This 'nerdy' Special Forces soldier is getting paid to play 'Call of Duty' in the US Army
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua David
Courtesy of Joshua David / US Army
Sgt. 1st Class Joshua David, a Green Beret, is paid by the U.S. Army for playing video games.
David and the other army esports players stream about five hours a day, but still maintain the military standards of service.
This is what his day looks like and how recruits can also become members of the Army Esport League.
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U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua David, a Green Beret, can speak two Arabic dialects and deal with a Special Forces attack dog.
But David doesn't do melee training for the army on his regular job - instead, he plays video games for hours as a member of the army esports team.
David, an active soldier, is paid by the federal government for playing video games.
The 30-year-old native of Oklahoma started video games with titles like "Perfect Dark" and "GoldenEye" during the Nintendo 64 era and finally made his way to the Halo series after the launch of the Xbox.
"When Xbox came out with Halo: Combat Evolved, I was pretty obsessed," said David. "When 'Halo 2' came out, I followed it."
The third title in the Halo series finally tempered his expectations and set him on the road to public service.
"When Halo 3 came out, I thought I wouldn't be good in the Halo series anymore," said David. "And that was exactly when I joined the army. They could be connected."
"There's probably a good relationship there," joked David. "Maybe I'm not good at school because I've played too much halo."
Xbox 360's legendary "Red Ring of Death" bug.
Flickr user 'Brenderous'
David, who "knew nothing about the military", joined the army in 2008 as an infantryman.
"I didn't even know what a ranger was," he said, referring to the title he got from graduating from one of the Army's light infantry schools. "I was offered basic training and I said, 'Sure.'"
After a few years in a ranger regiment and two missions in Afghanistan, David tried the Army Special Forces selection process and then made his way to the 5th Special Forces Group. Four missions later, he volunteered as part of the Army's latest initiative with the esport community and started streaming video games full-time.
Similar to the selection of special units, the army had to filter thousands of applicants for its esport team - a total of around 6,500.
Not all of his colleagues in the Special Forces community were on board during his career move, while others gave a friendly shadow: "He did the 'Call of Duty' thing in real life and now he's doing it in a video game," recalled himself David.
"When I was offered to do it full time ... it was probably about 70 to 30 for what I was doing," said David. "People my age and younger are really open and they understand what was going on."
US Army Ranger candidates complete an exercise in the first phase of training.
U.S. Army photo
"Some of the older people weren't so happy," he added. "You know, they don't really understand how many people actually play and watch video games, but once you show them statistics, they really open up."
Esports and game streaming have exploded in recent years. Business Insider Intelligence estimates that Esport viewership will grow from 454 million to 646 million from 924% in 2019, with an average annual growth rate (CAGR) of 9%, and that the audience will almost double from 2017.
A separate study by the consultancy firm Activate shows that the number of American esport viewers will surpass the audience of all other professional athletes based in the USA with the exception of the NFL by next year.
David's transition from using real weapons to in-game firing was not too difficult, and he says there was no overlap with his military training. But there were other social obstacles that he had to overcome to fit into his new community.
"For me, a bit older than most people ... around 8-10 years old, I would say the hardest thing for me is that I had to learn the terminology," said David. "There are so many words these days that I have no idea what they're saying."
U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Joshua David
Courtesy of Joshua David / US Army
David's day begins like any other soldier in the active service of the army: physical training (PT) in the morning and a weekday for administrative tasks.
"Like a normal unit, we have PT every morning, usually around 6:30 a.m. Then we have breakfast, shower, put on your uniform," David said. "Usually we are back at work at 9:00 am. From there, we either practice our game and create content for YouTube or another social media platform."
The Esport League is part of the Army's broader marketing and engagement brigade in Fort Knox, Kentucky, which also hosts other military marketing teams, such as the Golden Knight Parachuting Team.
"The cool thing about the Esport team is that we are right next to the Army Crossfit and Strongman team, so we have a unique opportunity to choose training for ourselves," said David. "So now we have all these nerdy soldiers because they play so many video games."
David and the other army esports players stream to the public for about five hours a day, then select highlights for uploading to platforms like Twitch.
"When you play ... it is really difficult to detach yourself and then sit back and try to cut and create content when you want to build multiple platforms," he said. "There really isn't enough time a day to do everything, so you have to try to manage that time."
A U.S. Marine Corps recruit receives verbal instructions from a drilling instructor.
via the U.S. Marine Corps
"I want to register as a player"
As a community outreach program and recruitment tool, David and other members of the Army Esport League are bombarded with questions from potential recruits. Through their conversations, the Esport team found that there were misconceptions about what they were doing and how to become a member.
"I would say the biggest misunderstanding about our program is that you can't go to the army to be a 'video game player'," said David. "It's not an army job where you can just come off the street and say, 'Hey, I want to sign up as a player. Let's do that.'"
"You are still an infantryman, you are still a medic, you are still something," added David. "You can try out as an extra-curricular activity and maybe form the e-sports team."
Since the army and any other military branch do not offer it as a professional specialty, recruits cannot enter the Esport League at the beginning of their military careers. Once they become a soldier, they can apply to become a member out of school and hopefully become a full-time streamer or competitive player on the team.
"It's almost every day - the younger boys, 16-17, say, 'I want to do what you do,'" said David. "But then they somehow want to do everything I do and they don't want to put in a lot of work. To be a green beret at all, it's two school years."
"But I'm actually getting a lot of interest in it," added David. "Guys actually talk to me about wanting to play and ... maybe they want to try special forces or become rangers."
United States Army
Soldiers of the Esport League must also adhere to certain rules, e.g. For example, they may not be able to obtain subscriptions from the Army's official Twitch account and keep their profanity to a minimum.
"I've had quite a mouth in the last 12 years of my life," said David. "When we stream to the army channels, we're definitely trying to be family-friendly because you never know who's coming in and watching you."
"We are usually very good in our language," added David. "I mean, every now and then we slip, followed by a quick apology. Especially when we're in the heat of the moment in a call of duty match, we sometimes slip."
As soon as a soldier becomes a member of the esports team, he is assigned this role for the next three years. Soldiers must comply with the army's requirements, including compliance with their physical standards.
"If you are in any negative position in the military or cannot pass your PT test, you cannot even try it," said David. "Soldier first, player second."
"You just have to remember: yes, you are a player, but at the same time a soldier who represents the US Army," added David. "A lot of players are pretty toxic these days, especially in the" Call of Duty "world. They may be the best player ... but if you can't portray the army in a positive light we can't really do anything with you."
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