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how gamers influence america
or, why republicans just don't understand today's youth
by cheryl l
pop culture

Dear Mr. Michael Goldfarb,

In your August 18th entry on John McCain's website, titled, "Smears the Left Can Fight For" you wrote the following:

"It may be typical of the pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd to disparage a fellow countryman's memory of war from the comfort of mom's basement, but most Americans have the humility and gratitude to respect and learn from the memories of men who suffered on behalf of others."

Perhaps you suffer under the delusion that soldiers are nothing else except soldiers, that they have no other interests beyond what the Army, Navy, Air Force, USMC or National Guard offers them on duty. Perhaps you forget that our soldiers have continued in various combat situations in the 34 years since Dungeons & Dragons was created in 1974, near the end of the Vietnam War.

Perhaps, sir, you do not realize that Dungeons & Dragons - and all the games inspired by D&D, that followed - is based on ideas that come from military strategy and thoughtful, long-term tactical planning. More than that, however - Dungeons & Dragons, like Star Trek before it - has inspired people around the world into careers such as technology, engineering, and more. I'm a gamer -- every day, my guildmates and fellow players surprise me with the fields they work in: lawyers, doctors, teachers, police officers, even popular entertainers and sports figures (Tim Duncan, Curt Schilling, Robin Williams, to name a few).

And most of all, perhaps, sir, you do not realize how many of today's modern soldiers actively play and/or have played Dungeons & Dragons, or the myriad of computer games that have evolved out of the worlds of D&D. In fact, in over 20 years of gaming (both tabletop D&D/D&D-related gaming, and computer-based gaming), I have never had a point in my gaming life where I have not played with active or veteran soldiers. Some of them have been soldiers currently deployed around the world. Others have been on military bases, or are veterans of the armed services. Some are as young as their mid-20s, already battle-hardened veterans of multiple tours of duty in the Middle East. Others are/were career soldiers.

Gaming groups, everyday citizens, and companies around the globe frequently include gifts of D&D sets in care packages to deployed soldiers. It is a game that takes relatively little equipment to play, beyond the imagination and some dice and paper and pencil. It allows them, for just a little bit, to escape the horrors and dark realities of war. Perhaps you think that is something to sneer about, as you look down your nose at the "typical pro-Obama Dungeons & Dragons crowd" and assume they're all in the "comfort of mom's basement".

As for mom's basement? Well, if the economy wasn't so soft, a bunch of those "people in mom's basement" could be out there with better jobs and their own living space.

Perhaps, sir, you shouldn't be quite so fast to disparage the "Dungeons & Dragons crowd" and to say we don't know or respect our soldiers. We know our soldiers, because we talk and play with them on a daily basis. They have names and faces and voices to us -- yes, real ones, not just their avatars/characters. We write them and send them care packages when they're stationed abroad. We comfort their families when they are wounded or killed overseas. We applaud and salute them for the service they do for our country and behalf of each and every one of us.

On a different note, perhaps you don't realize that the gaming industry as a whole, be it board games or computer games, currently is a $10.7 billion industry - that's right, I said TEN POINT SEVEN BILLION DOLLARS. Projections expect that to soar to $68 billion by 2012. Let's not forget the impact that gaming holds on the economy at large, by driving demand for constantly upgraded computer systems, not to mention specialized furniture, books and other fan memorabilia the games' popularity spawn, and even the movies that gaming inspires, plus the travel and so forth that people do to go around the country, and meet and play with other gamers.

Think about all those gamers - the majority falling into the 18-45 year old, male, plenty-of-disposable-income bracket - and how they're affecting the economy. And, perhaps more importantly to you at this moment in time - could affect the vote. Do you really want to alienate them with a single careless comment?

Perhaps what's annoying you about the "Dungeons & Dragons crowd" for you is that we're asking for proof of the pretty tale that McCain is telling. The cross in the dirt sounds so nice, too nice; and has a ring of familiarity to it. Maybe it's because we all saw that same story in a viral email on the internet, years ago, long before McCain ever trotted it out.

And me? I'm the daughter of a Vietnam-era U.S. Marine Corps veteran. And I'm a gamer. And I vote. I also don't live in my parents' basement - I own my own place. I have a full-time job, I pay taxes, I'm concerned about the environment and the economy and the direction this nation is headed.

You think my generation and the generations after my own can't appreciate the sacrifices that our soldiers are making every single day, on our behalf? World War II, Korea and Vietnam are no longer the only conflicts that have left veterans and war dead as part of the active fabric of our society.

Shame on you, Mr. Goldfarb, for being so hasty to take a stereotype and attempt to turn it into a political message.

One last thought, sir - if gaming is so awful, then how come the Army uses games to help train its soldiers, and to help attract them to begin with?


Photographer. Writer. World traveler. Gamer. Avid reader. Computer enthusiast. Connecticut yankee-turned-Chicagoan. Hockey fan. Drives American. Eats organically and locally. Supports no-kill animal shelters and children's charities. Likes intelligent debate.

more about cheryl l


happy 42nd birthday, star trek!
how the wagon train to the stars became the best-beloved sci-fi cash cow of all time
by cheryl l
topic: pop culture
published: 9.8.08


juli mccarthy
8.20.08 @ 3:45a

Well said. It seems typical of some pundits and politicians to disparage voters, from the comfort of their offices, but most Americans have some sense.

alex b
8.20.08 @ 4:40a

Leave it to the Republican machine to protest anything that has a remote stretch of imagination.

juli mccarthy
8.20.08 @ 11:41a

I think the irony is amusing - painting gamers as pale basement dwellers who are out of touch with reality is... well, a bit out of touch with reality.

lucy lediaev
8.20.08 @ 12:57p

Good article. As a 64-year-old grandma who plays games I object to the stereotyping. I have a whole family of gamers who are intelligent, aware of political issues, and voters. One of them is a key programmer on WOW. We are all engaged in the real world.

alex b
8.20.08 @ 1:22p

Lucy, I have several incredibly smart, hip, and non-basement dwelling friends who would completely love to have a WoW programmer gig.

cheryl l
8.21.08 @ 3:29a

I find it ironic that I'm writing against one of McCain's bloggers, and my article is displaying next to an ad for McCain for Pres....


sarah ficke
8.21.08 @ 9:22a

Ah, the magic of keywords.

jeffrey walker
8.21.08 @ 4:46p

"I find it ironic that I'm writing against one of McCain's bloggers, and my article is displaying next to an ad for McCain for Pres...."

Members see no ads.

But more on point, Goldfarb is part of the PNAC. Why would anyone seriously respect anything he's done or said? He's a douche bag with a history degree.

erik myers
8.21.08 @ 10:31p

Great point, by the way, about the number of gamers in the armed forces. I was surprised, at first, when I started running into active duty soldiers on WoW - now I take it as sort of par for the course. If I'm in a pickup group, I'm almost always running with either someone who's active or a veteran.

Frankly, it makes me feel a lot better about our armed forces.

I hope the GOP gets a lot of shit for this one.

adam kraemer
8.22.08 @ 10:51a

The comments below Goldfarb's apology are classic:

speaking of which,

what alignment is Barack Obama?

Chaotic Awesome?


jael mchenry
8.22.08 @ 11:43a

Brillllliant. I especially like "chaotic awesome", and "they're all natural 20 a**holes."

I haven't seen that many D&D jokes in one place since... well, my childhood, I guess.

Great analysis, Cheryl.

daniel castro
8.22.08 @ 12:36p

Man, now I'm in the mood to go play CS.

Yes, Counter-Strike.

tracey kelley
8.29.08 @ 8:24a

My husband Matt is in a WoW guild with two of his closest friends. They've been good friends for more than 20 years. Matt is a journalist for two state radio networks; Todd and Sean are both civil engineers, and veterans. Two of the three have been married for more than 10 years, two of the three have children, two of the three own more than one property.

All three have mostly voted Republican.

None live in their parent's basement.

Todd and Sean are WAY more into WoW than Matt is. They develop complex strategies and tactics that we believe are a result of their military training.

Hey, Goldfarb, put all that into your stereotyping blender and set it to frappe.

Good article, Cheryl. Welcome!

ETA: One of them is a key programmer on WOW.

Yay, Chris! We love him! :D


cheryl l
12.9.08 @ 10:55a

As a follow up to my essay, I wanted to post something. I belong to a guild on EverQuest II on the Guk server, and we have a lot of military/ex-military in our guild. Last year, one of our applicants (Mekillthings was his in-game name; Michael Tallman was his RL name) was deployed to Iraq right after he applied - unfortunately, most of us never got to know him as he was KIA there.

Our guild leader write this article on Clockwork Gamer about him - it's a nice tribute to Michael but also a recognition of how many of our military men and women we all know thanks to gaming.


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