October 4, 2012

'World of Warcraft' gamers puzzled by Republican attack on Lachowicz

By Ray Routhier rrouthier@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

Mick Pratt thinks drawing attention to a political candidate's video gaming habit is sort of like telling folks not to vote for someone because they go to football games with their bodies painted New England Patriots' colors.

"Somebody who dedicates a lot of time to playing World of Warcraft might be the equivalent to somebody going to a Patriots' game with a logo on their chest and getting drunk," said Pratt, 26, of Portland, who has been playing World of Warcraft for seven years. "Everything in moderation, right? To say someone is a bad candidate just because they play video games or root hard for a football team, is ridiculous."

Pratt was one of several Maine gamers who reacted with disdain Thursday when they heard the Maine Republican Party had created a website to focus attention on the fact that Colleen Lachowicz -- a Democrat from Waterville running for state Senate -- plays the violent video game World of Warcraft.

The website also links to Lachowicz's gamer profile, attributing a list of blog posts to Lachowicz's game character, Santiaga. The Republican website charges that Lachowicz makes "crude, vicious and violent comments" in her blog posts.

But people who have played World of Warcraft for years say it not as violent as other games. They dispute the implication that World of Warcraft -- a multi-player game -- is any more violent than some movies or TV shows accessible to all ages.

"You're mostly killing monsters and villains, it's not like some games where there are beheadings or hacking off of limbs. The violence is stylized, it's very cartoony," said Pratt, who works at the Bull Moose music store in Scarborough. "It's a fantasy land of dragons and wizards."

A 2010 study of adolescents who play video games -- published in the Review of General Psychology by the American Psychological Association -- had very mixed results on the question of how the games affect behavior. The study found generally that violent video games could make "less agreeable" teens more hostile, but playing violent video games allowed some teens to learn new skills and improve social networking.

"This game (World of Warcraft) doesn't promote violence. If you look at it abstractly, it gets people from all over the world to work together to stop evil (in the game)" said Douglas Hanrion, 29, of Westbrook. "There are a lot worse things a candidate could do than sit in their house playing a video game. It's better than the elected officials we have who get caught with hookers."

Hanrion and other gamers say they understand that some people who don't play video games might be alarmed by the presumed violence. Or they might have heard stories about people obsessed with video games behaving in strange ways. But not all gamers should be painted with the same brush, they say.

"Certainly there are people who abuse it, who play too much to the detriment of other parts of their life," said Dem McCarthy, 33, of South Portland. "But that doesn't mean all people who play video games should be vilified."

Pratt said that to him, whether or not someone plays violent video games would have no affect on whether he'd vote for that person. He wouldn't vote for a fellow gamer just because that person is a fellow gamer, he said.

But Hanrion says he would be more likely to vote for a fellow gamer. And since millions of people of a certain age grew up with video games, Hanrion thinks it might be a mistake for Republicans to highlight Lachowicz's gaming.

"I would certainly be more likely to vote for someone who plays World of Warcraft," said Hanrion, who works at Dirigo Hobbies in Yarmouth. "Because it shows that candidate is more tapped into my generation."

 

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