An Engineering officer from RAF Wittering has founded an association for video gamers and Esports enthusiasts, called the Royal Air Force Video Gaming & Esports Association (RAF VGEA).
Everyone in the Royal Air Force who enjoys video games and Esports can join the RAF VGEA. A conservative estimate places the number of gamers in the RAF at around 9000 and, only a few weeks after launching, more than 500 serving personnel have joined the new association.
The Association’s Chairman and founder, Wing Commander Daniel Penter, is Officer Commanding No 42 Expeditionary Support (ES) Wing. No 42 Wing, a unit comprised of specialist engineering squadrons that support RAF exercises and operations, and recover and repair damaged aircraft.
Wing Commander Penter, who counts World of Warcraft amongst his favourite games, said: “Think of any sport or hobby and you will find an RAF association or club to support it. Gaming can be a solitary pastime and it’s healthy to have a social outlet where gamers can meet up, much like any other sport or interest group.”
There is a distinct advantage to the Royal Air Force in having an association for video games and Esports. Control systems for modern aircraft are designed with the PlayStation generation in mind, and gamers have cyber-skills which make them useful recruits for careers in information & communications systems.
Recent studies have also demonstrated cognitive benefits of computer gaming including an improvement in coordination, problem solving skills, memory, concentration levels, multi-tasking and brain speed; all elements vital to operating not just in an increasingly digital environment.
The RAF VGEA is a co-operative gaming environment, run along strict lines. Behaviour when gaming must meet the standards of the Royal Air Force ethos and the regulations for sports activities.
Wing Commander Penter said: “The RAF VGEA insists on a higher standard of behaviour from its members so that we can ensure our co-operative gaming environment. In 20 years of gaming, I’ve never played with a group this large that’s been so co-operative. Our collegiate and helpful atmosphere feeds into the social interaction we’re trying to build.”
As well as providing a basis for the Royal Air Force to compete in Esports, the Association is assisting individual RAF Stations generate Esports Clubs with LAN rooms to enable team training. The RAF Wittering Esports Club already has 22 members from across the Station, and the RAF VGEA membership now has 1.5 percent of the whole Service.
Anyone wishing to follow the RAF VGEA’s progress can search for RAF VGEA on Twitch and whole-force RAF members wishing to join should check the intranet for their local association representative.
“We clearly all share a love of gaming, but for the RAF it actually goes much deeper,” concluded Wing Commander Penter. “We see the gaming association as a community and welfare benefit for our members. It will draw them out of their bedrooms and into a social space, even if only in a virtual environment, so they form friendships and bonds with other RAF members across the country.”