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Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez And Ilhan Omar Play On Twitch To Engage Young Voters

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Candidates and politicians are always looking for new ways to reach voters. Well, last night, two House members went looking on a dark, faraway spaceship - not in real life, of course. It was actually happening on the streaming platform Twitch, as Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar played the popular video game Among Us with big-name streamers. NPR's Andrew Limbong has the story.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ALEXANDRIA OCASIO-CORTEZ: Hey, everyone.

ILHAN OMAR: Hello.

POKIMANE: Hey.

MYTH: Hello.

HASAN PIKER: Hi.

ANDREW LIMBONG, BYLINE: It all happened pretty quickly. On Monday, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez asked on Twitter if anyone wanted to play the game Among Us with her on Twitch to get out the vote. The congresswoman is a known gamer, but she'd never played Among Us before and said it looked like fun. A bunch of people flooded her replies. And by the next evening...

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

OCASIO-CORTEZ: OK. I go here, and I'm supposed to pretend to do stuff, right?

LIMBONG: Just to back up a bit, Among Us is a two-year-old game that's gotten popular since the coronavirus pandemic. You and other players complete tasks. But every game, one or two of you are secret imposters who have to kill the others. The rest of the players have to figure out who the imposter is and kick them off the ship. That would include AOC.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PIKER: If Myth is sure that he saw AOC kill someone, then we've got to vote her off, too, right?

MYTH: Well, I didn't see the kill happen.

LIMBONG: The event drew huge numbers. A Twitch spokesperson said at one point, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez had 435,000 people watching. Hasan Piker was one of the streamers playing last night. He's a popular political commentator on Twitch and helped get things set up.

PIKER: A lot of people are not going to be able to authentically get on Twitch and be able to just throw something like this together in 24 hours. I was amazed. I was shocked.

LIMBONG: Piker, who says his audience is generally 18- to 24-year-olds - on the older side for Twitch - says the event proves the platform as a viable tool for campaigning and for cultivating future voters. But it will only work if the candidate is genuine. People on Twitch are pretty good at sniffing out actual imposters.

Andrew Limbong, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Andrew Limbong is a reporter for NPR's Arts Desk, where he does pieces on anything remotely related to arts or culture, from streamers looking for mental health on Twitch to Britney Spears' fight over her conservatorship. He's also covered the near collapse of the live music industry during the coronavirus pandemic. He's the host of NPR's Book of the Day podcast and a frequent host on Life Kit.

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