Picture this: you’re The Washington Post. Opinions on what you do vary, but regardless of reputation, you’re still one of the biggest news sources in America. You want the growing audience of online millennials to engage with your news and they tend to pay attention to Twitch. So you open a Twitch channel. Duh.
That in itself isn’t that weird, there are a lot of brand-owned Twitch channels that don’t have anything to do with games. As Twitch has expanded after the Amazon buyout, the streaming service has increasingly reached beyond gaming to things like simply eating on stream. The Washington Post dipped their toes into the service earlier this year, livestreaming Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s senate testimony in April and revived the channel this past week to cover president Trump’s press conference in Helsinki. Today, WaPo decided to launch a new show titled Playing Games with Politicians and bring Twitch content back to gaming.
It’s actually incredibly weird.
The inaugural episode brings in Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz from Florida, commonly known for a full-throated defense of the current White House, to play Madden 18 with WaPo reporter David Weigel. Gaetz chose the game, despite not really playing games a lot himself, because it represented what Gaetz describes as a way to prove you’re a real American. Regardless of whether or not that’s something he actually believes, Gaetz certainly knows his stuff in Madden, as he utterly demolishes Weigel. Gaetz wins the game 26 to 0 with ease. You can check out the video below.
While the two play games, Weigel peppers Gaetz with occasional questions about congress, his appearance on Alex Jones’ InfoWars show, and picking questions from the chat. In typical Twitch fashion, people with usernames like taylorswiftsatan want to know Gaetz’s opinions about Kappa emotes while the exasperated producer sift through the chat for questions.
Using a Twitch channel in this method is interesting, as it can very possibly get people who are otherwise uninterested in politics to engage with this hybrid of video games and political question. It seems unlikely as a practical question that people will be so curious about the game that they will find themselves immersed in political discourse as a happy accident. That said, for the people squarely in the center of this Venn diagram, there are likely interesting things to be gleamed from this format.
Next week’s show will have Democratic Congresswoman Suzan DelBene from Washington’s first district, who has chosen Wii Sports as her game.
It is an interesting experiment in the traditional video model, but watching it, it felt ultimately surreal. Gaetz, who has done things like invite a known holocaust denier who endorsed murdering Black Lives Matter activists to the State of the Union, is simultaneously defending his views while doing something most people do for fun. The act of playing a game with someone doesn’t square with his public persona and it makes the whole thing feel strangely uncomfortable. Perhaps it was the intention of the segment to humanize politicians who are shown mostly by what they do and say professionally, but it left me feeling colder about Madden than warmer toward Gaetz.
Beta Test The Washington Post’s Twitch Channel Incorporates Video Games And It Is Surreal