ForceCon conference at Port San Antonio combines esports fun with serious military networking

Now the former nuclear operations officer at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland manages the esports programs for all branches of the United States armed forces. And he’s always game to show how video games and technology can connect America’s men and women in uniform with the public.

“What I’m really passionate about when it comes to gaming, esports and the military crossroads is to show that in the military we’re not all robots,” Parsons said. “We have the same emotions. We have the same passion. ”

Parsons is especially excited to see gaming and technology join forces with the military for ForceCon, a first-of-its-kind conference that will combine the serious business of armed forces development with the serious fun of esports, where teams of gamers compete against each other other in big-screen arenas.

Airman Justyn Guthier of Air Force Gaming, the esports team for the United States Air Force, plays at the 2022 Logistics Officers Association Symposium. Air Force Gaming and other military esports teams will play each other at ForceCon in San Antonio.

Air Force Gaming

The event runs May 24 through 29 at Tech Port Center + Arena at Port San Antonio. The public can attend the esports competitions May 28 and 29 for free.

ForceCon’s mission is twofold: increase collaboration between the Department of Defense and tech innovators in academia and the private sector, and showcase the virtual combat skills of the military’s various esports teams, which will duke it out in a first-ever battle royale between all branches of service.

No wonder Parsons feels right at home with what ForceCon has to offer, especially when home is Military City USA.

“I could not pick a better city to do this event in. And especially over Memorial Day weekend, ”Parsons said. “So it’s super-fitting that we are doing it in San Antonio, where essential, brand-new airmen and guardians come here for basic training.”

Parsons compares ForceCon to the air shows that draw thousands to gawk at fighter pilots’ aerial acrobatics. It’s a high-tech display of military resources and talent designed to entertain as well as educate the public.

Attendees wait for the start of an esports match during the Overwatch League “Battle for Texas” tournament at Tech Port Center + Arena on May 6. The venue will host even more esports action later this month for ForceCon, a new military innovation and gaming expo .

Attendees wait for the start of an esports match during the Overwatch League “Battle for Texas” tournament at Tech Port Center + Arena on May 6. The venue will host even more esports action later this month for ForceCon, a new military innovation and gaming expo .

Sergio Flores / Bloomberg

Tech Port Center + Arena is the perfect stage for the high-tech show. The new $ 70 million state-of-the-art venue features a giant 60-by-20 foot LED wall to highlight all sorts of onsite action, in a space that can transform from an open floor plan for conventions to a 3,200-seat venue for concerts and esports competitions.

Earlier this month, Tech Port Center + Arena hosted its first concert with Smashing Pumpkins, followed by its first major esports event, Overwatch League’s “Battle for Texas.” That video game shootout between the Houston Outlaws and Dallas Fuel was the esports league’s first live and in-person event in North America since 2020.

ForceCon kicks off with an invitation-only “collider” conference May 24 and 25, a networking opportunity for select academics, startups and small business advisors and staff from Air Education and Training Command, the Air Force Installation Mission Support Center and AFWERX.

It will showcase various technologies, such as artificial intelligence and robotics and augmented and virtual reality, with some hands-on displays for the public in the days following the collider event.

“How does technology, writ large, ultimately transform our military? I think that’s a thread that pulls through for ForceCon, ”said Will Garrett, Port San Antonio’s vice president of talent and technology development and integration.

Garrett said he’d like to see ForceCon someday become the San Antonio equivalent of DreamHack, the world’s largest gaming festival, or Def Con, the world’s largest hacking and cyber-security conference.

Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach performs with Emo Nite during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April.  Papa Roach will perform at Tech Port Center + Arena May 26 as part of ForceCon, a new military innovation and gaming expo that runs May 24-29.

Jacoby Shaddix of Papa Roach performs with Emo Nite during the 2022 Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in April. Papa Roach will perform at Tech Port Center + Arena May 26 as part of ForceCon, a new military innovation and gaming expo that runs May 24-29.

Theo Wargo, Staff / Getty Images for Coachella

Like Parsons, Garrett also sees the esports portion of ForceCon as an exciting way to open the eyes of children and their parents to the possibilities of academic and career opportunities in gaming.

Speaking of fun and games, ForceCon follows the work half of the convention with live entertainment and lively esports.

ForceCon

When: May 24-29

Where: Tech Port Center + Arena, 3331 General Hudnell Drive

Details: Invitation only May 24-25; free May 28-29 with tickets available at techportcenter.com.


Hard rockers Papa Roach will play an all-ages concert May 26. The cost of general admission tickets starts at $ 45 via the Events & Tickets tab at techportcenter.com.

The games begin the next day, when players representing all military services will fall in for a “Halo: Infinite” cross-branch championship May 28. Teams include Air Force Gaming, Army Esports, Coast Guard Esports, Marine Corps Gaming, Navy Esports and Space Force Gaming.

Gamers from outside the armed forces can get in on their esports action, too. While the military esports teams battle Saturday, gamers can compete in an open-bracket “Halo: Infinite” tournament with a $ 10,000 prize pool. Preliminary competition takes place May 27 and 28 in the Tech Port LAN center; the winner can play a friendly match Sunday against Air Force Gaming.

Also on Sunday, the public can watch military esports players take part in minor league “Fortnite” and “Rocket League” championships.

ForceCon’s Memorial Day weekend esports events are free for spectators, while the “Halo” open tournament costs $ 20 per player at techportarena.com.

As much fun as Parsons has promoting esports in the military, he also sees gaming as a tool for boosting teamwork and retention as well as mental health. He said he turned to video games as a form of escape when he was struggling with depression while stationed in frigid North Dakota. That inspired him to launch Air Force Gaming in 2019, which a year later became the Air Force’s official gaming program and esports team. He launched the esports equivalent for Space Force a year after that in 2021.

Now with ForceCon, all those video-game heroes will be able to level up in San Antonio.

rguzman@express-news.net | Twitter: @reneguz

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