21 October 2020 06:41
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) made her Twitch debut tonight to play Among Us and encourage viewers to vote. She also, very quickly, became one of the platform's biggest broadcasters: her stream peaked at 435,000 viewers around the time of her first match, according to Twitch. (The stream is still going as of this writing, but it had dipped to around 350,000 viewers after about two hours of playing.) That peak viewership puts her broadcast among the 20 biggest streams ever, according to the third-party metrics site TwitchTracker, and much higher if you're only looking at broadcasts from individual streamers. Ninja holds the record for an individual streamer, with more than 600,000 viewers during a Fortnite match with Drake in 2018. TwitchTracker's metrics suggest that AOC's stream could in the top 10 for an individual in terms of peak viewers.
Politicians have increasingly been using tech and games to get out their message. The Biden campaign debuted an Animal Crossing island last week. Last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) joined Twitch to reach a "potentially supportive audience that we may not be hitting other ways." Ocasio-Cortez's stream came together quickly. She tweeted Monday asking, "Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote?" Major streamers quickly signed up — she ended up being joined by Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pokimane, HasanAbi, Disguised Toast, DrLupo, and more. Her stream even had graphics prepared, which Ocasio-Cortez said came from supporters who started making art after she tweeted.
Despite only having minimal Among Us experience — Ocasio-Cortez said Monday that she'd never played before, but seemed to have brushed up before the stream — she did well in her first broadcast. She was chosen as an impostor in the first round and, with a partner, knocked out about half the field before getting caught. Omar later made it to the final three as an impostor before getting voted out by Ocasio-Cortez and Hasan. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the interactive politician. She knocks on doors; she receives neon Post-it devotionals at her Capitol Hill office. She makes macaroni and cheese and fields climate policy questions on Instagram Live. Tonight, she went live on the streaming platform Twitch to do something she says she hates more than anything, in front of 440,000 live viewers: lie. Ocasio-Cortez was playing Among Us, a recently viral game with Mafia-like mechanics. On Monday she had soft-launched her Twitch channel with a coy tweet asking whether anybody might be interested in playing with her. In a parenthetical, she added, "I've never played but it looks like a lot of fun." The response was frenetic. A who's who of internet celebrities threw their blue checkmarks in the ring—makeup YouTuber James Charles, KindaFunny's Greg Miller, actress Felicia Day, even Chelsea Manning, who is currently building her own gaming PC. Also coy, lefty politics streamer Hasan Piker—noted AOC fanboy and Young Turks alumni—responded with a lowercase "hi!". Then came the gamers. Imane "Pokimane" Anys replied, "it'd be an honor" with crying and prayer hands emojis. Benjamin "DrLupo" Lupo wrote he would "offer myself as tribute." Fortnite star Ali "Myth" Kabbani proposed to "do wires together." Esports got in there, too, with FaZe Clan inviting AOC to an Among Us tournament and the Overwatch League team Washington Justice offering to help "rep DC." Some big names, including Tyler "Ninja" Blevins and Turner "Tfue" Tenney, were notably absent. Courtesy of Twitch Ocasio-Cortez is far from the first politician to go where the gamers are. Bernie Sanders' fireside chat on Covid brought over 50,000 viewers to his channel in March. Twitch temporarily banned Donald Trump's channel, launched late last year, for violating politics against "hateful content." Joe Biden's campaign has one, too, with a bafflingly low 2,500 followers. But other politicians' Twitch streams are, for the most part, chats, rallies, or if you're the Biden campaign, low-fi train footage. Ocasio-Cortez games. And fellow freshman congresswoman Ilhan Omar, who created her own Twitch channel, joined her, her Twitch icon a stoic Gundam. By the time Ocasio-Cortez went live at 9pm ET tonight, over 260,000 people had hit "Follow" on her Twitch channel. Twenty minutes before she signed on, 50,000 viewers sat in wait, filling her chat with encouragement and emotes.