The stream reflects the growing understanding among politicians and policy advisors, especially on the left, that video games and the Twitch streaming platform are among the most appealing entertainment options for younger voters. AOC’s stream comes shortly after Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden’s campaign created an island in another popular game, Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and streamed a live tour on Twitch. A host of other members of the video game community have recently focused on the voting efforts. (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose CEO Jeff Bezos owns the Washington Post.)
“With so many politicians interested in live streaming, the newest medium of choice is connecting with younger viewers. Given this focus, politicians are just another type of influencer and need to master these forms of communication in order to connect with future voters, ”said Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements, a provider of live streaming tools.
Although this was the first time Ocasio-Cortez streamed from her own account, she showed her acuteness for using technology platforms to connect with younger Americans, even if each platform – Instagram, Twitter, and Twitch – has its own culture and aesthetic. After starting the stream with appeals to register and vote, and specifically asking viewers to come up with a specific plan for voting, AOC jumped into the game and voice chat with natural ease, adopting many of the platform’s mannerisms, including Shout-outs for other gamers and a light, untested, free-flowing vibe that laughs with their streamer colleagues. She also effortlessly used the game’s slang like “sus” and “marinate”.
“I’m so nervous, I really hope I won’t get scammed first,” Ocasio-Cortez said during the stream. In “Among Us”, cheaters are characters known as secret killers who win by chasing the other players. (Ocasio-Cortez was assigned the cheat role in their first round). The non-cheater players can win by completing a number of tasks or by deselecting those that they deduce are the cheaters. Yes, there were several jokes related to the vote.
AOC also calmed their fellow streamers with several cues of their own nervousness, saying, “You can call me AOC, but Mike Pence can’t call me AOC.”
The stream was largely devoid of political commentary, save for a few comments from AOC, one of the co-authors of the New Green Deal, about a combustible engine appearing in the game. She also appealed to left-wing voters to vote for the Biden ticket, even in safe states like New York, arguing that doing so would give them an opportunity “to tell the Democratic Party they must do better”.
Most of the streamers involved in the event are not known for political content, with the exception of Harry “Hbomberguy” Brewis, a left-wing YouTuber who hosted Ocasio-Cortez on a stream in 2019, and Piker, who began his career with the Young Turks. Piker’s Twitch account was temporarily banned last year after commenting on the stream that “America deserves September 11th” and that a “brave mujahideen” was responsible for bringing military veteran and Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) Lost his eye. Piker later apologized.
Ocasio-Cortez ended with a serious appeal to hundreds of thousands of mostly young viewers: “Please again make sure you register to vote and plan to vote.”
Noah Smith is a regular contributor to the Washington Post and is an employee journalist for Direct Relief, a nonprofit organization. Follow his work on Twitter @Vildehaya.