Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, video games and the new online place

Aurich / Getty

Over the weekend, tens of thousands of people, including a US Congressman, gathered online to watch the flow of someone playing marathon. Donkey Kong 64. The most remarkable thing about this is perhaps the lack of organic interest for Donkey Kong 64 actually had to do with a large part of the meeting.

Let me go back a bit. The main and apparent purpose of Harry "Hbomberguy" Brewis in "Donkey Kong Nightmare Stream" was simply to want to beat Donkey Kong 64like him put it on YouTube. DK64 was a Brewis game said that he "never ended up properly as a kid … I want to destroy Donkey Kong 64So until this has been done, the flow does not stop. I do not care to fall asleep. I do not care if I run out of food. The flow will continue. "

But the flow has also been set up as a fundraiser for sirens, a UK charity specializing in gender dysphoria, has recently been criticized by writer and comedian Graham Linehan (The computer crowd, Father Ted). And Brewis was clear that Linehan's words also served as a direct motivation for the Charity Marathon.

"I chose the sirens especially because when they were designated funded by the [UK] Graham Linehan, of the National Lottery, went to Mumsnet and told them to send a mass email to a lady of the National Lottery and that the funding is under review ", said Brewis. " Well done, Graham! You have a large audience and the power to choose to fight for progress in all the forms we need around the world and you have used it to make sure that some children will not have access to useful resources. "

Before the game really started, Brewis had already exceeded its initial $ 500 fundraising goal. To date, after 58 hours of streaming, he has raised more than $ 344,000.

Harry "Hbomberguy" Brewis presents his charity marathon program.

Come together now Donkey Kong 64

If you look back the start of this marathon streaming session, Brewis and the text-based Twitch chatters who are watching him are mainly focused on his progress in the game. Throughout Saturday, the game's personalities love John Romero and Jim Sterling has made appearances as a guest to support both Brewis' Quichotic Quizzing Game and the charitable cause he supports.

As the weekend continued, the charity stream began to attract more and more social media and the attention of traditional media outside the field of play. As this litter grew, the stream itself and the cat around it were less concentrated. Donkey Kong 64 itself and more focused on the rights of trans people and other political issues

This trend reached its peak on Sunday night when new Congressman Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Called the current. amused by Brewis. And the congressman made it quite clear that it was not a particular interest or knowledge of Donkey Kong 64 it inspired him to show himself. "I've never owned N64, although I think it's probably the best system," she said. says in class. "I went all the time to my cousin's house and he had Super Mario 64, Pokemon Snap, and probably a handful of other things. "

Instead of focusing on the game, Ocasio-Cortez has used the charity component as a platform to address the kind of political issues that matter. "The additional layer of discrimination [that trans people face] makes these problems much more acute during these crises than they are usually on average for the others ", she says. "It is important that we discuss these issues in the economic context without forgetting the fact that discrimination is one of the main reasons for economic difficulties."

In itself, it is a fairly standard political speech of Ocasio-Cortez. What made the speech a little surreal was the backdrop of a guy playing a decades-old video game, with jangly-themed music, while enthusiastic viewers typing uppercase conversation message strings. faster than they could be read.

Maybe it's just the modern version of politicians who stop, for example, at the Iowa State Fair, where they are often forced to claim to have a deep interest in butter cow sculptures, for example. Savvy politicians have always gone where people are, and Ocasio-Cortez, who is no stranger to online politics-Sense that the people who listened to this current of charity constituted a good public for its type of policy.

This includes the core members of Brewis who were eagerly watching its progress in Donkey Kong 64, without a doubt. But by the time Ocasio-Cortez came on the market, it surely was also counting on many more people who were mainly giving support and discussing the rights of trans people and who would never look for someone playing video. Donkey Kong 64 (or any other classic video game). In one way or another, over the course of a weekend, this marathon gaming has become the impromptu gathering place for an essential part of a political movement.

Why are we all here today?

Seeing the current grow over the weekend has highlighted the unique way video games have always created friendly social spaces to allow people to come together. This goes back to the golden age of the arcades, where the games of pong at Street Fighter II and beyond would gather crowds that could grow into whole communities. In the era of the console, games like Halo, Super Smash Bros.and countless other people have provided excuses to sit on the couch and BS with friends, the controller in hand.

In the online world, a game like World of Warcraft is sometimes criticized for being a bit more than an "interactive chat room", where the simplistic gameplay is just something to keep you busy while you talk to friends. Disillusioned or not, this kind of description probably captures a lot of why World of Warcraft is able to maintain itself for more than ten years.

Today, everyone from The edge at Lifehacker at Quartz described Fortnite like less of a game and more of a social network in itself. For every super serious Fortnite player looking for "Victory Royale", there are probably 10 more who are half-noiselessly joking while they chat pleasantly.

Yeah lol, I'll kill you. In any case, my mother was still on my case last night ... "src =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/fortpunch-640x320.jpg "width =" 640 "height =" 320 "srcset =" https://cdn.arstechnica.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/01/fortpunch.jpg 2x

Enlarge / Yeah lol, I'll kill you. Anyway, my mother was still on my case last night …

Perhaps more than any other artistic medium, games provide a practical starting point for this type of occasional secondary social interaction. Meeting friends at a concert, a movie or reading a book can offer some socialization opportunities, but these events often require too much attention to allow you to focus on the other participants. However, the right kind of game can be used as a kind of conversation background noise, avoiding diverting too much attention from your companions while providing just enough distraction to ease the lulls (see also: car trips and sport events).

In the same way, Donkey Kong 64 ended up serving as a pleasant, fun and easily ignorable backdrop for a fundraiser for trans rights that lasted over the weekend. Even viewers with virtually no interest in the game could appreciate the flow as a focal point to mitigate the seriousness of the issues addressed.

We see this sort of thing on Twitch all the time, where the game itself is often secondary to the lure of the person who plays it. Twitch's popular personalities use their feeds to conduct live conversations with their viewers on much more than just games a kind of parasocial relationship it can be much more engaging than, for example, watch a speedrun on YouTube.

This idea reaches its zenith in Desert bus for the hope, an annual Twitch charity marathon centered on a game that was literally created to be the most boring game that exists. In a way, this "boring" game serves as a gathering point for thousands of viewers who donate hundreds of thousands of dollars to charity every year. I doubt that most of these viewers connect primarily to watch the game.

When people ask me what is Twitch, my default answer it's that it's a place to watch people play video games. But it's really an incomplete answer. Nowadays, Twitch is just as often a place to watch video games is a convenient excuse to meet with like-minded streamers and viewers, as close to a live public square as possible.

The game itself is becoming more and more isolated. The chance to meet around the game is what makes these online gatherings special.