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Hundreds of thousands of people watched the presidential debate on Twitch

This was one for the ages.

twitch presidential debates
Image: KnowTechie

Politics are a shitshow all around the world right now. Brexit still hasn’t happened, there’s Russian interference happening left, right, and center, and evidence has emerged that Facebook has been allowing political manipulation to occur in multiple countries.

That’s without mentioning the US, where six-time bankruptcy-declaring, Wrestlemania-starring reality TV personality Donald Trump somehow reached the pinnacle of political achievement and became president in 2016. Despite the fact that he had precisely zero experience.

He’s now running for a second term, naturally, and has intimated that he may not leave the White House if he’s not re-elected this November. So it’s not surprising that millions of people watched the presidential debate on September 29. What is surprising, however, is that hundreds of thousands more tuned into Twitch to see their favorite streamers watch it, too.

No matter your feelings on Trump, or his opponent in the race to the top, Joe Biden, it can’t be denied that the US president is ridiculously watchable. Whether you agree with his sexist, racist rhetoric, or just want to see what crap he spouts next, there’s no doubt that some people were tuning in just to see him talk.

Get the party started

Image: Unsplash

Everyone knew the debate would be essential viewing, so with beer, popcorn, and the unique combination of dread and excitement that only car-crash TV can offer, we all sat down to witness the future of America. Would Biden’s attempt to appeal to younger generations help him to reach the top, or could Trump persuade people to buy back into MAGA? While some people turned the debate into a drinking game (rules: take a shot every time Trump interrupts Biden. Try not to drown or die), those who watched on Twitch enjoyed something that wouldn’t have been possible a decade ago.

Setting themselves up with a headset and microphone, as usual, popular hosts including Mizkif and xQcOW sat down to watch the two septuagenarians slug it out on the presidential stage. Mizkif himself was as entertaining as ever, despite admitting that he doesn’t know “anything about politics — I’m an idiot.” After watching a pair of pensioners squabble like five-year-olds for an hour and a half, I’m pretty sure we all felt a little more like idiots.

Showing another level of creativity that only seems to exist on Twitch, even the stream titles gave an idea of what to expect. Flight-sim streamer and artist Valdudes called his “Presidential Debate Cringefest 2020.” Podcast Chapo Trap House named theirs “Sundown Showdown 2020.”

“Will you shut up, man?”

Temperatures flared throughout the 90-minute debate. Trump alone cut off former vice-president Joe Biden and moderator Chris Wallace at least 128 times, even after repeated warnings. This wasn’t lost on Shaun Hutchinson (aka Hutch), who called on Wallace to “Moderate!”

It wasn’t just gaming personalities who committed to a livestream. Hasan Piker is a political commentator, and at one point 125,000 viewers were tuned in to see his thoughts on proceedings. Streaming as HasanAbi, Piker repeatedly expressed frustration towards both candidates. Even though his stream went on for more than 11 hours, it made for compelling viewing as he gave plenty of criticism even before the debate started. His comments, facial expressions, and general irritation throughout made it well worth watching outside of traditional TV broadcasts.

This experience was a unique sideways leap for Twitch, who has already been moving into non-gaming pastimes such as culture and cooking. The act of watching your favorite streamer watch a presidential debate seems to be an incredibly meta experience. We’re definitely looking forward to it happening again. Even if it’s just to see someone’s hope for humanity dwindle at the same speed as our own.

What do you think? Did you watch the debate? Did you watch it through Twitch? Let us know down below in the comments or carry the discussion over to our Twitter or Facebook.

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A gamer since I've been able to hold a controller, I can usually be found with a PlayStation, Xbox or Switch controller in my hand.

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