Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., leaves the House floor during a vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from committee assignments over her extremist views, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., leaves the House floor during a vote to remove Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., from committee assignments over her extremist views, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Politics, meet PlayStation: how 2020 ushered in the era of campaign videogaming

Video games, already a US$150-billion colossus, represent an untapped resource

Call it the age of PlayStation politics.

Where Bill Clinton went on MTV and Barack Obama seized on social media, modern-day Democrats see online video gaming as the next high-tech frontier for reaching young voters.

And a Canadian company is helping to lead the virtual charge.

Toronto-based Enthusiast Gaming was at the cusp of the presidential effort last year, helping to stitch Joe Biden’s brand and message into a customized map for the wildly popular game “Fortnite.”

Prior to the election, fans of Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” downloaded Biden and Kamala Harris avatars and decorated their islands with Biden-Harris lawn signs.

And two weeks out from election day, New York rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and fellow progressive Rep. Ilhan Omar attracted nearly 440,000 viewers — unheard of for political figures — when they played “Among Us” live on the streaming site Twitch.

The AOC livestream was so popular, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh quickly jumped at the opportunity to engage the popular progressive firebrand in a cross-border rematch — an event that raised more than US$200,000 for anti-poverty endeavours in the U.S.

READ MORE: Jagmeet Singh, AOC to fight it out in ‘Among Us’ video game on Twitch

For Adrian Montgomery, Enthusiast Gaming’s 40-something CEO, the intersection of video games and political campaigns in 2020 has been nothing short of seminal.

“This was such an interesting moment that’s going to change political discourse, and it was pretty cool to be a part of it,” Montgomery said in an interview.

He likened it to Clinton’s famous sunglasses-and-saxophone appearance on the Arsenio Hall show in 1992, or a Playboy interview in 1976 that nearly ended Jimmy Carter’s career.

“I see the Joe Biden campaign using video games and AOC and ‘Fortnite’ takeovers as similarily transformational, and I think it’s going to change how young people are treated in future elections,” he said.

“They certainly have proven that they do come out and vote and they can make a difference. And so I think that’s going to put wind in our sails.”

There was more to the Biden-Harris “Fortnite” map than just campaign billboards and “Build Back Better” sloganeering.

Gamers who took on the map were confronted with six unique challenges to complete, all of them steeped not only in the lore of the former Delaware senator, but also his campaign goals and messages.

Players were tasked with gathering industrial waste from “Aviator River,” retrofitting an auto factory to build electric cars with solar power; and installing 5G towers throughout the map “to ensure every American has access to broadband.”

Along the way, they were exhorted to send text messages or visit websites in order to receive detailed instructions on how to obtain mail-in ballots or vote in person on election day.

Montgomery will take part in a panel at the Canadian Club in Toronto on Tuesday, talking gaming and politics with Allison Stern, who headed up the digital partnerships project for the Biden campaign. They’ll also be joined by Heidi Browning, the chief marketing officer for the National Hockey League.

Video games, already a US$150-billion colossus that dwarfs both the music and film industries, represent an untapped resource that found an even firmer footing in a year when people around the world were forced to stay in their homes.

Online games, which can provide players with a unique sense of connection and community even from a distance, were made for the moment, Montgomery said.

And with speculation already rampant about the possibility of an election in Canada this year, he sounds excited about the prospects.

“It’s very rare when you can reach young people at scale, and you can do it in a way that they’d be receptive to,” he said.

“We’re not currently engaged, but I think we obviously have the track record. And it would be interesting to extrapolate that into other endeavours and other campaigns.”

James McCarten, The Canadian Press


Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism during the pandemic? Make a donation here.

GamingPoliticsvideo games

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

(Phil McLachlan/Capital News)
Murder charge laid in February 2020 stabbing death of Smithers man

Michael Egenolf is charged with the second-degree murder of Brodie Cumiskey

Island Health chief medical officer Dr. Richard Stanwick receives a first dose of Pfizer vaccine, Dec. 22, 2020. (B.C. government)
COVID-19: B.C. seniors aged 90+ can start to sign up for vaccination on March 8

Long-term care residents protected by shots already given

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The avalanche came down on the highway sometime Sunday evening (Feb. 21) (Dawson photo)
Road to Bella Coola wharf reopens after large avalanche

The road was closed after a large avalanche covered a significant portion of the highway

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s coronavirus situation, May 8, 2020. (B.C. government photo)
B.C.’s weekend COVID-19 cases: 532 Saturday, 508 Sunday, 438 Monday

Fraser Health still has most, eight more coronavirus deaths

B.C. Attorney General David Eby speaks in the legislature, Dec. 7, 2020. Eby was given responsibility for housing after the October 2020 provincial election. (Hansard TV)
B.C. extends COVID-19 rent freeze again, to the end of 2021

‘Renoviction’ rules tightened, rent capped to inflation in 2022

Face mask hangs from a rear-view mirror. (Black Press image)
B.C. CDC unveils guide on how to carpool during the pandemic

Wearing masks, keeping windows open key to slowing the spread of COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Churches, including Langley’s Riverside Calvary Church, are challenging the regulations barring them from holding in-person worship services during COVID-19. (Langley Advance Times file)
Det. Sgt. Jim Callender. (Hamilton Police Service screenshot)
B.C. man dead, woman seriously injured after shooting in Hamilton, Ont.

The man was in the process of moving to the greater Toronto area, police say

(Black Press file photo)
Child in critical condition, homicide investigators probe incident near Agassiz

The child was transported to hospital but is not expected to survive

Most Read