Last week, a media buzz stirred around Federal NDP leader Jagmeet Singh, U.S. congressperson Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) and their border-breaking livestream of the video game Among Us. The multiplayer murder mystery, reminiscent of other social deduction games like Mafia or Werewolf, earned political clout when AOC and fellow U.S. congressperson Ilhan Omar streamed the game for 439,000 live viewers in October of 2020. Prior to the American election, the event was marvelled for being the first-of-its-kind in terms of reaching a new generation of voters. Canadian MP and NDP leader, Jagmeet Singh, was able to partake in the trending phenomenon when he was tagged in a tweet alongside political commentator Hasan Piker, who has over 800,000 followers on Twitch. Thus, the stage was set, AOC accepted her invite to play, and Jagmeet was destined to become the first major Canadian politician to take the dive into live streaming.
“I’ve seen people dropping “Pogmeet” and honestly, initially I thought they were making fun of me but now I realize that’s actually a good thing. That’s a cute thing, right?” - Jagmeet Singh
Exchanging pleasantries, Jagmeet was impressed with AOC’s pronunciation of his name (“Jug,” rhymes with hug, “-meet”), and she responded, “call me Alex,” when he asked how to address the New York congresswoman. The age gap, even between two younger politicians, was identifiable by their respective knowledge of gaming culture and gameplay ability, which ultimately led to AOC’s demise when she feigned ignorance about the controls and was called out for not being “that much of a boomer.” Neither Jagmeet (41) nor AOC (31) was particularly adept at deceiving their opponents and often fell victim to their own characteristically trusting natures.
At one point early on, Jagmeet assassinated a crewmate right in front of AOC (very sus) and she didn’t want to believe her eyes, sincerely communicating to the group that she wasn’t sure whether Jagmeet was the imposter. Later on in the stream, playing as imposters, the progressive duo teamed up to pull off a huge win, prompting AOC to throw up her fist and yell, “solidarity” and for Jagmeet to proclaim: “Jagmeet and AOC victory in the future! This is prophetic. AOC, President. Jagmeet, Prime Minister. Victory, right here.”
The hype around the event may indicate a shift in how politicians communicate to young people, but only certain folks can pull it off and come across as genuine. Hillary Clinton, infamous for her cringeworthy “Pokémon GO to the polls” moment in 2016, was called out for appealing to young voters without offering substantial policy commitments. Similarly in 2020, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris offered downloadable campaign yard signs in Animal Crossing: New Horizons, and were again accused of putting performance before policy. Jagmeet Singh and AOC, however, were able to play Among Us and come across as honest actors. In large part, it may be credited to their politics already resonating with young people. Both politicians are considered social media-savvy champions of the working class who are capable of using their platforms to challenge the political establishment.
In Canada, that challenge looks like Jagmeet Singh and the NDP putting forth policies like the COVID-19 wealth tax, if only to have it voted down by the Liberals and Conservatives. AOC lamented that she and her progressive allies in the U.S. are unable to wield the same power under a two-party system. She said, “the NDP will have a public proposal and you will see up front what they are fighting for, and then they will negotiate with the Liberal Party and [the public] can at least see what these two options are. But, all this stuff happens behind closed doors in the U.S. and so the public doesn’t … see that debate go down and have the ability to weigh in on legislation until it hits the house floor.” The sentiment reinforces the idea that Canada’s multiparty system, although far from perfect, is overall more representative than it’s American counterpart.
Between games, conversations would break out in the game lobby, revealing impressions of what AOC and Hasan Piker know and think about Canadian politics. Highlights included talking about Canada’s multi-party political system versus the U.S.’s two-party system, as well as different governmental approaches to COVID-19. Hasan, a political commentator, explained why he thinks the NDP is a populist party, but doesn’t actually have a voting bloc that represents their popular policies:
Hasan Piker: Justin Trudeau’s party, oftentimes, basically hugs the NDP to make themselves look more progressive. And … the Liberals are more progressive than the Conservatives are—but they make themselves seem progressive and therefore they become the majority party or they take a larger share of the progressive vote because people tactically vote in Canada. So even if there are NDP supporters, they end up voting for the Liberals, for Justin Trudeau’s party, specifically so that they don’t lose to the Conservatives.
Jagmeet Singh: One-hundred percent. Also though … we’ve formed government a bunch of times in provinces and we’ve done really cool things like broaden public insurance. So, not just public healthcare, but the insurance for when you’re driving your car is fully public. So it’s the cheapest anywhere in Canada.
Alexandria Orcasio-Cortez: Wow.
JS: It’s super dope. That’s something that’s part of [the NDP’s] legacy. So, the insurance that you rely on is public, it’s owned by the state, meaning that it’s super affordable. And, when it makes a profit, the public auto-insurance actually sends a check back to the people of Manitoba, one of the provinces.
AOC: You see this? *Gesturing to her audience*
JS: Yeah so, they send a check back and say, ‘Hey, this year we did really well, we actually have more than enough cash reserve,’ so they send money back to everybody. Like, they’ll send them a check out. Totally, super cool stuff.
AOC: Woooow … I’m here in New York City. Toronto is just a days drive away. When we propose similar policies in the United States, people are saying: ‘this is impossible,’ ‘this is candyland,’ ‘this is not viable,’ and you can literally drive one day or a couple hours. It’s just a stone's throw away from being able to afford your insulin or being able to have public health insurance and get a check back. But there’s so much scaremongering around socialism in the United States. It’s like—this is why we can’t have nice things.
After a few more rounds of Among Us, Jagmeet asked AOC whether young people in the U.S. are getting scapegoated for spreading COVID like they are in Canada, pointing out that young people are also the ones working in high risk sectors. AOC responded by saying the virus is so rampant in the U.S. that they are well passed blaming any single demographic and the conversation turned towards misinformation and COVID response efforts:
AOC: Republicans were promoting this conspiracy theory-esque behaviour around masks at the beginning, like President Trump politicized mask wearing. So, it became less about young people, which by the way a lot of us are really concerned about getting our parents sick. I think the politicizing of mask wearing is really what did a lot of damage here in the U.S.
HP: Yeah, how are the conservatives over there? Are they also, just straight up lying about mask wearing? Because, for us, it became a culture war issue, unfortunately.
JS: … I have to give credit, by-and-large, most Canadians are willing to listen to the public health advice. Our bigger concern is we’re seeing that both the Liberals and Conservatives are making the case to put the cost of everything on people. So, we made a lot of good decisions, but … it looks like the Liberals and Conservatives are saying ‘okay, now everyday people are gonna have to pay more’ or they’re going to cut the help to them. When [the NDP has] been saying we should put in place something like a pandemic profiteering, or a wealth tax, on those who have actually made massive profits in this time…. It should be on the shoulders of those who are doing really really well, like the billionaires who have increased their wealth, to pay for the recovery and pay for the pandemic.
Jagmeet hammered his message against the establishment home when talking to his audience about Among Us strategies. In a clipped video, titled “Jagmeet destroys liberals,” Singh compares a player’s silence (to avoid suspicion) to the Liberal Party being silent on important issues.
Jagmeet and AOC are not the only ones to jump on the trending game. Early last week, Arthur hosted an Among Us event with it’s staff, board and audience. We hope to do it again soon and will announce the time on our social media channels like Instagram and Facebook.
If you are interested in learning more about the history of Among Us, a game that was created in 2018 but only recently skyrocketed in popularity, please check out the wonderful video below by Video Game Story Time on Youtube.
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