Maine candidate Colleen Lachowicz, left, and her WoW alter-ego, Santiaga.
Politics is dirty business; everyone knows that. It doesn’t have to be, but that’s how it is. As an elections draw near, rivals have the choice to debate each other on the issues, and set themselves apart from their opponents based on stance, or they can begin attacking every angle they can think of.
In Maine, social worker Colleen Lachowicz is running for a seat on the state senate this November. Her opponent is the incumbent, Republican Tom Martin. Over the past week, the Maine GOP sent out a mailer attacking Lachowicz for playing World of Warcraft. In it, the party questioned the candidate’s “disturbing alter-ego” and “bizarre double life.” The mailer quoted her saying in an online forum that she “likes to stab things”; a CBC report called her gameplay “violent.”
The GOP also paid for and is maintaining a blog related to her WoW gaming at colleensworld.com.
Here was Lachowicz’s response:
“I think it’s weird that I’m being targeted for playing online games. Apparently I’m in good company since there are 183 million other Americans who also enjoy online games. What’s next? Will I be ostracized for playing Angry Birds or Words with Friends?”
Oddly, while some of the comments the GOP quotes over at colleensworld.com focus on her (obviously joking) violent retorts, others focus on her politics. In one comment, she says she is “slacking at work” in order to call her Congressperson everyday (which proves what? That she’s a politically involved constituent?), that she considers her guild progressive or even socialist, that she calls conservatives “teabaggers.” She criticizes other politicians’ campaign tactics. She talks about protesting fundamentalist churches. Sure, she’s not the most tactful, but it’s not like she said she didn’t care about half of her electorate. In fact, many of these comments are from several years ago — likely well before she knew she’d run for public office.
It would be a grave mistake to think that someone who enjoys roleplaying in a video game would somehow bring any violent aspects of her gameplay into her daily life. It would also be a mistake to take someone seriously who thought this would actually happen.
It’s been a long time since role-playing has been shamed in such a public way. Long enough that it seemed like we were past this kind of misrepresentation of people’s hobbies. Back when people thought games were causing kids to commit suicide, it was understandable, even if it was false hysteria. This, however, is simply a smear campaign — and it says a great deal about the incumbent. Is he so insecure in his ability to win re-election that he has to drag his opponent through the mud on such irrelevancies? Are there no legitimate issues on the table in Maine this year? Like, say, same-sex marriage?
Meanwhile, Lachowicz has worked to the very top of World of Warcraft, and has done so as part of a team; arguably, this proves her ability to work alongside others to get things done. At least one commenter on a WoW forum thought so, too:
“I actually think being an Orc Assassination Rogue is great preparation for diving into American politics.”