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The U.S. Army's Return To Twitch Is Off To A Bizarre Start

Illustration for article titled The U.S. Armys Return To Twitch Is Off To A Bizarre Start
Image: Twitch / U.S. Army Esports Team

Today, after recently unbanning viewers who had asked about war crimes (among other things), the U.S. Army is back on Twitch. Now a whole, whole lot of people are asking about war crimes.

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The Army’s return to Twitch after a month-long hiatus began with a different sort of stream than the channel’s standard, game-centric fare. After a brief intro about the purpose of the U.S. Army Esports Team and a speech about how war crimes are “heinous” and are “prosecuted as such,” a member of the team, Chris “Goryn” Jones, sat in front of a camera, locked in a staring contest with Twitch chat. Chat was, by and large, a cascading waterfall of facts about various U.S. war crimes and criticisms of the Army’s Twitch-based recruitment efforts, which Democratic representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez recently tried to introduce a measure to forbid.

Here are just a few of those Twitch chat messages:

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“Do you feel good about using predatory tactics to trick kids into joining the military and throwing away their youth?” read one chat message.

“Fun fact: the US military owns the Lockheed U2, known for its ability to fly 70k feet off the ground, and being one of the most caught spying planes for violating international laws ever,” read another.

“Why can’t you just play WoW now? What are you waiting for? People aren’t going to stop dunking on you lol,” read a third.

And yet, Jones persisted for an hour and 30 minutes before finally switching over to World of Warcraft. In some cases he responded to softball questions about things like his favorite Army installations, his time stationed in Germany, and Army ranks. He also tried to laugh off jokes about his hair. In other cases, he attempted to correct viewers who were criticizing the Army, saying that the Army can’t recruit kids because people have to be at least 17 to enlist. “17 is still a child,” said one person in chat. He went on to say that people should not enlist in the Army because of video games. He also at one point accused messages recounting U.S. war crimes of being “automated.” Some people in chat found this—and the broader implication that chat was just trolling—insulting.

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“Am I a troll or am I someone whose friend since 6 years old died on a hill which was abandoned the next day after writing letters to me about how useless what we’re doing over there is since we aren’t building anything, only destroying?” asked one.

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Kotaku senior reporter. Beats: Twitch, streaming, PC gaming. Writing a book about streamers tentatively titled "STREAMERS" to be published by Atria/Simon & Schuster in the future.

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DISCUSSION

Because it’s the military, they “have” to allow trolls in chat? This isn’t right...especially from most that are too afraid to join and serve their country in any meaningful way. Did this soldier sign up to be berated by you? Nope. Are all soldiers somehow responsible for the actions of the few that break under the immense stress of combat? Definitely not. Is our gaming community actively engaging in bullying? Unfortunately, yes.