By: Chad Christian (TapRackBang)
The Stacks program is one of the main pillars of our organization. To quote the Stacks page on our site, “The Stacks unite Veterans and civilians to host a variety of events, from group game nights to community betterment projects, to bring about positive change in the places in which they live.” Video games are a great way to connect with and support people around the globe, and they can also be a great way to get some alone time to decompress from the crazy world in which we live. I know firsthand, though, that this isolation can be taken too far. When a veteran is already feeling alone in a society that hasn’t shared similar experiences, it’s all too easy to build a brick wall around your game haven and hermit away from everyone else.
I did my four years in the Marine Corps infantry back in ‘07-’11. I’m not too sure what the Corps looks like now, but when I was in, there was simply no room for weakness. I still see the merit in that; it helped a scrawny, 155lb kid push through things he never thought he could. Maybe it’s not the healthiest thing, but if you’re going to be the best in the world, your feelings are going to have to take a back seat, and mental health is one of the sacrifices most of us end up paying. I can’t really say I struggled specifically as a nerd in the Marines; they’ll make fun of you for literally anything anyways, so you might as well like what you like. It was just a different way of life altogether. If you’re a veteran, I’m sure you can relate - we’re indoctrinated to fully believe that we can handle literally everything in our way. So when I did finally get out, it was drastically obvious that I couldn’t treat folks at home the way I did my brothers in my company. Our method of problem-solving was: F*** YOU! F*** YOU TOO! Cool, let’s grab a beer. - and that was that. That isn’t what most civilians consider “conflict resolution” - at least not in my circles.
So over the 7 years following my EAS, I slowly slid into my own form of isolation, becoming very cynical and critical of everything and everyone else. Video games were about the only thing I could enjoy. I tried streaming for a while and made some lasting friends I now consider family, but before long, even that environment began to wear on me. During my time on Twitch, I was introduced to Stack Up, and in 2018 our little crew put together a Memorial Day streamathon. I learned about the Stacks, immediately saw the merit in it, and volunteered to run what is now the Dayton Stack. It wasn’t all fun and games off the rip, though, as I still hadn’t addressed my issues relating to society - here’s my plug for the StOP Squad: when I hit rock bottom, they were the only people I felt comfortable spilling my rotten guts to. They pointed me down the right path to get help, and I have since drastically improved. It’s still a slow, steady incline, but I can at least breathe fresh air.
“Cool story, bro, but what does that have to do with the Stacks?” I’ll get to the point. I could pretty much care less about nature hikes or fantasy sportsball leagues or 10k moto runs. I love to game. Sometimes the world just...sucks...SO BAD...but in games, it’s not the same world. If there’s a struggle, you’re there to do something about it, and you’re typically empowered to do so. I’m not saying that can’t hit home for those that haven’t served because life isn’t easy for anyone. But the Stacks have given my neighbors and me a chance to be around others who have felt the same type of weight and the way games can lift that weight. And of course, when someone kicks your ass in a match of Magic: The Gathering, you can share a F*** YOU! F*** YOU TOO! Cool, let’s grab a beer.
If you’re a veteran in the Dayton, Ohio area and enjoy games, you’re always welcome to hang out with us at our events and game nights. You don’t have to be a hardcore gamer to participate, and we don’t limit our group solely to veterans. All we ask is that you be sympathetic to our cause and support those who have served. That also can go a very long way. We aim to hold monthly events and hangouts; if you’d like to keep up with us here in Dayton, our Facebook page is a good place to start. If you’re not in our area, check out our website and see if there is a Stack near you!