The next time you respawn in Fortnite, you might choose to drop in on “No Malarkey Station” — situated in an exclusive Joe Biden map. In a politics meets gaming tie-up, the presidential hopeful launched custom content in advance of Election Day to appeal to young gaming voters. The map, called ‘Build Back Better’ has several custom tasks, as reported in Mashable. Among them: Visit Joe’s Ice Cream Shop, Complete Kamala’s Sneaker Run, or Help Make Major’s Auto Factory Run Clean.
This type of digital outreach isn’t isolated. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rep. Ilhan Omar were live streaming last week on Twitch their “Among Us” gameplay. While it was mostly good fun, Ocasio-Cortez did have a message: she repeatedly asked viewers to register to vote. And the viewership Ocasio-Cortez received on her inaugural stream would put most other streaming gamers to shame. She scored 1.7 million views and racked up 714,000 followers in less than a month. Look out, Ninja.
The reasons for authentic real-time accessibility between social leaders and gamers are clear. According to the Entertainment Software Association, gamers provide a sizable voting population with 163.3 million U.S. voting-aged adults. A large majority of them, 38%, are between 18 and 34, which are squarely in politicians’ sights since Gen Z and Millennials outvoted Boomers in the 2018 midterms. Of the Biden Fortnite map, Rep. Josh Harder of California said, “We’re going to have to be a lot more creative about reaching out to voters, and part of that is going to be connecting to them virtually.”
On the ‘Build Back Better’ Fortnite map, users are encouraged to vote or find information about registering. Mashable’s editors gave the map high marks for the polished execution. “While it’s easy for political campaigns collaborating with video games to come off as forced and cheesy, the Biden campaign’s Fortnite crossover feels like a win,” said Mashable culture editor Brian Koerber. “I think this is a really great opportunity for parents to spend some time with their kids in the lead-up to the election, and for young players to learn about democracy while playing their favorite game.”
The former vice-president is hardly a n00b. Earlier this month, he launched Biden Island on the Nintendo game, Animal Crossings: New Horizons. The Nintendo Switch game integration provided Team Joe with stellar reach as the game sold five million copies in the first month after release. By the time Biden debuted his digital content store, Animal Crossings has sold 13.4 million copies globally.
In the store, players could download exclusive digital content, like a Biden/Harris hoodie. Or you could plant a “Team Joe” sign on your lawn. The custom island, called Biden HQ, features ice cream, polling booths, and a voting checklist courtesy of the DNC’s website.
Walk around Biden HQ, and you might bump into Joe Biden, who shouts, “No malarkey!” It’s not Gears of War, but it’s artfully done and a welcome change to local streaming attack ads on television.
Not just for voting outreach
Game developers have recently used usage consoles as social platforms. In October, Sony released a free theme for the PlayStation to support the Black Lives Matter movement. Bungie, the developer of Destiny 2, allowed gamers to celebrate Juneteenth with their ‘Be Heard Collectible & Pin Emblem’. Profits from sales of the pin were promised to benefit the Equal Justice Initiative.
In June, Call of Duty: Modern Warfare added a splash screen in support of the #BLM movement. “Our community is hurting,” the statement reads. “We stand against the racism and injustice our Black community endures. Until change happens and Black Lives Matter, we will never truly be the community we strive to be.” According to Forbes, this “follows efforts to crack down on racism players encounter in multiplayer.”
Millennials and Gen Z will soon dominate the electorate, which will spell the GOP’s Demographic Doom, says The Atlantic. By 2028, they predict that this group will dwarf older generations to share both eligible and actual voters. Finding new, immersive, and authentic channels to connect with this audience will be paramount.
“If I follow AOC on Twitter, I don’t feel like I know her. Even if she likes and replies, it’s separate and independent,” said Jordan Uhl of MoveOn. “But on Twitch, you see them, you hear them, they’re interacting with your messages. You really get to feel like you know the streamers.”
In the near future, it won’t be enough to have a Twitter handle or a Facebook page to shout at an audience through a bullhorn. Gaming will be the next achievement for social cause to unlock.