Gaming and politics

    With the United States Presidential election just behind us and an uncertain future ahead, it’s easy to lose track of other things amidst the chaos, especially where entertainment is concerned. 

 

Although it is by no means abnormal for a game, show, or franchise to be politically charged in some way or another, it’s quite rare that there are direct correlations between the world of gaming and the world of politics. However, with livestreaming and social gaming being some of the largest entertainment platforms in the world right now, it was inevitable that they would eventually come to intersect.

 

 Nowhere has this been shown more in the public eye than on the 3rd of November, when Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez hosted a livestream on Twitch in which she played the viral sensation Among Us in front of an audience of over 400,000 viewers, all for the purpose of encouraging folks to vote in the upcoming election.

 

    Though it’s likely that Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez simply chose Among Us due to the fact that the game was the most viewed topic on Twitch at the time, it seems rather fitting that the game features voting as a central gameplay mechanic. Among Us is a party game that takes the standard formula of games like Werewolf or Town Of Salem, in which there are groups of players assigned roles that they must fulfill to win. The crewmates must complete their tasks and root out the imposters, while the imposters must kill off all the crewmates without being found out themselves. 

 

Though the game was released in 2018, it had a recent surge of popularity coinciding with the success of Fall Guys, a similarly stylized game, and The Henry Stikmin Collection, a viral game by the same development team. Numerous online content creators have begun playing and streaming the game regularly, and several of these actually had guest appearances on AOC’s stream. Big names like Jacksepticeye, Pokimane, MoistCr1tikal, and Disguised Toast were featured as players alongside the congresswoman, but she also had her daughter and viewers from the livestream join. By the end of the stream, she had amassed over 400,000 viewers from her stream alone and 545,000 followers.

 

    While it’s true that this is easily the biggest example of political integration via gaming, it’s nowhere near the first— even this year. Earlier in 2020, there were a series of controversies surrounding the US Army’s Esports Team, a recruitment effort that up until this year few people were aware existed. US Army Esports is a government funded recruitment initiative founded in 2018, with divisions in Counter-Strike, Overwatch, Call of Duty, Fortnite, League of Legends, and most oddly Magic: The Gathering. The team also regularly streams on Twitch and posts on Twitter,, which is largely where the controversy surrounding them begins. On June 30, 2020, the US Army Esports Twitter account had a public conversation with Discord’s Twitter account, asking when Discord would be releasing giant plushies of its mascot, the Wumpus. 

 

This interaction would quickly reach its climax when the US Army Esports team tweeted, and this is a direct quote, “UwU 💕”. The backlash was quick, and the backlash was immense. Within a day people were harassing the Esports team, taking videos of themselves getting banned from their Discord server, and occasionally offering legitimate criticisms and arguments as to why the US Army was falsely portraying service work as well as marketing recruitment to minors. Needless to say, the team backed down and took a break from streaming for a while after that, shutting down their Discord server and their Twitch profile until the storm had died down, but at the very least an impact had been left on the general public.

 

Though I’m positive that political involvement in the gaming community is far from over, it does serve as an intriguing subject to look at under an analytic lens. If the Army can run an Esports division, can we expect other government agencies to do the same? Will politicians running their own interactive gaming streams become a normalcy in the next couple years? Who knows? But at the very least, it should be entertaining to find out.

 

The Wheel Of Fate Is Turning,

DeForest White

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