2020 was the inaugural year of the USO's 24-hour Streamathon. Service members and celebrities streamed games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare, Escape from Tarkov and Apex Legends. For 2021, the USO is tripling down on the streamathon.
Recognizing the importance of esports and the digital community for the next generation of troops, the USO is pivoting into the world of gaming. As such, the 2021 Operation Play It Forward Streamathon will run for a whole 72 hours straight. It will stream on the USO's Twitch channel beginning Veterans Day, November 11 at noon ET and conclude on November 14 at noon ET. The Streamathon will feature celebrities, top gamers, influencers, athletes and more including Pittsburgh Steelers' JuJu Smith-Schuster, The Chainsmokers' Drew Taggart, celebrity gamer Tfue, Linkin Park's Mike Shinoda and New York Mets' Trevor May.
While video games have long been a favorite pastime for service members, the evolution of digital platforms like Twitch and Discord have given them new purpose. Troops in the barracks can more easily connect with their peers overseas and interact in a virtual community that provides stress relief and support. The military has taken note of this and established esports teams and dedicated gaming servers within the services.
The USO is also expanding their services to place a greater emphasis on gaming. "Through the support of our partners and the gaming community, the USO is building a first-in-class gaming program that provides our military community opportunities for stress relief, entertainment and connection," Christopher Plamp, USO senior vice president of operations, programs and entertainment said in a press release. "Video games can connect service members with their loved ones, civilians, veterans and the broader community of gamers. We invite all members of the military community and military supporters to connect with us during an exciting 72-hours playing some of the hottest video games on the market with celebrities and fellow gamers."
The 72-hour streamathon will include a Battle of the Branches presented by Geico Military on November 13 from 3-7 p.m. ET. Service members will team up with top gamers and go head to head in Call of Duty to determine which branch is best (at least, at the game). Leading up to the streamathon, the USO and Beats Electronics will also auction off one-of-a-kind autographed Beats products. Proceeds from the auction will benefit military service members and their families.
The USO has been serving troops and their families since 1941. With this Streamathon, the organization shows that it is invested in their morale and welfare going into the next generation. You can join Operation Play It Forward on the USO's Twitch channel and on social media using #playitforward.