World of Warcraft hobby sparks US political row

Screenshot of Santiaga Playing WoW leads people to live a "bizarre double life" say Maine Republicans

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The gaming hobby of a political candidate has become an issue in a state senate race in New England, US.

Maine Republicans have created a webpage revealing that Democrat candidate Colleen Lachowicz plays an orc rogue in World of Warcraft (WoW).

Ms Lachowicz's liking for back-stabbing and poison in WoW raise questions about her "fitness for office", they claim.

Ms Lachowicz has hit back saying the attack showed the Republicans were "out of touch".

Weird focus

The state senate seat known as District 25 in Maine, is currently being contested by Ms Lachowicz and incumbent Republican Tom Martin. Voting takes place on 6 November.

As part of its campaign efforts, the Republican party in the state created "Colleen's World" - a website that compiles information about Ms Lachowicz's orc rogue Santiaga. An orc is a mythical human-like creature, generally described as fierce and combative.

In a statement that accompanies the webpage, Maine Republicans said playing the game led Ms Lachowicz to live a "bizarre double life" that raised questions about her ability to represent the state.

The page also detailed some of the comments Ms Lachowicz has made while talking about her orc rogue, in particular it highlights her affection for Santiaga's ability to stab things and kill people without suffering a jail sentence.

"These are some very bizarre and offensive comments," said Maine Republican Party spokesman David Sorensen in a statement. "They certainly raise questions about Lachowicz's maturity and her ability to make serious decisions for the people of Senate District 25."

The site also lists many of the 400 comments she has posted to left wing political news and discussion site Daily Kos. Maine Republicans have also posted leaflets that reproduce the information on the website.

"I think it's weird that I'm being targeted for playing online games," said Ms Lachowicz in a statement. "Apparently I'm in good company since there are 183 million other Americans who also enjoy online games.

"Instead of talking about what they're doing for Maine people, they're making fun of me for playing video games," said Ms Lachowicz.

It is not clear what effect the Republican tactic will have on the state senate race in Maine. However, many messages of support have been left on Ms Lachowicz's own webpage with some pledging cash to her campaign.

Gaming researcher Ladan Cockshut said the row revealed how gaming can be seen as a bad thing to do.

"In my work, I've spoken with many people who in their regular lives have roles of significant responsibility (as doctors, managers, or educators) but who choose carefully with whom they disclose their gaming activity," she told the BBC. "And disclosing their gaming activity is often accompanied by a degree of apology or embarrassment."

But, she added, having a gamer run for office was a "heartening" development.

"This would seem to run contrary to the other stereotypes that we love to assign to gamers: that they are lazy, antisocial people who don't have a 'real life'," she said. "Maybe this will trigger some dialogue about our perceptions of gamers and the role that games can and should play in modern society."

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