World Of Warcraft-Playing US Candidate: 'I'm A Real Person'

Colleen Lachowicz is a long-time health care worker who works with teens and young adults. She is a wife and a step-mom. And she likes to knit. But this week, the 48-year-old Lachowicz -- who is running as a Democrat for the US State Senate in Maine -- abruptly found herself a the centre of a Republican smear campaign because of one of her hobbies. No... not knitting.

Editor's note: This piece was republished with permission from NBC News InGame

Lachowicz is a gamer. More specifically, the US Republican party of Maine discovered that Lachowicz enjoys playing the online role-playing game World of Warcraft. And, on Thursday, the party launched a campaign to out what they are calling her "disturbing alter-ego" and her "bizarre double life."

The Republican Party not only launched a website, they sent out post cards to voters in her district and even issued a press release -- all of which showed off the level-85 orc named Santiaga that Lachowicz plays in the game and also highlighted online comments she had made about the game (some of which contain curse words!). (For more on that, read our previous story here.)

News of the WoW witch hunt has since made international headlines and kicked up a storm of outrage in the gaming world. I had a chance to interview Lachowicz after she had spent a day out knocking on doors, campaigning in her district not to mention fielding a flurry of calls and emails about the anti-gaming crusade. And she seemed nothing short of stunned by the turn of events.

"This whole thing is just so weird," she said sounding flustered. "It's just so weird that it's an issue."

The Republican Party of Maine sent out this mailer to voters.

Lachowicz said that she has played games her entire life and has never tried to hide the fact that she's a gamer. She says she got started gaming way back in the good old days with an Atari home console and loved going to arcades.

"Do you remember Marble Madness? I loved that game," she says.

More recently she has enjoyed playing the hit Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on her PlayStation 3. And she points out that even her elderly mother (nearly 70 years old) enjoys playing games.

"She doesn't play any massively multiplayer online games but she can kick some butt in Super Mario Bros.," Lachowicz says.

Lachowicz got started playing World of Warcraft four years ago when the Wrath of the Lich King expansion arrived. "I liked hanging out with friends and working on a goal together," she says of what drew her to the game.

She thinks those who don't play the game don't realise that the stereotypes about its players aren't true. (Think: basement-dwelling teenagers without a life.)

"When I played, I played with people who are college professors and lawyers. I played with adults," she says. "The average age, I think, is mid-30s for people who play online MMOs."

The 'G' word

Indeed, with hundreds of millions of people around the world playing not only online games like World of Warcraft but Facebook games and mobile games, it's stunning to see that the term "gamer", in some circles, remains a dirty word.

"By 2012, it's far easier to identify those ... who are not game-playing consumers than those who are," says Hal Halpin, president of the Entertainment Consumers Association. (The ECA is a non-profit organisation in the US dedicated to gamer advocacy.)

"Who among us has never seen nor heard of Angry Birds, Plants vs Zombies or FarmVille much less classics like Pac Man, Asteroids or Space Invaders? This is akin to demonizing politicians who admitted to listening to, and being fans of rock-and-roll 50 years ago."

Additionally, while the Republican party claims that that Lachowicz spends "hundreds of hours playing in her online world," Lachowicz says WoW was never a central part of her life. And that is a common misperception -- that if you enjoy playing video or computer games, you must have an addiction to it.

Though Lachowicz concedes that some people do have a problem with playing WoW too much, she says that has never been the case for her. In fact, she hasn't logged into the game for about a month. And before that, she hadn't had a chance to play since January.

Why? "I've been busy running for office," she says. And that's not the only hobby that has suffered because of her political ambition. "I also don't do much knitting anymore either."

As for the comments Lachowicz has made about playing World of Warcraft -- comments in which she has, for example, professed her love of stabbing things and, yes, used derogatory terms for Tea Party members -- "Many of those comments go back to 2005 or 2004 and they are taken out of context," Lachowicz says, pointing out that anyone who has ever played a game like WoW knows that enjoying fighting is all part of the game.

The WoW character that stunned the world ... or at least the Republican Party.

But she adds, "I would say I'm sorry if some people are offended. I certainly I said those comments before I knew I was going to run for office."

Welcome to the modern digital age -- the age when anything you type online can and will be used against you.

"I work primarily with young people -- teenagers and young adults -- and I think, 'What kind of message is this for us to send to them?" she says. "That every little tweet you might have done or Facebook posting or comment on an article, that this is going to come back to haunt you? Are we really going to go back years and years to try and drag people through the mud rather than talk about the issues?"

The People Respond

As stunning as the entire experience has been for Lachowicz, it could, in fact, work in her favour. Gamers around the world have been coming to her defence in online forums and on her candidacy Facebook page, cheering her on and pledging her support with comments like this:

"Good to see you standing up for your beliefs and hobbies, the country needs more people like you to lead it, we need people who are willing to share their hobbies and show they are normal people just like everyone else. Thumbs up to you."

"As a one time WOW player, retired NYC Police Det. and a person way older than you : ) I applaud you," writes William Crespo on her Facebook page. "It only shows your ability to interact with many, many people. I have met many people my age and older who still play WOW. My brother still plays and at one time it was my brother, my nephew, my grandson and myself all playing together... It's a great hobby."

Even Republicans gamers are coming to her defence. For instance, a woman named Kari Zielke sent the below photo to Lachowicz's campaign and to the Republican Party of Maine. "We may have different political views but I wont stand by while my fellow Horde are treated this way," she wrote on Lachowicz's Facebook page.

Republican Kari Zielke shared this image with Democratic candidate Colleen Lachowicz on her campaign Facebook page.

Meanwhile many commenters have pointed out that knowing she was gamer would make them more likely ... not less ... to vote for her.

"That website won you every single vote from people under 30 and every single gamer vote for those over 30," writes Greg Hussein Kinney on Lachowicz's Facebook page.

I asked Lachowicz what she thought of the idea that people might just vote for her because she's a gamer.

"What I would say is that I knock on doors a lot and I talk to potential voters and I try to make a connection with them and be a real person," she said. "And maybe this is just the kind of thing that says I'm a real person. I do things just like everyone else does - like millions of other people."

For now, Lachowicz says she is staying busy going door-to-door and preparing for the coming election. She's been so busy, she hasn't even had a chance to try the new World of Warcraft expansion, Mists of Pandaria.

In fact, when I ask her what she thinks about this panda-themed expansion -- which has been somewhat controversial in the WoW world -- she responds with the answer of a true politician: "I have no comment on the pandas at this time."

Winda Benedetti writes about video games for NBC News. You can follow her tweets about games and other things on Twitter here @WindaBenedetti, and you can follow her on Google+. Meanwhile, be sure to check out the IN-GAME FACEBOOK PAGE to discuss the day's gaming news and reviews.

Republished from NBC News InGame with permission.


Comments

    Good on her.

    Also "As an Orc Assassination Rogue" Hahaha

    "DPS = Deaths Per Second"

    LOL

    Also - that republican is hawt ;)

    It just shows how far behind the times the media is. This genuinely angers me. Like it was said in the article, if I was voting, she'd have my vote and the votes of the millions of World of Warcraft players.

      What is her platform? What does she stand for? Why would you vote for her? Just because she's a gamer. Now THAT is sad.

        I think the real tragedy is this: These people believe that people vote AGAINST this lady purely on the basis that she is a gamer. This in itself says a lot for politics these days.

        What ever she is standing for has to be a whole lot better than whatever the other party stands for. The opposition obviously has nothing better to do than backstabbing people.

        This is an attack on the gaming community as a whole. You wouldn't be voting for her but voting against the politics used to potentially de-seat her.

    Good ol' Republican Party. Stabbing things in a video game? Oh noes! Campaigning against gun control which could potentially reduce the thousands of deaths caused each year by firearms? Ok!
    The moral of the story is get off those vidya geams and pick up a gun, kids! It's the American way!

    They probably think that it's similar to when a republican candidates' double life of a frequenter of transgender prostitutes who spank their asses while they wear nappies and smear themselves with baby oil and gravox, and democrats publicize that. And lets face it, they are obviously the same thing!

    The evils of being a 'killer' in a video game... and how many Republicans are hunters who use firearms/bows/knives etc to kill their prey?

    Was she playing WOW while at work or on her spare time?

    If it was her spare time, why is this an issue to those people?

      You have to understand, any respectable candidate would make sure to refrain from mainstream entertainment and concern themselves solely with their office, limit personal interaction to church (where much intangible and impermanent loot is to be earned) and possibly a few minutes with their children but not without an email client open - "Dear Boss, I have a ****wit idea to tarnish our opponent's credibility. This obviously takes any priority over developing or refining our policy ideas and I will be putting my 100 hours of otherwise ****-all towards it. I know you understand, because you're a religious homophobe old-timer too and this is much easier than even attempting to rationalise our views."

    I think based on her armor my Tauren Disc Priest could take her down.
    Maybe I should join the Tea Party and protect them with my healer???
    Fat chance!

    A Geek in Office, that would be awesome.

    Someone plays video games. Stop the god damn press.

    It's always good to have articles like this showing gamers pulling together and helping each other out for good causes. They always seem to come up when I have become disillusioned with the gaming community and want to disassociate myself from it as much as possible. I think it might just be the vocal minority is ruining it for everyone else.

      Every group of people, has a vocal minority that ruins it's image.

    This is all bulls**it, and how do i know?
    "More recently she has enjoyed playing the hit Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim on her PlayStation 3"
    NOBODY enjoyed Skyrim on PS3.

    It shouldn't matter what a politician (or anyone) does in their leisure time. As long as it does not hurt anyone and is not illegal then anything is fine.
    Saying someone plays videos games or enjoys making chain mail and ornate swords does not make me more or less likely to vote for them. Stating their position on actual issues and plans to improve the country does.

    “I have no comment on the pandas at this time.”

    Now THAT is brilliant!

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