Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a New York Democrat, jumped on the voice chat of a Twitch stream on Sunday. It’s a notable merging of politics and gaming, but it’s also only one facet of a remarkable story of protest, charity, and online communities.
On Jan. 18, British Twitch streamer HBomberguy started a marathon playthrough of the Nintendo 64 game Donkey Kong 64, with the intention of raising money for the transgender charity Mermaids UK. It quickly picked up attention on social networks, reaching over 25,000 simultaneous viewers and raising over $220,000 by Sunday night.
Fifty hours into the stream, Rep. Ocasio-Cortez joined the stream’s voice chat for an impromptu discussion with HBomberguy and his fellow streamers. She discussed American and British social politics and Donkey Kong 64 gameplay, expressed her support for the stream, and for the rights of transgender individuals.
She made no specific policy announcements on the stream, and she’s not the first member of Congress to join a Twitch stream. But it seems to be a natural progression for her. Ocasio-Cortez is one of the more tech-savvy members of Congress, frequently responding to critics and fans alike on Twitter. USA Today reports that she was even called upon recently to teach fellow House Democrats how to use the service.
During the stream, Ocasio-Cortez said “I’ve never owned an N64, but I think it’s probably the best system of all of them. I used to go to my cousin’s house all the time, and she had Super Mario 64, Pokemon Snap, and probably a handful of other things.”
Twitch streamers raising money for charity is nothing new. A week before HBomberguy’s stream, Games Done Quick completed its Awesome Games Done Quick (AGDQ) 2019 marathon, in which dozens of speedrunners (gamers who complete certain games as fast as possible) played through games over the course of a week for charity. AGDQ 2019 raised $2.4 million for the Prevent Cancer Foundation.
Games Done Quick’s biannual marathons, AGDQ and Summer Games Done Quick (SGDQ), have raised over $19 million for charity over the last seven years.
Donkey Kong 64 can be beaten in approximately 25 minutes, though HBomberguy pursued the “101 percent” completion category, which includes collecting every item in the game in addition to beating the final boss. Speedrunners have completed the game in that category in under six hours. At the time of writing, HBomberguy has not yet achieved this category after 51 hours of streaming and approximately 38 hours of gameplay outside of commentary and chat interaction.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez said her participation in HBomberguy’s stream was intended to help turn “Lemons into lemonade.”
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