In 1992 Bill Clinton played saxophone on The Arsenio Hall Show and everybody lost their damned minds. Last night Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar did the 2020 version of that, but with infinitely less “cool dad” or white guy blues cringe energy: they played videogames live on Twitch.
On the first stream of AOC’s brand new Twitch account, the two U.S. representatives played the surprise hit Among Us with some of the most popular streamers on Twitch. At its peak Ocasio-Cortez’s account had about 439,000 people watching live, which is the third highest total for concurrent viewers on a single channel in the history of Twitch. Omar’s own channel, along with the channels for streamers Pokimane, Myth, Hasan Piker, Jacksepticeye, Disguised Toast, Dr Lupo, Mxmtoon and Moistcr1tikal, brought over 200,000 more viewers to the party. So yeah, AOC and Omar’s streaming debut was a smash.
It was also a high profile but low key way to engage with younger voters on the upcoming election. Over the three hour plus stream, the congresspersons mostly focused on the game at hand, just hanging out with the streamers and not turning it into a blatant political event. The two felt natural on the stream, especially Ocasio-Cortez, at least in the portions I watched.
I’ll be honest: this thing makes me feel old as dust twice over. First off because it made me think of Bill Clinton blowing that sax on a talk show nobody who’s currently too young to run for president has ever heard of before. Secondly, though, because it reinforced how I absolutely can not get into streaming—like, I just don’t get it. I can understand watching other people play games if they’re incredibly good at them, like esports or speed runs, but watching two politicians and a handful of non-professional entertainers trying to make a game entertaining in real time, with no editing or scripting to make sure things are somewhat interesting or insightful, is about as exciting as listening to strangers’ dinner conversation. Maybe it’s more enjoyable if you follow along with a streamer over time, and get used to their presence and personality, but yeah, watching this thing last night (and again today, while I was prepping for this piece) was a struggle.
I’ll readily acknowledge that this is clearly a “me” thing. People love streaming, people apparently love some of the specific streamers that AOC and Omar played with, and it’s always good to see people enjoy themselves, as long as they aren’t being hateful or exploited. (Speaking of which, the Twitch chat moderation did a solid job of preventing hateful and insulting comments during this stream. Given how ugly the commentary can get on stream chats and gaming message boards, that’s no small feat.) And it’s not surprising that young, enterprising politicians would use the platform to reach out to potential voters. This kind of outreach makes perfect sense, and you can expect it to happen regularly into the future.
You can watch the full stream at Ocasio-Cortez’s own Twitch channel, and if you really want to see Bill Clinton get creepy with a saxophone, you can probably find that hoary old footage on YouTube.