Last Tuesday, in an effort to encourage voting, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, hosted a game of Among Us featuring Representative Ilhan Omar, D-Minnesota, and several prominent Twitch streamers. Over 400,000 viewers tuned in to Ocasio-Cortez’s stream, which made it the third-highest individual stream by viewership in Twitch history.
Among Us, a 2018 release similar in concept to the classic murder mystery game Mafia, has exploded in popularity during the COVID-19 pandemic. Players designated as “crewmates” run around completing tasks and observing other players, while players designated “imposters” attempt to murder the crew without drawing suspicion to themselves.
The game now boasts over 100 million downloads and 60 million active daily players and is especially popular among younger voters, a demographic in which politicians often struggle to reach.
For Ocasio-Cortez, streaming Among Us enabled her to reach those voters on Twitch where the majority of viewers are between the ages of 18 and 34. At one point in the night, after casting her in-game vote a full thirty seconds before the deadline, Ocasio-Cortez quipped: “I voted early. You gotta mail it in weeks before the election.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s gameplay is indicative of a larger effort within the Democratic Party to reach out to voters virtually. With Republicans, continuing door-to-door canvassing in key battleground states like Florida despite the pandemic, Democrats are being forced to seek out non-traditional methods to contact voters.
In mid-October, Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden set up a virtual island outpost in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, another game that has grown in popularity during the pandemic. Biden’s virtual island is filled with Biden-Harris banners, IWillVote.com stickers, and even an avatar of Biden himself.
In sharp contrast, while President Trump has a Twitch account on which his campaign streams rallies and other events, the Trump campaign remains critical of wider efforts to reach voters online.
When contacted for comment on Biden’s Animal Crossing island, Trump campaign deputy national press secretary Samantha Zager told CNN: “This explains everything: Joe Biden thinks he’s campaigning for President of Animal Crossing from his basement. The Trump campaign will continue to spend its resources campaigning in the real world with real Americans.”
Others see online activities such as live streaming as the future of modern politics.
“With so many politicians embracing live streaming, it has become the latest medium of choice to connect with younger audiences,” said Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements, a live streaming tools provider.
While Ocasio-Cortez spent most of the night enjoying herself and interacting with her audience, she also took some time to address a few key Democratic policy points. For example, she discussed transgender rights and universal health care with UK-based streamer Harry “Hbomberguy” Brewis during a break in between games.
She also lamented the lack of renewable energy on the Among Us spaceship.
“What kind of futuristic spaceship still runs a combustion engine?” she asked. “I mean, really?”
Featured image: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Unmodified photo by Ståle Grut / NRKbeta used under a Creative Commons License. (https://bit.ly/3dMVsbF)
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