It’s all fun and games until Jagmeet Singh reaches 60,000 people on Twitch

OTTAWA – Five nights before Election Day, NDP leader Jagmeet Singh sat alone in the back of an echo game studio in Vaughan, Ontario, while two computer monitors and a ring of light illuminated his face.

Then he drew a picture of himself defeating Justin Trudeau at the polls.

Singh spent his Wednesday night with 10 popular streamers, hailing from cities in Canada and the United States, on Twitch, a live streaming platform where users often play online games together.

The other two top party leaders, by comparison, chose to spend their afternoons congregating with their bases in Quebec.

Conservative leader Erin O’Toole participated in a rally in Orford attended by more than 100 people, where she received the endorsement in person of former Prime Minister Brian Mulroney. Liberal leader Justin Trudeau met with supporters late at night in Longueuil, building support and taking selfies with voters.

Meanwhile, Singh spent an hour and a half playing a game called Gartic Phone, a combination of Pictionary and telephone. In the game, someone emits a message: “Trudeau loses the election to Jagmeet” was an option that one player, who was not Singh, provided, and another player draws it. That image is then shown to the next player, who writes a description of the image, followed by another player who then draws a new image based on the new description. Play continues until everyone has had a turn to add to the chain; the results are often fun and the final product can sometimes be light years away from the original concept.

But even though Singh was sharing laughter with online gamers while his competitors mingled with Canadians in a coveted province, he wasn’t drawing silly things on the internet just for fun.

More than 60,000 people tuned in to the live broadcast; an audience generated not just by Singh’s followers on Twitch, but among the several million followers of the streamers he was playing with.

There was a steady stream of comments below the broadcast’s chat box – people cheering for Singh or stating that the NDP had their vote, in addition to the typical vulgarity that comes with online participation.

People were encouraged to chat with Singh by sending a text message to a cell phone number displayed at the bottom of the screen, and to the right was a QR code that led viewers to the NDP website on how vote. In the middle of the event, the NDP leader took a moment to tell the audience about his day full of whistle stops and went over some of the promises from his party’s platform.

Earlier in the day in Essex, Ontario, Singh argued that knocking on doors or meeting people late at night doesn’t make much sense, so why don’t you meet them where they are?

Knowing people where they are is a long-standing campaign strategy, and it’s certainly not unique to the NDP. But the New Democrats have capitalized on the digital and online space in this election in a way that other parties have not, turning to platforms like Twitch, TikTok, and Nintendo, which are popular with the public but remain a niche in politics. .

Singh’s Wednesday Twitch broadcast was only the second time he had appeared on the website; the first was with US Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in late 2020.

Using the platform is an interesting option for Singh. Twitch is owned by Amazon, the e-commerce giant that the leader has repeatedly attacked throughout the campaign as an example, he says, of a corporation not paying its fair share.

And in March, more than 600 Amazon workers contracted COVID-19 at a facility in Brampton, a city where just an hour earlier, Singh was mobilizing supporters.

“I am going to use whatever platform I can to reach people and talk to people,” Singh told reporters that morning, adding that he will not stop criticizing the company.

“I still use my cell phone, even though I think the telcos are exploiting people,” he said.

And while watching a federal party leader have fun online seems at odds with the seriousness of Canada’s current public health and political landscape, that doesn’t mean unconventional strategies shouldn’t be implemented, says the NDP’s chief digital officer. , Amneet Singh Bali.

“The pandemic has been difficult for people and they have found joy in the smallest things. Connecting and playing with people on the Internet, instead of being able to do it in person, is one way to do it, “he said.

“If Jagmeet could have made someone laugh a little last night, but also talked to them about some serious issues, I think he has done his job.”

As for the indication that Trudeau lost the election to Singh, it was one of the few phrases that seemed to be clearly understood by all the players. Midway through the round, a player named Northernlion interpreted Trudeau’s cartoon of Singh crying at the polls as “the NDP wins all 338 constituencies in an overwhelming way.”

In the world of online games, at least, anything is possible.


Raisa Patel is an Ottawa reporter covering federal politics for The Star. Follow her on Twitter: @R_SPatel


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