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

Shuswap Adventure Girl Sarah Tokarek has a particular passion for hiking trails around Blind Bay and the South Shuswap. (Contributed)
Shuswap mom helps others find their own outdoor adventures

Sarah Tokarek is Shuswap Adventure Girl, an online trail guide for the region

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

Salmon Arm Council will be considering on March 10, 2021 approval of the placing of a notice warning of building bylaw infractions on a local property. (File photo)
City of Salmon Arm takes action on reported building bylaw infractions

If final approval given by council, notice will alert prospective buyers to outstanding issues

The owner of this property at 2240 Highway 97B SE would like to subdivide the property to create a residence for her son so they can keep the farm going for the next generation. (City of Salmon Arm image)
Salmon Arm farm owner requests subdivision of land for family member

Creating two lots would mean son could help keep the farm productive

The Salmon Arm Fire Department responds to a report of thick smoke coming the backyard of a residence off Fifth Avenuse SE on the morning of March 3. Fire chief Brad Shirley notes that burning yard waste on lots under .99 of an acre is not permitted. (Martha Wickett-Salmon Arm Observer)
Salmon Arm residents reminded to resist temptation to burn yard waste

Firefighters respond to a call in city March 3 involving wet leaves, yard waste best taken to dump

Health Minister Adrian Dix looks on as Dr. Bonnie Henry pauses for a moment as she gives her daily media briefing regarding COVID-19 for British Columbia in Victoria, B.C. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
7 additional deaths and 542 new COVID-19 cases in B.C.

Provincial health officials reported 18 new COVID-19 cases linked to variants of concern

A protest has been planned for March 5, 2020 over Penticton council’s decision to reject an application from BC Housing to keep an emergency winter shelter open over a year longer than originally planned. (Jesse Day - Western News)
‘Bring your tent’: Protest planned in Penticton’s Gyro Park over winter shelter closure

Protesters plan to show council ‘what the result of their decision will look like’

Although B.C. has not made masks mandatory in public indoor spaces, some business owners are requiring all customers to wear them before entering their store. (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
EDITORIAL: Heightened tension over face masks

Incidents of anger and conflicts over mandated masks happening too frequently

John Hordyk said it isn’t fair to just look at COVID-19 deaths as many survivors are experiencing long-term impacts, himself included. (Photo by Rachel Muise)
Not getting better: Revelstoke man diagnosed with post-COVID-19 syndrome

‘I hope the damage isn’t long term, but it could be permanent’

The City of Vancouver estimates there are 3,500 Canada geese in the city right now, and that number is growing. (Bruce Hogarth)
Help tame Vancouver’s Canada goose population by reporting nests: park officials

The city is asking residents to be on the lookout so staff can remove nests or addle eggs

Chief Justice Christopher Hinkson (Office of the Chief Justice)
Judge questions whether B.C.’s top doctor appreciated right to religious freedom

Lawyer for province says Dr. Henry has outlined the reasons for her orders publicly

Penticton mayor John Vassilaki responded to BC Housing minster David Eby’s remarks that the city has put themselves at risk of creating a tent city Wednesday, March 3, 2020. (Western News file photo)
Penticton mayor calls out BC Housing minister for ‘irresponsible fear-mongering’

Council recently rejected BC Housing’s request to keep a winter shelter open longer than first planned

A sample of guns seized at the Pacific Highway border crossing from the U.S. into B.C. in 2014. Guns smuggled from the U.S. are used in criminal activity, often associated with drug gangs. (Canada Border Service Agency)
B.C. moves to seize vehicles transporting illegal firearms

Bill bans sale of imitation or BB guns to young people

BC Housing minister David Eby is concerned that Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter will result in a “tent city” similar to this one in Everett, Wa. (Olivia Vanni / Black Press file)
‘Disappointed and baffled’ housing minister warns of tent city in Penticton

Penticton council’s decision to close a local homeless shelter could create tent city, says David Eby

Most Read