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

A nurse performs a test on a patient at a drive-in COVID-19 clinic in Montreal, on Wednesday, October 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
36 new cases of COVID-19, one death in Interior Health

The number of active cases in the region is at 366

A health worker holds a vial of AstraZeneca vaccine to be administered to members of the police at a COVID-19 vaccination center in Mainz, Germany, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2021. (Andreas Arnold/dpa via AP)
43 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health

368 cases in the region remain active

Ashcroft RCMP are warning businesses to be aware of a suspect passing counterfeit $50 and $100 bills in the Ashcroft and Cache Creek area. (Photo credit: Stock image)
Counterfeit money being circulated in Ashcroft/Cache Creek area

Police are warning local businesses to be on the alert for counterfeit cash

The former Ashcroft Elementary School building, which closed as a school in 2015 and is now operated as the Ashcroft HUB, pictured during Skip’s Run, June 2017. The board of education of SD74 voted on March 2 to sell the property to the society for a ‘nominal fee’. (Photo credit: Barbara Roden)
School district votes to sell Ashcroft HUB for ‘nominal fee’ to HUB Society

Amendment to motion seeks to keep school district’s financial interests in property secure

Cache Creek council say that budget meetings have to take place before a public meeting about the fate of the pool — first promised in May 2019 — can be held. (Photo credit: Journal files)
No date set for public meeting to discuss fate of Cache Creek pool

Council says public meeting cannot take place until budget discussions have been held

B.C. Health Minister Adrian Dix and provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry head for the B.C. legislature press theatre to give a daily update on the COVID-19 pandemic, April 6, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. nears 300,000 COVID-19 vaccinations, essential workers next

564 new cases, four deaths, no new outbreaks Thursday

This Dec. 2, 2020 photo provided by Johnson & Johnson shows vials of its Janssen subsidiary’s COVID-19 vaccine in the United States. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Johnson & Johnson via AP
Canada approves Johnson & Johnson’s 1-shot COVID-19 vaccine

It is the 4th vaccine approved in Canada and the 1st that requires just a single dose

Walter Gretzky father of hockey hall-of-famer Wayne Gretzky waves to fans as the Buffalo Sabres play against the Toronto Maple Leafs during third period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Tuesday, Jan. 17, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Walter Gretzky, father of the Great One, dies at 82

Canada’s hockey dad had battled Parkinson’s disease and other health issues

Kelowna General Hospital (File photo)
Second death reported in Kelowna General Hospital COVID-19 outbreak

A total of seven cases have been identified at the hospital: six patients and one staff

Municipal Affairs Minister Josie Osborne speaks in the B.C. legislature, March 4, 2021. (Hansard TV)
B.C. Liberals, NDP sing in harmony on local election reforms

Bill regulates paid canvassers, allows people in condo buildings

(National Emergency Management Agency)
No tsunami risk to B.C. from powerful New Zealand earthquake: officials

An 8.1 magnitude earthquake shook the north of New Zealand Thursday morning

(AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File)
Pandemic stress, isolation key factors as to why Canadians turned to cannabis, alcohol

Study found that isolation played key role in Canadians’ substance use

(File photo)
Kamloops Mountie bitten while arresting woman

The assault on March 1 is the latest in a string of incidents that have left local officers injured

Most Read