Inside Colleen's World: Senator-elect talks World of Warcraft and politics
Despite their obvious differences, there’s at least one notable similarity between World of Warcraft and political office.
“The biggest parallel I have noticed is [the need] to work cooperatively to achieve great things,” reflected Colleen Lachowicz, who was recently elected to the Maine State Senate. “I have worked cooperatively all my life; I was a social worker for 25 years. Video gaming is just another way I was able to work cooperatively with people.”
Lachowicz’s two realms crossed over—and clashed—in the race for Maine’s 25th District seat. An attack site, Colleen’s World, was launched by the Republican Party of Maine, calling attention to Lachowicz’s years-old, in-game comments and her choice of character, Santiaga, a level 85 rogue orc assassination rogue known for stabbing and poisoning other characters.
“Maine needs a State Senator that lives in the real world, not in Colleen’s fantasy world,” the website’s introduction claimed.
The site, which her opponent—incumbent Tom Martin—never endorsed, brought worldwide attention to Lachowicz’s campaign and raised interesting questions about the morality of ingame actions.
“I didn’t think video gaming had anything to do with why I was running for office,” Lachowicz told the Daily Dot. “I just continued doing what I was doing for my campaign because I felt that was the way to go. … I certainly never anticipated it would go viral.”
Gamers everywhere threw their support behind her and even attempted to make donations, which election rules forbid her to accept. Throughout the ordeal, Lachowicz simply wished to stay true to her values and why she was running for office. She also refused to back down from her status as a gamer.
“I am not embarrassed to play video games. Everyone plays them, even my mom.”
In November, support for Lachowicz officially proved too much for the attack strategies. She ousted Martin by over 900 votes.
The Daily Dot spoke with the state-senator-elect to discuss the online attention as well as her future plans for both the state of Maine and gaming.
Daily Dot: How do you feel the Internet affected your campaign?
The attention had its good and bad parts. The support from my district as well as all over the world was nice, but it was also overwhelming. It also distracted me from my campaign duties.
DD: What message do you feel your victory sends, specifically to (and about) the gaming community?
I think my victory speaks not only to gamers but everyone in general. My campaign wasn’t about video gaming at all but rather fairness, fixing the economy through job creation, protecting the middle class, and seeing that everyone has quality and affordable healthcare (that was my main issue). Gamers just happened to like and agree with that message. I just hope [the situation] didn’t become a distraction to people because I am focused on meeting the issues of my campaign.
DD: We loved your victory cheer from Final Fantasy 6. What is your favorite Final Fantasy game?
I thought that would be fun for people! Definitely Final Fantasy 6!
DD: Now that you are in office, do you have plans to do anything for Internet freedom?
Most of that is a federal issue. It hasn’t been an issue that has come up much in the Maine state legislature. I am a supporter of Internet freedom, and it is definitely an important issue.
DD: Do you think you will get back into gaming, now that you have won the State Senate seat?
(Laughs) Lots of people have asked me that. I have a copy of World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and I am going to try that soon. As far as trying new games, I don’t know if I will have the time now.
DD: Would you care to comment on the WoW community with which you interacted?
I have lots of friends in the game, both through the server and through Real ID. One thing that I hope comes out from this whole situation is that it is pretty normal for people to play video games. They aren’t just for geeks. It’s across all ages, from people who are retired all the way down to kids. Also, lots of women play.
DD: Sexism in gaming has been a huge issue this year. What you think of Halo 4’s decision to give a lifetime ban to users found to be seriously harassing other players?
I actually had not heard about that. I never played Halo and, due to my campaign duties, that slipped past me. However, I think that any sort of harassment isn’t a good thing. I would have to know more about specific incidents to agree/disagree with a lifetime ban from a game, but I definitely feel that things need to be done to stop harassment. Otherwise, people won’t feel comfortable playing.
DD: Is it fair to judge a person by their actions in a video game? How does it compare to judging the actions of an anonymous Internet user?
No, it isn’t fair. Video games are just games. Some people read novels; some people watch nothing but thriller movies. To me, video gaming is just another form of entertainment. People interact all the time on the Internet. I don’t think we can take what people say and do out of context. There is now a whole generation that has grown up talking and interacting online; it’s just as common as talking on the phone was. I don’t think things they say should be held against them.
DD: Finally, it must be asked: Alliance or Horde?
Illustrations by Jason Reed