The U.S. Army never loses.
But just in case you’d like to test that theory, your chance is coming this weekend at Salt Lake Gaming Con.
Billing itself as the sixth-largest independent gaming convention in the country, SLGC is an “all-in-one convention for gamers, geeks, and pop culture fanatics.” And this year — among the video games, card games, table-top games, celebrity panels, vendor booths and more — the event is giving Utahns a first look at the military’s newest “fighting” weapon, the AS10.
The AS10 is an immense tractor-trailer, only recently completed, equipped with the latest technology for video gaming. And the Utah convention will mark the AS10’s debut.
Basically, it’s an esports arena equipped with eight state-of-the-art “scorpion gaming pods,” featuring adjustable floating screens and multiple gaming system options — including PC, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo Switch.
The big rig also has big-screen monitors on the outside of the trailer, allowing spectators to watch the action as civilians challenge Army players to the video game of their choice. And throughout the three days of Salt Lake Gaming Con in the Salt Palace Convention Center, members of the new U.S. Army ESports team will be on hand to take on all challengers.
Although rumor has it that the occasional challenger will beat a member of the U.S. Army’s video-gaming team every so often, Staff Sgt. David Camacho good-naturedly insists it simply doesn’t happen.
“We do not ever lose,” said Camacho, the multimedia director for the Army program.
Camacho, who hails from Puerto Rico, became involved with the Army’s esports team the same way his fellow soldiers did — he saw a notice for it on the Army’s Facebook page.
“I got excited, I’m an avid gamer,” he said.
So Camacho started playing on gaming servers with other soldiers as well as civilians. He basically got schooled.
“I ended up realizing I wasn’t that good,” he said of the esports team. “And these guys are good, talented players.”
But when Camacho heard about an opening for a graphic designer with the program, he saw another opportunity to be involved with the newly formed esports team.
“I found a way I could contribute to the program,” he said. “I’m not as good as everybody else, but my talent is in graphic design.”
The Army’s esports team has only been in existence since last September and currently features 16 members based at Fort Knox, Kentucky.
So, what’s the Army doing playing video games? It’s part of a recruiting program to connect and engage with young adults through gaming. Camacho said they’re using esports to bridge the gap between the Army and the general public.
“People feel there’s a divide, and that they can’t connect with the military in many ways,” he said. “This takes a more modern approach to engaging with the public.”
The Army team plays about 40 different video games, according to Camacho, and each player has their own specialties.
“Everyone will tell you their game is ‘the’ game,” he said. “And it’s mostly what’s hot now — games like ‘Apex Legends’ or ‘Fortnite.’”
It’s not all fun and gaming for the members of the Army’s esports team, according to Camacho. In addition to keeping up on their gaming skills, they also act as liaisons to recruiters and look for ways to tell the Army’s story. Plus, Camacho says, they also need to keep up on their “basic soldiering skills.”
But Camacho says members of the esports team show that they can serve in the military and still hold on to the passions they have in their time off.
Camacho said team members have gotten to do a few test runs in the new trailer, and it’s been quite the hit.
“They’ve had tons of fun in the trailer,” Camacho said of his team. “We almost had to pry them away from the gaming stations.”
Camacho says he could also see the day when, like the traditional Army-Navy football game, the two branches of the military face off in esports gaming competitions.
“I can’t speak for what the Navy is doing, but I think, ideally, my opinion is where this is all going,” Camacho said. “I could see a yearly competition between the Army and Navy, and having that rivalry. It would definitely build esprit de corps for the military.”