In 2021, the tournament will be held aboard the aircraft carrier Intrepid in New York City and will include a Coast Guard team for the first time. In all, nine esports teams from the U.S. and U.K. will be competing.

“It’s inspiring to see the growth of gaming within our military along with the connectedness, resiliency and esprit de corps it drives,” Dan Goldenberg, executive director of the Call of Duty Endowment, said in a press release. “Whether deployed or distant from friends and family, gaming brings people together, and I’m excited for the C.O.D.E. Bowl this year to allow all the US and UK branches to compete against one another for a great cause.”

One arm’s distance

Though Marine Corps Gaming isn’t affiliated with the Marine Corps, the only way Marines can register to play in the C.O.D.E. Bowl on the Marine Corps team is by confirming active-duty status via it’s Discord channel, Maggitti said.

“Marine Corps Recruiting Command is aware of what we’re doing, so we’re kind of in this gray area,” Maggitti said.

This is new territory for the Marine Corps, which has been slow to take the plunge into the rising waters of military esports.

It’s not the first time the Marine Corps has been present at esports events, or even had its members compete against other service branch teams. There just hasn’t been any real indication that the Marine Corps would form an official esports team.

Even in 2020, the Marine Corps only dipped a toe into the second annual C.O.D.E. Bowl.

The Corps’ not-an-esports-team, or “quick reaction force,” was composed of Marines from its recruiting command. No scouting was done in the seemingly rich talent pool of junior Marines who game during their off-time.

Before the 2020 tournament, the Call of Duty Endowment approached all the branches.

Maggitti was told by his leadership, “‘You’re the gaming guy, figure this out,’” he said.

An internal tournament was then opened up to Marine Corps Recruiting, where top talent was tested and its best players put forward, and during the Call of Duty tournament “we did fairly well,” Maggitti said.

“But I knew right out of the gate, we needed to open the aperture because the feedback, while positive, was like ‘I didn’t know about this event’ or ‘Why can’t I play? I’m not a recruiter.’”

Though the fledgling esports program isn’t endorsed by the Marine Corps or tied to its recruiting efforts, Maggitti admitted the C.O.D.E. Bowl and other esports tournaments could benefit the service branch in that regard.

Gaming age gap

“The Marine Corps is getting younger and younger every year,” Maggitti said. “If anyone should have a community of gamers, I would think it’d be the Marine Corps. It blows my mind that we’re almost last to this venture and we should have been the first.”

Much of Maggitti’s job entails educating leadership on how the Marine Corps can use video games and how the games positively affect morale, he said.

“What gaming was when senior leaders grew up is very different than what gaming is now,” Maggitti said. “Part of that is connectedness. What does that do for Marines? What does it do for their mind, their body, their spirit of being able to stay connected?”

Video games have been shown to increase morale among troops in the military, according to a 2015 study. By immersing in video games and connecting with other like-minded players, participants are “removed from the worries of society,” wrote the study’s authors, from Brigham Young and Weber State universities.

The platform’s next test comes Saturday, when it will be used to organize a Call of Duty Warzone “community game night” as a means to prepare its new Marine gamers for the C.O.D.E. Bowl qualifiers on Sept. 25.

“We’ve laid the groundwork for this,” Maggitti said. “At this point it’s just about just getting enough people to continue the momentum.”

Jared is a freelance journalist, a former Marine and a veterans advocate living in Los Angeles.

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