(Photo: http://www.colleensworld.com/)
(Photo: http://www.colleensworld.com/)

The US Elections 2012 not only marked a turning point for women, but also a seminal chapter in the history of geekdom.

Colleen Lachowicz, the Democrat candidate for the State Senate in Maine and World of Warcraft addict, was at the centre of a pretty vitriolic pre-election campaign from Republicans who questioned her ability to run for office over her gaming habit, and the language she used in pursuing it.

Republican candidates were so offended by Lachowicz's in-and-out-of-game banter that they set up a disparaging website, "Colleen's World" to derogate her hobby and cast aspersions on her character.

However, in what can only be described as sweet revenge, Lachowicz proceeded to beat her opponent Tom Martin by 913 votes and will now be representing Kennebec and Somerset counties in Maine's legislature.

Given the digital age we now live in, the Republicans' condemnation of Lachowicz for her love of online gaming can only be described as an interesting strategy.

When IBTimes UK first reported on the story, support and offers for donations to Lachowicz's campaign came flooding in from gamers around the world - demonstrating the depth of feeling the Republican impugnation engendered.

We also received a very angry email from the Maine Republican Party's Communications Director David Sorensen, saying: "Don't try to spin this into an attack on WoW generally; it is not.

"We did not attack her 'for playing WoW in her free time.' If she were like any other player who enjoys the game, there would be no attack; but she is not, through her double life and gameplay she has made shockingly offensive and crude comments that call into question her fitness for office."

What was most interesting though was the conclusion made by Sorensen, in relation to a comment made by Lachowicz about American lobbyist Grover Norquist.

"We attacked her for the violent and offensive comments she made while gaming, such as saying she wanted to drown Grover Norquist in a bath tub, implying that Maine's governor was a child prostitute and drug dealer when he was a homeless youth, and using the "c-word," among many other things," Sorenson added.

OK. Well, that's the conclusion they came to.

So, now that we have added direct feedback to the widely covered story, it's important to consider the wider connotations of the website, gaming in general and of course gaming banter, as well as the Republicans' concentrated efforts to use WoW as a political point scoring tool that has, in fact, done the exact opposite of what they intended; given more support to Lachowicz.

It has shown how out of touch the Republicans are with millions of people who play the game and how ignorance over playing games like these has detracted their understanding of a root problem and created a stigma around the hobby.

Understanding a Massive demographic

Massive multiplayer online role playing games or MMPORGs are now among the biggest hobbies in the world. WoW subscribers now number just under 10 million, while dozens of other similar games boast a combined playing community which exceeds the total population of Great Britain.

Given this gargantuan level of people routinely logs on at least 20 hours a week, and given that the average age of its core constituents is between 28 and 34 according to some studies, you would think some politicians would be interested in understanding why such a large number of voters would want to spend their time in a fantasy realm.

On the "Colleen's World" website, one of the highlighted entries is headlined "I spent my day levelling an undead warlock" while another says "the time and effort are wearing me down. I'm lazy, remember?"

Several highlighted posts point towards 'laziness' and are there on a specially created website to clearly emphasise someone who is workshy.

Right? No, wrong.

If the critics truly understood online gaming as much as their statements such as "If she were like any other player who enjoys the game," would lead us to believe, then they wouldn't dress up the posts as anything other than what she was referring to.

If you look at the original post, from which her comment is taken, the original guild member says "yeah, I think it's a little more difficult to sell those high-end BoEs. They do sell; it just takes more time and effort."

If you were an avid WoW player, you would know that they were referring to Bind on Equips, which can be anything pertaining to high-level gear or weapons for your character that can be publically traded in the WoW auction house system, player to player or sold to a vendor for a small price.

And if you had experience playing the game, you would be saying the same thing. It's bloody annoying and boring and a massive effort to try and get gold for gear you don't want.

Talking Smack

Online gamers are not famed for their saintly comments nor their patience.

If senate candidates realised that "enjoying the game" meant spending dedicated hours levelling, learning new skills and in some cases spending six hours on a raid, just on the off chance you will get better armour for your character, they would realise swearing goes with the territory.

For example, check out this infamous and very real in-game rant (warning: severely irritating and loud noises will ensue)

However, on the website, the opening gambit is "she gets away with crude, vicious and violent comments like the ones below."

And boy does she.

But what they see as vicious is frankly hilarious to millions of gamers. If they want to hear or see people swearing like troopers, they can log onto any online game and find statements of similar profanity.

You Are What You Play - Apparently

As an online gamer, there is such a stigma from the non-game playing world. It beats you up as a kid for your passion, steals your lunch money for it and, in later life, often forces you to hide it like some weird fetish that will ruin your chances of a normal human relationship.

And why is that?

Well statements like "through her double life and gameplay she has made shockingly offensive and crude comments that call into question her fitness for office," don't exactly help.

Her character, an orc rogue, apparently is a reflection of herself in real life. The fact she likes to 'back stab and poison' her opposition (although she is referring to the qualities of the character in game) means she is likely to do it IRL.

Ok, so by that school of thought, I am an un-dead mage that shoots fireballs from my hands while riding around on a skeletal horse.

I'm just saying.

All I can say is Horde - FTW and well done to those Republican candidates who actually increased her popularity by highlighting her online game playing.