These days, Red Bull is best known for helping Felix Baumgartner to break the sound barrier by jumping from space. But the energy drink maker has a long-standing relationship with extreme sports and traditional athletes. The company was early in seeing the potential of eSports cyber athletes, signing up some of the best players from games like Microsoft’s Halo 4 and Blizzard Entertainment’s StarCraft II.
Back in March, a pair of Halo 4 pro gamers sponsored by Red Bull, Mike “FlameSword” Chaves and Ian “Enable” Wyatt, ventured to Fort Riley, Kansas to play against soldiers and get a feel for the type of real training they go through. Video games are very popular in the military, where there tends to be a lot of “hurry up and wait” downtime both overseas and back home on base. That meant the competition was fierce.
“They definitely readjusted during the game to start working together better because they noticed what kind of play style we had, so they started playing a lot better,” said Chaves. “I think the real life training can be a benefit and a disadvantage at the same time because obviously they can’t die out there when they’re doing all their real training, so you have to avoid getting shot. There might be things that they don’t do in the game because they might be thinking real-life type of situation, where I can’t. I’m not going to go fight a guy throwing a grenade when I have little health and stuff like that.”
Wyatt feels like the soldiers’ real-life shooting is similar to their Halo gameplay because in real life you have to stick together.
“You’ll have one squad leader who will tell everyone else in the squad what to do and that’s how it seemed like they played in Halo,” said Wyatt. “They would have one guy communicating to the whole team and they would all be together like one, so that’s where it was similar.”
In addition to playing the Xbox 360 first-person shooter, the pro gamers were able to experience the same virtual reality training that the soldiers go through. Chaves said it was tough to adjust to real-life simulations, as his first instinct was to run towards the enemies guns blazing – something not taught in the military.