There’s some buzz in the gamer community about politics in Maine. It seems that a Colleen Lachowitz, a Democratic candidate for state office, plays WoW in her free time. The Republican Party there is using that to portray her in a negative way leading up to the election.
The Maine Republican Party created a web site that details a lot of posts that Ms. Lachowitz has made on some game-related forums. Some of it is actually relevant to the political discussion. She makes comments about politicians and political parties, probably feeling that the anonymity of a forum allowed her to state her true feelings without sugar coating them. To call her out on that is appropriate. We should all know by now that usernames and other internet handles do not give you carte blanche to say whatever you want. Your words never go away.
However, if you look at all of the things posted on there, it also highlights her gaming as if it were a negative in its own right. They highlight her statements like “I went heavier into the assassination tree” and “I did dungeons” and “I spent my day leveling an undead warlock” as if these were somehow inherently bad.
It goes without saying that the authors of this attack are woefully uninformed about a huge part of culture in the world today. This attack on Ms. Lachowitz is, of course, without merit.
That doesn’t mean that it won’t work.
Does gaming have a negative stigma? Clearly, it does.
I know a lot of gamers who have two distinct sets of friends. They have their “gaming friends” with whom they talk about their boss kills, their kill/death ratio, headshots, and late night Mountain-Dew-fueled gaming sessions. Then they have their “other friends” with whom they would never bring up those topics because its viewed as strange or weird or immature.
Doesn’t this indicate that gaming is still not an acceptable social activity?
I’m a high school teacher, and I make an effort to never discuss gaming with my students. I don’t want them to know that I play WoW. Its not that I am embarrassed of my gaming. I do think that people have a specific stereotype of what a “gamer” is, and I don’t want that label. I try to be professional in front of my students, and the gamer image does not fit with that persona. Also, I would rather not have their parents know. Call me a coward, but its easier to keep it a secret than it is to explain the truth to those who have certain notions about gaming.
There was one time that I did let on to a few students that I played WoW. Within a few days, someone had tracked down my character on the armory. Then it was printed and copied and passed around with the label “This is the REAL Mr. [my name]” written across the bottom. This was distributed among my students. Clearly the intent was to portray me as something other than who I appear to be at school. Its not that different than what is happening to Ms. Lachowitz. The difference is the scope – for me it was only within a few hundred students, while for her it is regional and, to some extent, national.
I know that I am preaching to the choir here. Those who read this are gamers and will, of course, defend gaming. Do you feel self-conscious about how the outside world views you? Do you hide your hobbies from non-gamers?