Game Skills Give Airman and Soldier a Super Bowl Experience > US Department of Defense > Story

Service members are often rewarded for working hard and winning competitions that showcase their skills. Two US military personnel were recently rewarded for winning a video game contest with the trip of a lifetime – an all-expenses-paid vacation to the Super Bowl.

Video games aren’t just for kids anymore – they haven’t been for a long time – and the more players there are in the US military, the more it’s become a popular way to pass the time, build camaraderie and even to help with recruitment. . The game is increasingly integrated into military morale, welfare and recreation programs. For example, Air Force Gaming is an esports platform that allows its over 15,000 registered users to play in casual community tournaments and in the official Air Force Gaming League department. Earlier this year, the USO opened its first gaming center at Marine Corps Base Quantico, Virginia.

Growing influence of the game

Air Force Master Sgt. Christopher Westcott, 33, of Philadelphia, is the intelligence superintendent for the 305 Air Mobility Wing at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey. The 15-year veteran has been playing for more than two decades and has competed in USO Gaming tournaments throughout his career, including while on deployments.

Army Staff Sgt. Charles Massey, 36, of Atlantic City, New Jersey, serves with the 18th Medical Command at Fort Shafter, Hawaii. The 14-year-old veteran has also been playing for almost two decades and has appeared in several national tournaments – even winning $16,000 in a year and a half.

“Esports has become a big thing, it’s something where people can make money,” Massey said. “People are seeing that it’s more than just a leisure activity.”

Massey and Westcott said the game helped them through tough times in their careers.

“I learned patience playing Madden,” Massey said. “You have to weather the storm and wait for things to unfold before you panic and jump the gun.”

“I’m responsible for about 18 people, and it’s pretty exhausting. I don’t focus on myself very much,” Westcott said of his Air Force job. “[Gaming] helps me get away from the hardships of the military lifestyle for an hour or two every day.”

Both men said their military units have always supported their competitive ambitions, which was great news when in January their playing skills helped them gain experience they won’t soon forget. At the USO-hosted EA Madden Gaming NFL Salute to Service Tournament, the pair won fully paid trips for themselves and a companion to Los Angeles for the 2022 Super Bowl.

“It’s probably one of the best experiences I’ve had since I’ve been there,” Massey said right after the trip. “I’ve been to Israel, Egypt and Guam, but that’s probably the cake.”

The VIP experience

The day before the big game, Massey and Westcott attended the Super Bowl Experience at the Los Angeles Convention Center. In a grand ballroom, there was a Comic-Con-style stage set up for visiting service members to ask players questions, but Massey and Westcott got the VIP treatment. In a back room, they had exclusive access to meetings with players including Tampa Bay Buccaneers superstar tight end Rob Gronkowski, Dallas Cowboys rookie linebacker Micah Parsons and Cardinals wide receiver of Arizona DeAndre Hopkins.

“I gave Gronk my controller to poke,” Westcott joked.

Massey, who is a huge Cowboys fan, asked Parsons to sign his personal gamepad. A big gamer himself, 22-year-old Parsons’ face lit up when he learned the duo were there for winning a Madden gambling tournament. Massey and Westcott said it happened often.

“Even Rob Gronkowski was like, ‘You came here after playing Madden? This is crazy,'” Massey said.

“There were these rich people who owned oil fields and stuff sitting with us in the hotel lobby, and they were like, ‘How did you get tickets?’ And I said, ‘I won a video game.’ Or [my friend] would brag and say, “My buddy won an Xbox tournament.” And they were like, ‘What? I paid thousands of dollars for my ticket, and you came after playing Xbox? “, Westcott said. “It was really funny to tell this story over and over again.

They also got passes to skip the lines at the other convention center autograph booths and to take pictures.

“The Lombardi Trophy line was two and a half hours, and we were in and out in 5 minutes,” Massey said.

On match day, the pair soaked up the moment as best they could through some tailgating and celebrity sightings before settling into their seats to watch what turned into a great match. .

“I couldn’t have asked for a better ending,” Westcott said. “And the halftime show was legit – one of the best I’ve ever seen.”