Blesma Members get their Game on at Insomnia
Injured Veterans visit Insomnia Gaming Festival!
In April, Blesma’s newly launched official Esports Team, ‘The Blesma Legends’ got the chance to meet up in person and compete in their debut outing at Birmingham’s legendary Gaming Festival – Insomnia
Many guests of Insomnia Festival’s ‘Bring Your Own Computer’ LAN party (BYOC) bought with them their own computers and consoles, from the latest PlayStations to personalised gaming PCs. While connected to the LAN, the gamers are part of one vast network and could be playing matches against anyone in the room.
Within the BYOC space there are tournaments, rematches and new personal bests happening in their hundreds. Blesma Members Lionel, Jack, Bezza and Alex form a team in Call Of Duty within moments of arrival. Tournaments and matches are organised on the event’s Discord channel, an online message board app.
“The BYOC element of Insomnia is great because it’s a great chance to simply relax and play games and chill with people. There’s competitions as well – it was great when me, Jack, a Member of the RBL and our supporter Halford) came second overall in a Call of Duty Warzone tournament on the second day!” said Dan.
Blesma were far from the only Military organisation in attendance at Insomnia. Sharing a row of Camps with our Members were those who play competitively representing the Royal British Legion and Help for Heroes. There were also huge numbers of serving personnel taking part, with Teams from the REME and the RAF situated just across the desk.
There is more to Insomnia Festival than the BYOC section however. The main Gaming expo hall itself also boasts an impressive range of arenas, with retro games arcades, stalls selling exclusive merchandise, cosplaying stages and more.
Perhaps the most eye-catching stall is that of the British Army. The Army Esports Team brought with it a Challenger Main Battle Tank and a Camo bus to invite the Public into conversation. With the link to popular war games such as Call of Duty unavoidable, it may seem surprising that this game was not all the Army Stand had on offer. The stall had computers set up for what proved to be an exceptionally popular Halo tournament, proving that the military interest in gaming is more than just one note.
With so many service people and Veterans together in one place it was only a matter of time before that competitive Military nature came to the surface! A Veterans charity vs. Serving personnel tournament was quickly organised.
The game? Hado. Hado is the only official Sport to use augmented reality. Unlike most video games, this eSport is played on a real court, and players must move around the court and use their arms to play. The game sees three players on either side firing virtual balls at one another, and raising shields to protect themselves and their team. Players can still see the real world around them, but with specialised visors adding the elements of the game as an overlay to reality.
“It was a great experience and good to get the military organisations together on the court. It would be great to stay in touch with the Hado guys and perhaps extend the opportunity to other Blesma Members and families in Future.” said Dan.
Blesma faced off against the Royal British Legion Team at first, but with a few seasoned Hado players playing for the other side we saw a close defeat. You can watch the match, including the virtual elements seen by the players, on Blesma’s YouTube channel.
Army Esports Interview
We spoke with the newly appointed SO2 Army Esports Tim Harcourt, and the British Army’s Call of Duty manager Lance Corporal Kieran Gertler about what Gaming means to the Army
Hi, How did you guys come to be here today?
Major Tim: It's part of the Army's engagement programme, we come to big events like this to show the public that we're normal people, and we like to have fun as well. The fact that I'm the SO2 shows the British army is taking this quite seriously now. Some people see us as potentially recruiting, but we really don't want it to be seen like that. It’s about having fun with the public showing the human side of things. Meeting people from Blesma and other organisations, it's been a wonderful experience for meeting members of the public that don't have any interest in joining the military. Everyone's got a story, it's been really useful.
What do eSports mean to you?
Lance Corporal Kieran: For me, eSports is about getting people involved. Everyone plays and it doesn't matter if you're big, small, weak or strong, there's a game for everyone. It means competition as well. We have Corps tournaments, where we all play each other, we get veterans involved, civilian Organisations as well. So that that's really interesting.
Esports has a bit of a bad rap within it within the military because it's not it's not a physical sport. But if you look at the nature of competitive games, we can work on tactics, we can work on communications, hand eye coordination skills, reaction times. They're all things that we can take into our day job as well.
Major Tim: A huge advantage of the E part of it being a sport is that it can have such a massive community. The British Army, Discord has got 1000s of people, veterans, people from different corps, service families and civillians on it that want to connect and you just you can't do that with other sports.
Where do you see Gaming in the Army going into the future?
Major Tim: It's only going to get bigger. We will be doing other events around the country around the world, continuing to be ambassadors for the British Army, for the military, and using eSports as a vehicle to connect with other parts of society.
The British army is evolving and it's becoming more intelligent. If you've been following The Future Soldier programmes, you'll know that the military and the army are developing massively in terms of technological capabilities of cyber, everything within eSports is very relevant to that. We need to connect with technologically minded people, with the future generation of the people who will be the future generation of the military as well. If we if we don't do that, then we're just going to stay that old fashioned, traditional, slow moving military and we will be left behind.
Lance Corp Kieran: What I would like to see is us attending some more tournaments, these are massive opportunities for soldiers to get away and represent the army at something else. If you're not a physical sport player, it gives you an opportunity to represent your organisation at something that you love to do.
Major Tim: I think a lot of people have been very impressed and surprised, some of these guys are incredible. We've got some we got some army gamers in the top 100 ranks for Call of Duty and, War Thunder as well. The Army team got to the semi-finals of the League of Legends tournament, beating several pro-Teams along the way and really turning heads.
Alex Harrison Interview
We spoke to Blesma Member Alex Harrison, who when gaming online goes by his, apt if tongue-in-cheek, gamer tag ‘One_Eyed_Harry’.
Can you tell us a bit about your service?
So I joined the Army in 2003 and served with the Grenadier Guards. With them I went to Iraq in 2006 and Afghanistan in 2007. On May 4th 2007, when I was 19 years old we were on a routine patrol in the Kajaki District of Afghanistan. We were ambushed by the Taliban, and I was shot through the head. The Bullet bounced off of my eye socket, which is how I lost my eye.
What has brought you along to this Activity, and how are you finding it so far?
I’ve always been a bit of a gamer, and getting the opportunity to be part of a professional Esports Team like Blesma’s has been my goal for the past few years. As part of the team we meet up online about twice a week to do training sessions, where we just play the game through and work out who is best in what positions. We also do lots of charity competitions and tournaments with other charities.
A gaming festival like this is perfect for bringing the team together. When we do really well, we can look at our neighbours, give each other high fives and just enjoy being in the same room. Because when you're playing online, you can still talk to each other, but it's still not the same as sitting next to the bloke you play with.
What would you say to another Blesma Member thinking of joining the Team?
If you game at home for fun but fancy a little more, it really is only a little more because we’re as chilled as you can get in the gaming world! There’s no stress, so join us online, you could come along to events like this and we mostly just have fun and that classic British military banter.
To join Harry and the rest of the Blesma Legends, get in touch with Emily at email@example.com