On Tuesday night, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) hosted a Twitch stream. This, in and of itself, isn’t surprising for the digitally-savvy congresswoman. But the results might have been:
Despite airing in primetime and directly against Game 1 of the World Series, the event — AOC’s first Twitch stream — wound up peaking at an incredible 435,000 viewers. Though the stream was largely Ocasio-Cortez and fellow congresswoman Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) playing popular game Among Us, the greater goal was to encourage voting and plans to go vote on or in advance of Election Day.
Though AOC does have a unique celebrity among U.S. politicians, this sort of engagement also seems to be a prudent way forward for voter outreach. Ocasio-Cortez isn’t the first elected official to utilize Zoom — Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and President Donald Trump have used the (gaming-focused) streaming platform in the past to connect with voters. Trump was even temporarily banned for “hateful conduct.” But the elder politicians haven’t come anywhere near the audience Tuesday night’s event did… though they also weren’t vying for endemic engagement on the platform using both gaming and gaming influencers as AOC did.
Social video data from Tubular Labs shows just how much gaming-centric content is winning over audiences and remains an untappd area for engagement around elections. The new Tubular Audience Ratings can highlight top creators by minutes watched in the U.S. September’s results show three of the top five creators were gaming-related — including No. 2 SSSniperwolf at 1.7 billion minutes — as were four of the top 10.
Among audiences 13-to-24 years old (a mix of both current and potential future voters), gaming creators make up six of the top 10 by minutes watched. No, young people usually don’t vote at the same rates as older members of the population, but that’s starting to change. Recent U.S. census data shows 18-to-29 year olds went from 20% turnout in 2014’s midterms to 36% in 2018. One way to continue driving that number up is to actively engage with young people where they’re consuming media, in a way that appears natural to the platform (the fact that AOC’s not much older than these younger voters at just 31 years old also helps).
Perhaps interestingly, Ocasio-Cortez and Omar were not accepting donations during the stream; potentially missing out on hundreds of thousands of dollars for their own campaigns, down-ballot progressive candidates or voter initiatives. But that also may have been what drove viewers and engagement as well. There wasn’t any outward profit motive. It was a grassroots effort to just play video games and talk to voters. The rarity of an event like that is a draw on its own.
In future election cycles, you’ll probably see some engagement like this from politicians that it’s a natural fit for. But for others, Democratic nominee for president Joe Biden’s approach is another that makes for a more natural fit for the candidate. Biden has his own island within Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch, where players can learn about his campaign and interact with an avatar (that’s not Joe himself).
As mobile gaming has continued to break down the outdated “gamer” societal label and people that play video games becomes an increasingly larger part of the general population, this is likely just the start of gaming’s role in elections.
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