Video gaming as healing for veterans

Stephen “Shanghai Six” Machuga, the founder and CEO of Stack Up, joins The American Legion Tango Alpha Lima podcast this week to discuss how his organization combines video gaming and PTSD healing.

Stack Up was founded in 2015 to bring veterans and civilians together through a shared love of video gaming. Machuga, who deployed to Iraq in 2003 with the 2nd Infantry Division, says he “whittled through the seemingly endless 13-month deployment with the help of video games."

After graduating from Purdue University on a ROTC scholarship, Machuga joined the Army. He is a former infantry/military intelligence officer and Airborne Ranger. After leaving the service in 2006, he spent 10 years in Washington, D.C., as a government counter-terrorism analyst.

In 2010, a buddy who was deployed in Afghanistan asked Machuga to help him get an Xbox. “The response back was huge. It was overwhelming. There were pallets of stuff sent to us.”

That’s a good thing, Machuga recalls, since requests for video games flooded in after the first delivery. “That’s how it all got started.”

Now Stack Up funds trips for veterans to major video gaming events. They also coordinate volunteer efforts. Last but not least is the Overwatch Program.

“It’s peer-based counseling for veterans who are struggling,” said Machuga, a member of American Legion Post 283 in Pacific Palisades, Calif. “We’re taking a crack at the 22 a day number. We’re throwing everything we can at the whole veteran mental health conversation through gaming and e-culture.” 

Another recent podcast episode also focused on video gaming and the military. In case you missed it, check out this episode featuring Sgt. Erin Rich, the Air Force Gaming Community Esports Operations Manager. She talks about the gaming community initiative that brings Airmen and Guardians of all ages, ranks and backgrounds together for camaraderie and competition.

Both episodes are among the nearly 100 Tango Alpha Lima podcasts that are available at this web page. You can also download them on iTunes, Spotify, Stitcher or other major podcast-hosting sites. You can also view all of the episodes on the Legion’s YouTube channel.