If you’re a gamer, you’ve probably heard about the attack on Colleen Lachowicz, a Democrat who is running for the Maine State Senate. She’s not only a politician—she’s also an avid World of Warcraft player.
Over the past few weeks, Lachowicz has had her status as a candidate called into question because of her gaming habits. She’s been accused of spending too much time online, and mismanaging her priorities.
Here’s a sample of the original statement from the Republican party of Maine on her eligibility:
“Colleen Lachowicz is a Democrat candidate for Maine State Senate. In Colleen’s online fantasy world, she gets away with crude, vicious and violent comments like the ones below. Maine needs a State Senator that lives in the real world, not in Colleen’s fantasy world.”
The first thing that I thought about when I read these comments was my own status as a gamer. Does my own penchant for video games make me ineligible for certain careers or professions?
It’s something I haven’t thought much about before, but then again I wasn’t too upfront about my love for gaming until fairly recently.
The second thing that came to mind was the role of young voters in the next election. Recently, there’s been no shortage of commentary on the importance of young voters and the impact they will have on the next election.
It’s a realization that has led politicians to post their campaign messages on Twitter and Facebook. And young voters have responded in a dramatic way.
According to Twitter, a record of 10.3 million tweets was set during the first presidential debate, and internet memes on political themes have been popping up all over the place. One news outlet has even called Facebook the presidential “swing state” on account of its humongous influence.
Politicians have recognized the popularity of online media and already legitimized it by making it a focus of their campaigns. So if that’s true for Twitter and Facebook, then why not video games? They’re just as current and potentially just as effective at reaching a key voter base.
By attacking Lachowicz’s gaming habits, critics are delegitimizing a hobby which thousands of young Americans spend time on each night. And that’s something that I suspect a lot of gamers just aren’t going to stand for.
Think about it this way: Lachowicz has been criticized for spending too much time in the “virtual world” and not enough time in the “real world.” As proof of her discretion, the site Colleen’s World suggests that the average WoW gamers “spends 22.7 hours a week playing in Azeroth.”
I’ve done some digging and found comparable studies for television watching and Facebook use, and the stats aren’t pretty. A Nielsen report from 2011 said that Americans spend more than 33 hours a week watching television and streaming videos. We also spend at least 8 hours a month on Facebook. And 1 in 4 people spend more time online than asleep.
Lachowicz’s detractors have also suggested that playing video games makes gamers more predisposed to violence. Many video games are undoubtedly violent, but it’s unfair to target games as the singular source of violence in the media.
Television, for example, is another major culprit. According to the Parents Television Council, “violence increased in every time slot between 1998 and 2002. On all the networks combined, violence was 41% more frequent during the 8:00 p.m. (ET/PT) Family Hour in 2002 than in 1998.”
Video games aren’t for everyone, and like any hobby, they can be abused. But when used in moderation, I don’t see how they are any less legitimate as watching television, using Twitter and Facebook, or surfing the net. But in my mind, no form of media receives the same amount of flack as video games. And in a case like this, it’s quite undeserved.
We shouldn’t be afraid to talk about our hobbies. That’s something I learned after years of hiding my own love of gaming. Since I became more upfront about my hobbies, I’ve met a ton of cool people all over the world who are just as passionate about video games as I am. And it’s made me realize what a positive force video games can actually be.
So until her detractors can prove that Colleen Lachowicz’s hobby genuinely compromises her bid for the Senate, I will stand behind her. And if enough of us can lend our support, maybe we can end the prejudices against gaming, once and for all.