“Pretty much a dream come true” – interview with Air Force Gaming founder

Air Force Gaming CODE bowl

This weekend we got to sit down with the founder of the newest esports organisation to come out of the US military. Capt. Oliver Parsons created Air Force Gaming as a grassroots effort on Discord, but it quickly grew into the official esports community for the US Air Force and the newly minter Space Force.

They are going to be taking part in the upcoming Call of Duty C.O.D.E Bowl, a charity esports tournament that pits all eight branches of the US and UK militaries against one another to benefit veterans.

We spoke to Capt. Parsons about his history with esports, how he started the new esports organisation, and his plans for the future.

How did you get into gaming and esports?

I’ve been gaming since I was in elementary school. I grew up playing a whole lot of Halo and Halo 2. I was ranked pretty high, but my parents wouldn’t let me play in the MLG., so that was a bummer.

How did you get the idea to start Air Force Gaming?

I went to Oklahoma State and got my Airforce commission out of there and I was stationed out of North Dakota, a very cold place where it’s pretty much below freezing 9 to 10 months of the year. My wife and I ended up being there for 6 whole years and I kinda dropped off playing videogames for a couple of years.

I started developing seasonal affective disorder because it was dark pretty often and we were stuck inside. So, I started to rely on videogames at that point to be an escape. It ended up pushing me and my wife further apart, what helped with that was playing videogames together and meeting people online. We really saw the benefits of community and not isolating yourself.

When we finally moved out of North Dakota to California the church I went to said, “Hey, we want to start doing this Twitch thing”. So, back in 2018 I said, “Oh yeah, I really like this Twitch thing, let me see what I can do”.

I ended up heading to Facebook marketplace and getting a camera, a mic, and all that. So, I helped build up their program and started to create my own brand, Olipoppinit, and I really enjoyed streaming and having my own community. It was even fun having those random trolls show up to mess with you and then turning it around and messing with them back.

So, while I was diving into that, the Army had started their own esports program. So, I thought, what I’m doing with my church currently, we could build something for the Air Force that was community-driven, resiliency focused, and by Airmen for Airmen. So, a group of us were just like, “Hey, let’s do it.” So, we dove into it in 2019.

Did you have any roadblocks or opposition when you were starting the organisation?

Oh man, I learned how to be resilient, I built up strength against adversity that’s for sure. The term “Boomer” became very relevant very quickly. It’s even still something that we are working on now. You know? People saying things like eGaming, or spelling esports weird, or just thinking of gaming as something totally different. It’s still a battle but it’s been very interesting.

It has been really cool having some of these senior leaders … they may not understand it, but they want to. They did in deep, asking a lot of really good questions. They want to do what’s right for the millennials and generation Z, especially with COVID-19 still going on to be able to connect with them in a digital way.

The eight branches of the US and UK military are preparing for the upcoming Call of Duty C.O.D.E Bowl, are you looking forward to it?

Oh! I’m so excited. It’s pretty much a dream come true. It’s something that me and the core Air Force Gaming founder team really wanted to put together back in June or July. So, we made awesome connections with all the different branches, at least the US ones, and when Activision Blizzard came to us, we were like, “Hey, we’ve got all these great connections let’s bring everyone in.” So, they were able to get the three UK branches.

It’s super historic, because not only are the Air Force and Marines going to have their first esports teams, but the Space Force is going to have their first team ever.

Do you have any ideas or plans for the future?

We have some really cool things planned for our deployed members over the holidays. On Christmas and New Year’s, we’re going to be having two pop up tournaments for deployed members in the Middle East. So, it’s going to be at a time that is not very conducive for the US, but it works for them so that they can connect with friends and family back home. Right now, that’s the thing I’m most excited about in the short term.

Rolling into January 4th we’re going to be starting registration for our Air Force Gaming League which is a really awesome program that without the help of Rally Cry would never have been possible.

We have 80 different bases, and each base will have its own internal league, once each league is complete, they will have their base winners. Each base winner will then play at one of eight Major Commands. They will face off in games of Rocket League, Call of Duty, and League of Legends.

The winners of the eight Major Commands and Space Force will compete to find the top Department of Air Force winner. That will cover the first semester of 2021.

Do you have any plans to enter your teams into any major tournaments?

Call of Duty CODE Bowl

Yeah, the possibilities are endless. We are different than the other branches because we are the entire hub for both the Air Force and the Space Force. We are doing morale, wellness, and recreation stuff as well as community stuff and the professional scene.

With doing all that together, I have very ambitious goals, but depending on how quickly things move, who knows? We played in the Mutineers “Release the Kraken” a few weeks ago and that was incredible and I’m sure more opportunities like that will pop up.

Besides Air Force Gaming, are you a fan of any other esports teams?

100Thieves and Envy gaming.

Who do you think is going to come out on top at the C.O.D.E Bowl?

I have a real good feeling for the Air Force Team.

The team is in a very unique position because one of our players is actually a big-time Call of Duty: Warzone player, Iceman Isaac, he’s a pilot. So, we were able to snag him and there are three airmen that are only in the Air Force three years. A couple of them are under 21 and it’s really cool to see them play together.

But what would be the biggest underdog story that would just blow my mind would be the Space Force. That would be a true underdog story and they have been practicing like nobody’s business.

The Call of Duty C.O.D.E Bowl is starting on December 11th and will feature all eight branches of the US and UK military duking it out in a charity tournament to benefit military veterans.

If you want to learn more about Capt. Oliver Parsons and Air Force Gaming, check out the links below.

airforcegaming.com
Facebook.com/AirForceGaming
Twitter.com/airforcegaming
Youtube.com/airforcegaming

Andrew Boggs

About

Andrew is a Northern Ireland based journalist with a passion for video games. His latest hobby is watching people speedrun Super Mario 64 and realising how bad he is at platformers.

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