The stream reflects an increasing understanding by politicians and political consultants, especially on the left, that video games and the streaming platform Twitch are among the most engaging entertainment venues for younger voters. AOC’s stream follows Joe Biden’s campaign creating an island in another popular game, “Animal Crossing: New Horizons,” as well as a host of other video game community-focused get out the vote efforts. (Twitch is owned by Amazon, whose CEO, Jeff Bezos, owns The Washington Post.)
“With so many politicians embracing livestreaming, it has become the latest medium of choice to connect with younger audiences. Given this focus, politicians are just one more type of influencer and they have to master these forms of communication to connect with future voters,” said Doron Nir, CEO of StreamElements, a livestreaming tools provider.
Despite streaming from her own account for the first time, Ocasio-Cortez displayed her acuity for using tech platforms to connect with younger Americans, even as each platform — Instagram, Twitter and Twitch — has its own distinct culture and aesthetic. After starting the stream with appeals to register and vote, and especially imploring viewers to create a specific plan to vote, AOC jumped into the game and voice chat with natural ease, adopting many of the mannerisms of the platform, including shout-outs to other gamers and a light, unrehearsed, free-flowing vibe, laughing with her fellow streamers. She also used the game’s slang, such as “sus” and “marinate,” with ease.
“I am so nervous though, I really, really hope I don’t get impostered first,” said Ocasio-Cortez during the stream. In “Among Us,” impostors are characters who are designated as secret killers, who win by hunting down the other players. (Ocasio-Cortez was assigned the impostor role during her first round). The non-imposter players can win by completing a series of tasks or voting out those who they deduce are the impostors. Yes, there were several jokes related to voting.
AOC also put her fellow streamers at ease with multiple references to her own nervousness and saying that, “‘You guys can call me AOC, but Mike Pence can’t call me AOC.”
The stream was largely free of political commentary, save for a few comments from AOC, one of the co-authors of the New Green Deal, about a combustible engine that appears in the game. She also appealed to left-leaning voters to vote for the Biden ticket, even in sure-thing states like New York, arguing that it gave them a chance to “tell the Democratic Party they gotta do better.”
Most of the streamers involved in the event are not known for political content, barring Harry “Hbomberguy” Brewis, a leftist YouTuber who hosted Ocasio-Cortez on a stream in 2019, and Piker, who started his career with the Young Turks. Piker’s Twitch account was temporarily suspended last year after his comments on stream that “America deserved 9/11” and that a “brave Mujahideen” was responsible for military veteran and Congressman Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) losing 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, make your plan to vote.”
Noah Smith is a regular contributor to The Washington Post and staff journalist for Direct Relief, a nonprofit. Follow his work on Twitter @Vildehaya.