Memorial Day weekend gaming tournament connects veterans and troops

From the sound of things, you’d think you had stumbled into a tactical command center with operators yelling orders to boots on the ground. Instead, Cyber City Gaming Center, an unassuming business located in a strip mall in Gardena, Calif., played host to 12 teams from around the country who gathered over Memorial Day weekend for a Halo LAN video game tournament put on by the Veterans Gaming League with support from The Red Cross and American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif.

The force behind this event was Marine Corps veteran Christopher Earl who created an online community known as Regiment Gaming, which consists of active duty personnel and military veterans who are gamers.

Earl connected with the Red Cross and Post 283 to create the tournament.

It was not by chance the tournament was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend. Earl wanted to give an opportunity to veterans who may be secluded to interact with others who have served or are serving. “Memorial Day weekend, for most veterans, is a very sad day,” he explained. “So we put on an event; people come out here instead of being at home by themselves with bad thoughts going through their heads. They’re playing video games, making friends, building connections and building that camaraderie.”

Twelve four-person teams, each with at least one veteran or active military member, competed double-elimination tournament in a best of five series. The game, Halo, is one of the most well known and popular first-person shooter games. It was conducted on a LAN – or local area network – meaning that all competitors were in the same location on one network and in the same place. Cyber City is specifically set up for this type of event with rows of desks equipped with gaming systems grouped in pods.

There are three different scenarios in which the teams compete. The first is called Oddball, where each team gets points for the amount of time they control a ball. The second, Slayer, is essentially a team death match. And the third is Stronghold which is a king-of-the hill style competition.

The tournament was streamed over Regiment Gaming’s channel on Twitch, an online platform designed to share gaming to a viewing audience.

Earl said he appreciates the support provided by Post 283. “The American Legion has been by far one of our top supporters. They’ve helped our members out tremendously with prize pools. We’ve hosted a lot of tournaments and events with them. A lot of our members have been checking out the local posts. And we look forward to continuing the partnership with them.”

Rafael Acevedo goes by the gamer name “Ace_Boog818” and is currently an active-duty 2nd Class Petty Officer in the Navy working in recruiting for the Navy Talent Acquisition Group, Empire State. Also a member of Regiment Gaming, he’s came to play in the Halo tournament in support for his fellow veterans.

Acevedo said he learned about Regiment Gaming through one of his active-duty friends. “Knowing a lot of us military folk, veterans and active duty, we handle a lot of our stress by playing video games to get us through the days,” he said.

Acevedo added that team tryouts are a lot like other sports where those who have talent will stand out and be picked. But what the tryouts also provide is an opportunity to interact and create contacts with others. “Regular sports tryouts you go out, you have fun, and if you’re good you’ll get picked up. That doesn’t necessarily mean if you’re bad you’re not (chosen). That just means, now you have new friends to learn and build from, and maybe get better at the game.”

He encourages anyone who wants to find out more about the activities to look up Regiment Gaming on Twitter or Discord.

Alexia "Purpski37" Purpura served in the Marine Corps from 2017 to 2020 and worked on radar systems for F-18s. She is now the community director for Regiment Gaming, which means she manages the community to make sure the game leads and monitors are doing their jobs. By enforcing the rules and making sure the community is a safe place for everybody, she works to make sure everyone feels welcome and nobody feels left out.

Purpura first met Earl on Twitter when she kept seeing Regiment Gaming popping up on her Twitter feed. She reached out to him and joined. It wasn’t long before she became an administrator, then eventually community director.

Purpura said she prefers first-person shooter games, but the Regiment Gaming community isn’t limited to just that type of game. “I’m specifically a first-person shooter gamer, so anything like Fortnight or Call of Duty, you’ll see my name in it,” she said. “We have people who play Minecraft, Sea of Thieves … Whatever game you play, there is someone else in our community who plays it.”

Purpura prefers Call of Duty because it’s the closest thing to the military that you can get, she said. “The way I look at it is everyone has a brotherhood or sisterhood in the military, and when you get out you lose it. You feel like you have nobody, and there is nothing else you could possibly do to have the same thing. But that’s when the gaming community comes into play because you have other veterans and other active-duty service members who have been through the same stuff that you have been through. So it’s a lot easier to feel at home. And that’s what we want to do. We want other veterans and service members to feel at home and not alone.”

She explained how this community's central communication hub is through an online platform called Discord where gamers can communicate and create groups with others through chat, video or audio.

American Legion Post 283 3rd Vice Commander Andre Andrews said he feels this is a phenomenal opportunity for veterans from across the United States to communicate and bond with each other through technology.

When he and fellow Post 283 member Stephen Machuga heard about Regiment Gaming, they worked together with Earl to coordinate the tournament at Cyber City in Gardena.

“I’m super stoked about being here and being part of something that could be a national program within The American Legion,” Andrews said. “If we had the ability to have these gaming pods at American Legion posts across the United States, it would be a great way for our organization to grow with new young members and bodies getting out of the service.”

Andrews used the opportunity to recruit for The American Legion by interacting with each team and getting the email addresses of participants, many of whom had not heard about The American Legion until the event.

Andrew “Americandad” Ramey, a native of Indianapolis, was brought in to help commentate on the tournament. Although he is not a dad in real life, he did serve in the 101st Airborne Division while in the Army. When he got out of the military in 2015 he went back to school and started playing video games.

Ramey found playing video games to be a good way to stay connected to the people he served with. “When I was in the Army I had a lot of friends, and we would play games and stuff together,” he said. “Got out of the Army … Anybody who's been in the Army knows how it is, you get out and kind of lose connection with some of the people you were in with. Being able to game online you can still connect with those same people. Being able to do that, within that, you begin to grow and start to meet other veterans and stuff like that. For me, it was a good way to stay connected with the people that I served with.

“There are a lot of groups, teams, orgs out there that are very veteran-based, and I feel like there are a lot of people who are veterans or current service members that don’t know that. I have a lot of members who got out, or are still in the military, and they ask me where can I find more people who are in service or out of service and stuff like that? Regiment is one of the many beautiful teams, groups, communities, organizations, whatever you want to call it that are very veteran-based, and that’s really cool.”