Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Company You Keep

Coleen Lachowitcz should have played Eve.

Many of you will be aware that the political foes of the Maine state senate candidate are calling her judgement and character into question because it's been discovered she's an MMPORG enthusiast. To be precise, she's a level 68 Rogue Orc in World of Warcraft.  Setting her choice of game aside, the fact that this is regarded as a political vulnerability speaks volumes to the "type" the general population has in mind when they think about MMPORG players.

While it is true that online gaming has its share of asthmatic teen-agers and semi-employed middle aged slackers, so does NASCAR. And I've never heard of anyone disqualified for public office based on their neigh-fanatical devotion to watching semi-educated hillbillies drive loud cars around oval track all afternoon.  Looked at objectively, flying cartoon spaceships is no more foolish than "fantasy" football leagues, a passion shared openly in many professional offices. And don't get me started on golf: If you're playing a "sport" in which out of shape alcoholics wearing baggy polyester pants the color of a Rogue Orc's face are legitimate contenders, you've no business sneering at people who play online games.  

Stones and glass houses, people. Stones and glass houses.

The fact is that there are any number of skilled professionals, captains of industry, and high-ranking government officials who log in at night to knit up the unraveled sleeve of cares with a bit of digital mayhem.  An entire generation, steeped in science fiction, fantasy and war games, has grown up playing an engaging and sophisticated array of MMPORGs.  The expectation that these digital pursuits be put aside or kept hidden in order to be taken seriously in a world where "mature" adults collect baseball cards or dress up to re-enact Civil War battles is unreasonable.

Having said that, the various MMPORGs are not all equal in the pubic eye.  Nor should they be; there are games and then there are games. World of Warcraft, for example is never going to be cool enough to be accused of being a front for the CIA.  Games, like most aspects of human culture, fall in and out of fashion. Some have more cache than others.  I once knew a man who said he could learn all he needed to know about someone by playing a round of golf with them.  Likewise, what games we play and how we play them speaks volumes about our characters and the company we keep; the vaunted Eve sandbox more so than most.


  1. "semi-educated hillbillies drive loud cars around oval track all afternoon"

    They aren't the only ones throwing stereotypes around it seems. Watch much Nascar lately? It's not the sport it was 25 years ago. Most of the drivers don't even come from the south now and they all finished twelve grades at least. Have a look at their personal histories.

    I don't watch it myself - I'm not that into cars. However, my mother is from Indianapolis and watches it every chance she gets. She was a nurse before she retired and hardly a redneck or semi-educated. Be careful the comparison's you make.

    I agree the comments made against Candidate Lachowitcz are ridiculous. Hey, is that a Polish name!? *duck*

    1. Stereotype?

      Hell, they could have PhDs in astrophysics and hale from Park Avenue; but when they stand in the winner's circle pouring milk over their heads they make sure they sound like 20 pounds of bone-stupid hominy grits in a ten pound box. That stereotype is so embedded in NASCAR they could trademark it.

  2. . . . And when I get resumes from new employees that indicate that they ran a guild/corp/alliance (in their hobbies/interests section), that says something positive to me.

    Playing well with others (remotely, to boot) learning how to lead/encourage, etc. are signs of valuable leadership.

    Having a system that fully blocks MMOs (and most gaming websites) from the office computers helps me know that those powers are only used for good.

    1. I'm equal opportunity in that respect.

      I take a dim view of people who put their golf scores, chess rating or Fantasy Football record on their resume. It usually means they're lacking substance in their vitas. Same holds with MMPORG experience.

      In game experience often doesn't translate to real life. I know a number of great in-game FCs and CEOs that struggle when confronted with RL. On the other hand, I've hired and worked with folk who were stellar performers who also turned out to be WoW or Eve players.

      I've found no meaningful correlation between one and the other. Like golf, I regard MMPORGs as an entertainment and not a business qualification.

  3. As you know I've recently been on the hunt for new employment for the first time in over 16 years. One thing I learned rather quickly was to keep my mouth shut regarding my association with an MMO, my alter ego's blog, and how incredibly popular and awesome I happen to be in a weird little circle of the world.

    Granted, this might be because I'm looking for work primarily in C-Level executive circles typically manned by more senior less imaginative morons (seriously!). But I have seen the looks they give me when I start, so I stopped doing it. And we're talking about jobs in which the internet, blogging skill, social interaction are among the primary skills.

    And then there are the exceptions. On the third meeting with my new opportunity yesterday I learned that he once was rather popular in Second Life and has played some with WoW. No surprise then that it looks like we'll be going into partnership.

    But the stigma is very much alive. And as always, time and place rule.

    1. I've been typing for some time with fingers crossed on your behalf. Bon chance, old son.