So some of you know that even though I am British and currently live in the U.K, I have also lived in the U.S. and I really love that country. I love its natural beauty and its many wonderful people. I love its breakfast food and its Twizzlers. What I don’t love is the political climate that tends to reach a boiling point every four years when there’s a presidential election. In fact I would say that most Americans agree with me there. If you’ve never lived or visited the U.S. during the weeks and days leading up to an election, then you are fortunate. It’s mayhem. And it’s not just about the presidential candidates and their pundits hurling insults at each other and trying to catch each other out on everything they say, it’s also the other elections that often run concurrently. State and national roles are often up for re-election during this time as well so depending on where you live, you might be graced with dozens of different political ads on the TV, phone calls, messages in the mailbox and lots of signs displayed on people’s front gardens telling you where they may fall on the political map. In comparison, it’s very sedate (at least as far as political elections go) here in the northeast of England at this moment.
I don’t want to get into a political discussion here (as I avoid such contentiousness as much as possible–it hardly solves the problem and only causes disunity, in my opinion), but I wanted to point out an interesting event that recently happened during a race for state senator in the U.S. state of Maine. Evidently the democratic challenger to the republican incumbent, Colleen Lachowicz, is not only a politician but also a <gasp> gamer. And she’s not just been ‘outed’ for her gaming tendencies, but specifically identified as a <gasps some more> WoW player. Of an Orc rogue no less! Assassin spec!
I’ll let you read the article yourself from the NBC news site: http://www.nbcnews.com/technology/ingame/republicans-out-democrat-world-warcraft-witch-hunt-6283586
And some follow-up coverage from the BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-19842704.
Either which way, regardless of what may happen in this particularly bizarre case, it does seem that being a gamer has been deemed (by some at least) an unsuitable vocation for someone interested in public service. And apparently they are hoping that highlighting this predilection for gaming as a reason for voters to change their mind.
Anyways, I wanted add in the rest of my general comments on this issue that I shared with the BBC earlier (who very graciously added in my fairly strong opinion on the subject!).
I find this discussion interesting for a few reasons.
First, it points to how the practice of gaming can often be seen as a negative activity. The quotes attributed to Ms. Lachowicz seem to only heighten that perception as they suggest that a gamer who chats about her game activities with what I can only describe as over-the-top descriptive imagery would naturally be as violent in their day-to-day lives. It’s hard to comment on those specifically as I can’t read them in context, however. And considering how gaming is often the first culprit when trying to explain away a disturbing shooting, I’m hardly surprised by this attempt to link her gaming approach to how she’d be in the state senate.
Second, it seems to be overtly suggesting that anyone in public office should not play computer or video games. In my work, I have spoken with many people who in their regular lives have roles of significant responsibility (as doctors, managers, or educators) but who choose carefully with whom they disclose their gaming activity. And disclosing their gaming activity is often accompanied by a degree of apology or embarrassment. Evidently this caution is valid as political parties attempt to use gaming as a reason to not elect someone for office.
Finally, I think this is a very unusual development that is a little heartening, if you ask me (though I’m not sure Ms. Lachowicz would agree with me here). Here we have a gamer interested in running for political office and this would seem to run contrary to the other stereotypes that we love to assign to gamers: that they are lazy, antisocial people who don’t have a ‘real life’. Maybe this will trigger some dialogue about our perceptions of gamers and the role that games can and should play in modern society.
Ms. Lachowicz raises a few interesting points, however, that may bear consideration as more gamers who would be politicians are ‘outed’ (as that article described it): recent data suggest that the average age of the gamer is 30 (with the average age of game purchasers being 35) and the number of gamers is only growing as the market for casual play and more playing platforms continues to grow. I’m not entirely sure how much longer voters will take this attempt to weaken a candidate’s campaign seriously, and I would love to see if younger voters cared about it at all. (It’s a bit like ‘outing’ someone for having a Facebook account or watching YouTube videos of cats!)