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

Katherine Swampy
Maskwacis chiefs are opposed to RAPID Response

Alberta Treaty 6 First Nations say they were not properly consulted

UCP Lacombe-Ponoka MLA Ron Orr spoke to the Ponoka Chamber about the potential a new provincial government would provide to help support small business.
File photo
MLA Ron Orr: ‘Our constituents … want us to defend their livelihoods and freedoms’

Lacombe-Ponoka MLA stands with 15 other UCP members calling out retreat on restrictions

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Tuesday, April 6, 2020. Top Tory leaders of past and present will speak with supporters today about what a conservative economic recovery from COVID-19 could look like. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
O’Toole to vote against Conservative MP’s private bill on ‘sex-selective abortion’

Erin O’Toole said he supports a woman’s right to choose and will personally vote against the private member’s bill

A health-care worker holds up a vial of the AstraZeneca Covishield vaccine at a COVID-19 vaccination clinic in Montreal, Thursday, March 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
PHAC receives first report of blood clot linked to AstraZeneca

The federal agency says the person is now recovering at home

A real estate sign is pictured in Vancouver, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS Jonathan Hayward
1 in 3 young Canadians have given up on owning a home: poll

Data released Monday says 36% of adults younger than 40 have given up on home ownership entirely

Ryan Applegarth
Applegarth’s murder charges proceed

Ryan Jake Applegarth, charged with the second degree murder of Chantelle Firingstoney,… Continue reading

Dr. E. Kwok administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a recipient at a vaccination clinic run by Vancouver Coastal Health, in Richmond, B.C., Saturday, April 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Most Canadians plan to get COVID-19 vaccine, but safety fears drive hesitancy: poll

This comes as confidence in governments is plummeting in provinces being hit hardest by the pandemic

Marathon of Hope runner Terry Fox is shown in a 1981. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/CP)
Terry Fox’s legacy of resilience resonates during COVID-19 crisis, says brother

Fred Fox said his brother’s legacy of resilience has taken on renewed resonance as COVID-19 rages on

Madelyn Boyko poses along with a number of the bath bombs she makes with her mom, Jessica Boyko. Madelyn says she enjoys making the bath bombs with her mom as it is a special time for just the two of them. (Photo Submitted)
5-year-old Sylvan Lake girl selling bath bombs in support of younger brother

Madelyn Boyko is selling bath bombs for CdLS research in honour of her younger brother

A sign on a shop window indicates the store is closed in Ottawa, Monday March 23, 2020. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is raising its estimate for the number of businesses that are considering the possibility of closing permanently. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Small business struggling amid COVID-19 pandemic looks for aid in Liberals’ budget

President Dan Kelly said it is crucial to maintain programs to help businesses to the other side of the pandemic

The National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians says that includes attempts to steal Canadian research on COVID-19 and vaccines, and sow misinformation. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)
Intelligence committee warns China, Russia targeting Canadian COVID-19 research

Committee also found that the terrorist threat to Canada has shifted since its last such assessment

Most Read