So lots of game news websites and blogs have picked up this story: Colleen Wachowicz is running for a state senate spot in Maine. She also plays World of Warcraft, and some concerned citizens want to make sure that her potential constituents understand the kind of person that Wachowicz is. A game player. Someone who stabs and kills people. Someone who plays in a fantasy world.
The “outing” about page actually refrains from any editorializing. It is remarkably neutral for an obvious political attack. A sample:
Colleen Lachowicz, AKA Santiaga, is a gamer in the massively multiplayer online role-playing game World of Warcraft (WoW), which takes place in the make-believe land Azeroth. Today, Colleen/Santiaga is an orc assassination rogue playing at level 85–the highest level one can attain. She and the members of her “Wreck List Guild”—Colleen/Santiaga’s WoW online alliance—post comments to each other on liberal online forums including the Daily Kos, where they discuss politics, military policies, and WoW battle tactics.
The paragraph above really deserves to be picked apart–it is pure art as far as the rhetoric is concerned. Pointing out what level she is and that it is the highest alludes to some kind of possible cult–she isn’t one of us, she is the HIGHEST LEVEL. Making sure that we understand that she commits lots of time and effort into a fictional world (with the implicit suggestion that only someone who is absolutely disconnected from the real world could do that). Associating her guild with liberal forums and military policy and battle tactics–as if all of these things are somehow flattened out when they enter into the mind of Colleen AKA Santiaga.
But why make a website to show all of this? Why make a website to point out that Wachowicz spends her leisure time playing a game? The easy answer is that it points her out as a nerd; nerds are bad; we find out syllogistically that she isn’t a capable human being.
So lets go another way: she is part of a cult. She believes in things that aren’t real, kills lots of victims in a game universe, and that makes her unfit to make decisions about the world that we live in. Syllogisms get us there again. It is the 1980s and Dungeons and Dragons all over again.
But this, too, seems too easy.
So what about this: she is being shamed because she has a community. She has a world that she shares with lots of other people, and even worse, she has fun in that world. Reality is Broken, after all, is based on the fact that games are an escape from the normal lives that we leave–with the understanding that the “we” here is the bourgeois American audience with a significant amount of disposable income.
Colleen Wachowicz’s opponents want to shame her for having a full life.
I am not on the side of the luddites or the technophobes or the primitivists. I don’t think that life was qualitatively any better in a premodern (or proper Modern) world. I don’t think that we have become atomised so much that we have lost something. But I do believe that a significant portion of the American population believes that. The desire for “simpler times,” when everyone knew their place and BIG BROTHER kept his fingers out of WASPy pockets, has reached peak levels in the political climate since 2008.
It isn’t about hating Colleen Wachowicz for somehow being digitally duplicitous. It isn’t castigating her for being a nerd. It is punishment for finding pleasure in the digital world. That’s why everything is presented without commentary–on face, without analysis, we are supposed to find her disgusting. We are supposed to hate her for having something we don’t–an outlet, a community, deep ties.
This reading brought to you by the part of my brain that agrees with The Last Psychiatrist.