Another politician is hopping on Nintendo’s popular game Animal Crossing.
On the eve of Tuesday’s runoff elections for the Senate positions in Georgia, Fair Fight founder and former Georgia House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams will be interviewed live via Animal Crossing: New Horizons.
The discussion, held on Twitch Monday at 4:15 p.m. PT, will focus on “the importance of voting in Georgia and what is at stake in the Jan. 5 election” and features Abrams speaking with American streamer Tanya “Cypheroftyr” DePass.
New Horizons, the latest game in the Animal Crossing “life simulator” series, debuted in March 2020 as an exclusive for the Nintendo Switch. Players are offered a chance to move to an isolated desert island, where they can build it into a sort of virtual dream house. During the COVID-19 pandemic, New Horizons found major success as an escapist fantasy, as it offers no violence and next to no danger; the worst thing that can happen to you is getting stung by a bee.
New Horizons isn’t a stranger to American politics, as Joe Biden’s presidential campaign maintained a special in-game destination, “Biden Island,” that supporters could visit. (Nintendo later revised its guidelines to at least theoretically prohibit something like Biden Island from happening again, by virtue of forbidding the use of Animal Crossing as a “marketing platform.”)
Back in June, New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez used New Horizons to make a “house call” on one of her constituents, visiting a randomly-chosen supporter’s island.
New Horizons has also been used to hold in-game virtual protests by Black Lives Matter rallies and pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.
I’m joining activist and gamer @cypheroftyr tomorrow, 1/4, in an Animal Crossing gaming session to discuss what’s at stake in Georgia’s Senate runoff election.
— Stacey Abrams (@staceyabrams) January 3, 2021
Abrams lost a controversial election for governor to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018. She subsequently founded Fair Fight, an organization she chairs that aims to “promote fair elections in Georgia and around the country, encourage voter participation in elections, and educate voters about elections and their voting rights.”
In the 2020 U.S. presidential election, Abrams’s efforts to get out the vote in Georgia were widely credited for spurring an unusually high voter turnout in the state, and in turn, for the state’s electoral votes eventually being declared for Joe Biden.
DePass is a Chicago-based streamer and podcaster who manages a nonprofit foundation called I Need Diverse Games. She’s also a regular sight on live-play streams; DePass is the Dungeon Master for the official D&D streamed game Rivals of Waterdeep, and produces her own live-play game as a show funded by Twitch, called Into the Mother Lands. Her conversation with Abrams will be held on her personal Twitch channel.
Between the rise of livestreaming and the newfound popularity of many socially-focused video games, this marks the rise of the video game medium as a public platform in itself. AOC being on the forefront of this isn’t particularly surprising — she played two livestreamed games of Among Us and has been public for years as being a big League of Legends nerd in her spare time — but it offers the opportunity for savvy politicians to make inroads with a new audience via a particularly interactive part of pop culture. While Nintendo may not be thrilled about this — another one of those revised guidelines is a plea to “refrain from bringing politics into the game” — it seems like New Horizons’ second act in 2021 may involve its use as an interview stage.
Players who subscribe to Nintendo’s Switch Online service can also opt to visit one another’s islands by buying an in-game plane ticket, which has provided many people with a virtual substitute for in-person social interaction. Back in April, screenwriter and former game journalist Gary Whitta (Star Wars: Rogue One) leveraged that interactivity to create a popular talk show, Animal Talking. The show, streamed via Twitch, has featured guests including Brie Larson (Captain Marvel), Sting, Kevin Smith (Clerks, Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back), and 343 Industries’ transmedia studio head Kiki Wolfkill, all of whom appeared on the show via customized Animal Crossing avatars.