America’s Army is Shutting Down After 20 Years

America’s Army: Proving Grounds, the video game used as a recruitment tool for the United States military, will shut down on March 5 after more than 20 years on various platforms. As first reported by Vice, It will be delisted from Steam and PSN, and online matches will cease to be hosted. Offline and private matches will still be available.

America’s Army is a first-person shooter released in 2002 and developed and published by the U.S. Army. The game was explicitly designed to encourage American citizens to join the United States military, and represented the United States’ government’s first major use of video games as a recruitment tool, as well as being a free-to-play game long before such a term became standard practice in the video game industry.

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America’s Army released in three major iterations throughout the years, updating content and gameplay for an audience of 20 million players. Proving Ground was the latest version, released in 2013.

“The free-to-play America’s Army PC Game represented the first large-scale use of game technology by the U.S. government as a platform for strategic communication and recruitment, and the first use of game technology in support of U.S. Army recruiting,” a forum post announcing the shutdown said. “Three mainline titles and more than 20 million AA players later, the series’ original purpose continued. There have been over 30 million objectives completed, 180 million successful missions accomplished, 250 million teammates assisted, and many more in-game achievements attained in AA:PG alone.”

The America’s Army team said it will “shift our focus to other new and innovative ways to assist the Army with comms and recruitment,” and promised “future announcements” for the series, suggesting it will return in some fashion.

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Released in a time when support for the United States military was at an all-time high in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, America’s Army quickly became a popular attraction, reaching nine million total players by 2007. As a first-person shooter, it resembled Counter-Strike or Rainbow Six’s militaristic themes, but also included mechanics that reflected the real-world.

Its status as a recruitment tool made it controversial, particularly among those who opposed the Iraq War. It was a common sight at game events in the early-to-mid 2000s, with recruitment officers on hand to demo it for interested players. In 2007, Iraq War veterans protested an America’s Army showing while chanting, “War is not a game.”

Twenty years after release, public support for the military is actually waning, according to a 2021 survey by the Ronald Reagan Institute. In the years since America’s Army: Proving Ground has launched, the military has found new, often controversial ways to recruit young adults and engender a familiarity with the military from a young age, such as Twitch streams and official esports teams.

Joseph Knoop is a writer/producer for IGN.

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