Monday, October 8, 2012

Level 85 Politician

Elections tend to bring our the weirdness everywhere. Each cycle, some wonderful and glorious individuals do ans say some of the strangest, least defensible things. And then when the dust settles, everyone realizes that there was more than one side to the story and the media (egged on by partisan pundits) skewed the whole thing from the start but now it's too late because everyone has moved on to something else. (Unless, of course, you are this guy.)

So: There is a State Senate race in Maine that has attracted a lot of attention because the Republicans have accused the Democratic candidate, Colleen Lachowicz, of playing Warcraft.

The initial reaction, of course, depended on who you were talking to. If you talked to one of the 180 million Americans who routinely play video games, including the 10 million people (not all Americans, of course) that play World of Warcraft, it's an insipid and stupid claim to make, as if holding a professional job and playing video games is somehow mutually exclusive. You ask some of the older voters, of course, who know little about video games and even less about a MMORPGs, and the strange and confusing world of orcs and clerics probably make them skeptical.

And the charge, as is, is fundamentally stupid. Video games are a hobby, just like anything else. At this point the video game industry is bigger than the movie industry. Anyone who has a smartphone probably plays games, but even discounting the casual hand-held market the number of console and PC gamers is extraordinarily large. Video games aren't the provenance of sickly-looking fat kids in panel-walled rec rooms anymore.

So for Republicans to call out a candidate just because she plays video games is unfair and makes them look old, stodgy, and amateurish.To be fair, state races are generally full of bush league antics anyway, so this sort of this probably wouldn't happen at the federal level (but, of course, one never knows).

But then, of course, you get to the details, and a different picture emerges. The web site created and maintained by the Maine GOP has details of the postings and online comments that she has made, and it's more than just someone who wants to play video games all the time. She's commented about wanting to "drown Grover Norquist" in a bathtub and she brags about slacking off at her work (which, as a social worker, is of course taxpayer funded). Her comments about non-game-related things come across as extraordinarily childish and amateurish, even by internet standards.

Obviously, not everything is as damning as the Republicans make it out to be--they spend a lot of time harping on the fact that she likes to "stab" everyone, even though it's clear she's talking about the game, not real life. And some of it is just sloppily worded opinions that millions of people have. Yet now that I've read the post, while 75% of it is bullshit, there's enough quotes from her that I think a lot of it is legitimate. Of course, none of it has to do with video game playing in and of itself, but rather the comments she has made about it.  While I think the party was wrong in how they spun it, it's still a valid political point.

Of course, this all brings to a head the future of politics: everything that you post online will, at some point, be used against you if you run for office. In some ways this is a good thing, but it's bad in a lot of ways; people's views change over time, and I know my own opinions (even since I've started this blog) have changed somewhat. And while I try very hard to be temperate in my opinions for just this reason it's incredibly easy to take things out of the context of the times (in addition to, say, Facebook and Twitter, where opinions have to be crammed in 140-character or otherwise short sentences, which removes the possibility of subtlety. In fact, I tend to not send out as many tweets as I normally would because of this reason--it's too easy to come off as a jerk when you can't explain it.)

The Pledge: Boo to the GOP for using video games as this year's witch hunt. But Colleen Lachowicz, you have to won up to the comments you've made, because a lot of them are pretty obnoxious. 

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