All politicians should be smart enough to play video games on Twitch like AOC and Ilhan Omar

Politicians, whether they’re super old, super rich or they just generally don’t know seem to know how the world actually works, are notorious for being 'out of touch'.

That’s why it was so exciting for thousands of young people, teenagers, and even children when members of Congress Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar played Among Us on Twitch to encourage voting on Tuesday night – in fact, almost half a million people tuned in.

The two Democrats joined prominent gamers 'Pokimane' and 'HasanAbi' for a gaming session on the video live streaming service, which became one of the most watched sessions on the platform of all time. Ocasio-Cortez not only discussed the importance of free healthcare while playing, but she was also pretty good at the game.

Among Us – a multiplayer game where players are dropped onto an alien spaceship, each designated as either a “crewmate” or “impostor” – has recently burst onto the gaming scene during lockdown. Ocasio-Cortez used this to her advantage and asked on Twitter on Monday:

“Anyone want to play Among Us with me on Twitch to get out the vote? (I’ve never played but it looks like a lot of fun)”.

People were thrilled, jumping at the chance to join in, calling it "the coolest thing ever".

“U might not see this, but my 8 yo daughter was so excited to see that AOC was on Twitch! Thanks for trying to connect to our youth!!!” one person commented on her post.

Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib, another member of the Democratic “Squad”, shared an image of her children also watching the Twitch stream:

The evening of video game-playing should not be underestimated.

Here is an enormous group of young people who are basically never appealed to by politicians – in fact, many Republicans are specifically anti-video game – ready to discuss politics on their own platform, why shy away from that?

The stream on Twitch also gave people greater access to politicians in a casual setting, which creates a non-hierarchical context to engage in the political system.

The youth vote is extremely influential in the US – and around the world – and has the potential to sway elections.

AOC has successfully tapped into this. Ali Kabbani, more commonly known as 'Myth', who has nearly 7 million followers on Twitch, thanked AOC for a good time, and added: "Remember to vote this election as well. This election is my first time voting and its super easy to do so do it."

“The importance of sitting Representatives streaming on Twitch and engaging with and encouraging the youth vote cannot be overstated. AOC is doing something important, and the fact that she is doing it through play is huge,” Mike Futter, author of The GameDev Business Handbook, said.

Ocasio-Cortez's first foray into Twitch marks only her latest effort to encourage young Americans to vote this November.

Since her inauguration, the New York Representative has amassed a large group of online supporters through her savvy use of Instagram live sessions to make understanding government inner workings more accessible, as well as calling out right-wingers all across Twitter.

It is no surprise that most political conversations are happening online these days – especially in the context of the pandemic – and politicians seem to understand a social media presence is crucial. Donald Trump himself is the ‘Tweeter-in-chief’, for example, and Elizabeth Warren seemed to know the key to her campaign was ‘the selfie’.

But is important to get outside the usual political conversations happening on Facebook and Twitter to reach new audiences, which is what makes AOC's switch to Twitch so simple, yet so innovative.

This also brings us to TikTok, another hugely popular app among Gen Z (despite Trump's best efforts), which has certainly be underutilised by politicians (perhaps because it requires being very ‘online’ and often, dancing skills).

Even so, Ed Markey, the progressive senator from Massachusetts, has amassed 35,000 followers on the platform, and uses it to discuss the importance of voting, the Green New Deal, and even to tease his political opponents.

The significance of coming to new or overlooked platform that is brushed off as ‘un-serious’ compared to an big interview on cable television, cannot be overstated. It’s among the very few vehicles guaranteed to attract the attention of one of the most elusive demographics – young voters.

This general voting block has in the past neglected the importance of voting and political engagement, because they are disillusioned by old political systems, and feel as though their vote doesn't count.

AOC, Ilhan Omar, Ed Markey, and other progressives politicians seem to be at the forefront of understanding how to address this problem by engaging on platforms young people actually enjoy to discuss hard-hitting political issues, but also, to have some fun.

MORE: How can we solve America's education problem?

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