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The U.S. Army Wanted To Use Call Of Duty, And The Reason Is Shady

After numerous releases, the "Call of Duty" franchise remains popular with casual fans, competitive gamers, and streamers alike. Titles in the series are consistently played on Twitch and are a part of major gaming tournaments. It's not surprising, therefore, that lots of businesses and other organizations have tried to capitalize on this success to advance their own brands. As it turns out, the U.S. Army numbers among the groups that have sought to use "Call of Duty" for their own benefit. The specific reason, however, may be considered shady and inappropriate by some observers.

Army recruiters targeting young people has long been a contentious topic, covered by journalists and academics alike. Tensions rose in the mid-2000s during the Iraq War (via NBC News) and, with the Army struggling to reach recruitment targets recently, it may very well receive renewed attention now. This is also not the first time the U.S. Army has tried to use video games as a recruiting tool. Back in 2002, the Army developed and released a competitive shooter dubbed "America's Army" with the hope of bolstering enlistments. While the game has since shut down (per Vice), it seems the Army still views video games as a means to reach young adults.

U.S. Army sought to increase Gen-Z recruitment through gaming

This week, Vice reported on an attempt by the U.S. Army to establish sponsorship deals with major "Call of Duty" tournaments, events, and streamers as a means to increase Army visibility and popularity among Gen-Z fans. Gen-Z, which includes current high school and college students, represents a group that, as the report noted, military recruiters have had particular trouble attracting. This initiative was specifically intended to overcome this challenge, encouraging young people to consider joining the military.

Unrelated shady behavior seems to have caused the U.S. Army to rethink its initiative. According to Vice, the project stopped in August 2021 after news broke regarding allegations of sexual harassment at "Call of Duty" publisher Activision. While the Army has left the planned deals behind and even responded to Vice with a statement defending its recruitment practices, this may still spur some controversy.

While the project has since been abandoned, documents obtained by Vice indicate that this was not for a lack of effort. Last year, the U.S. Army reached out to Twitch, the "Call of Duty" esports league, and organizers of other related events. It also sought to sponsor popular streamers, including Alex Zedra and Stonemountain64, and had looked beyond "Call of Duty" to pursue deals with the WWE and the new "Halo" TV show.