Monday, June 15, 2009

Female gamers and the Frag Dolls


Keredria from Tree of Life posted this article about women and gaming as a profession. She cited a small write up in the magazine Marie Claire, mainly about the Frag Dolls, a group of girls who are professional gamers. I commented on her blog post, but wanted to expand on it here.

On my lunch break a few days ago, I wandered on into CVS to buy some microwaveable Campbell's Tomato soup (mmm mmm good!) and found myself looking at the magazine rack. We should note here that I'm a total sucker for crappy fashion magazines.

"723 ways to turn that ratty t-shirt into a nighttime getup sure to dazzle anyone who happens to glance at you - only sequins and paperclips required!"
Oh yeah!
"One woman's story about something traumatic that happened but now she's getting through it with the help of her girlfriends and she's going to write a novel about it!"
Heck yes!
"The true story of a young girl turned prostitute: Moms, do you know where YOUR daughters are?"
"1156 different outfits that imitate runway fashion that you will NEVER wear, but can be bought at an "affordable" price!" WTB!

So I spot Marie Claire and it's got Cameron Diaz on the cover looking cuter than she normally does, and I'm like BAM! Totally gonna be the issue with women gamers! Marie Claire, you rock! Ima buy you and read you while I sip on mah soup!

I walked back to work, sat down, found the article....

....and was extremely disappointed.

The Frag Dolls are a group of girl gamers who advocate for women gamers and also happen to kick ass at playing video games. A quote taken from their site:

"The Frag Dolls are a team of gamers recruited by Ubisoft to represent their video games and promote the presence of women in the gaming industry. Started in 2004 by an open call for female gamers, the Frag Dolls immediately rocketed to the spotlight after winning the Rainbow Six 3: Black Arrow tournament in a shut-out at their debut appearance."
That's so awesome. And it wasn't just a fluke - they've gone and won other tourneys, too. Go them!

But then I checked out Brookelyn's video "Brookelyn takes heelys for a spin." For the first 20 seconds, I literally couldn't determine whether or not she had any bottoms on. Her shorts were THAT short. She also wears a tight tank top that leaves very little to the imagination. And in a quote from the Marie Claire article,

"At a recent tourney in Texas, Brookelyn, clad in a black corset, with a pair of diving doves tattoos on her shoulder, was swarmed by an army of preteen worshippers. 'Can I get a picture?' one asked. 'My buddy'll be so jealous.' Indeed. Some boys even like to brag that they've made out with Brookelyn and her gal pals. Dream on, dudes."
Ok, the tattoos are pretty rad. =P But shouldn't they be swarmed by preteen girls? I mean, they're advocating for female gamers. They're role models for those girls, right? Instead, they're swarmed by pre-teen boys. Doesn't that seem odd to you? Who, really, is their audience? Who are they trying to appeal to?

They say on their website, "It doesn’t really matter whether “girl” is placed before gamer or not, we’re just here to play and compete. We’re not going to hide the fact that we’re girls, just like guys aren’t going to hide the fact that they’re guys. " Well, sure, but do you have to wear booty shorts and a tight tank top to prove you're a girl? Excuse my vulgarity, but do guys walk around in spandex to show off the fact that they have a dick? And do you think a website for a group of male gamers would answer the frequently-asked-question, "Are you single?" like their site does?

I can't imagine that the Frag Dolls would have gotten the same attention (press-wise and fanboy-wise) if they were just as good at gaming, yet frumpy and unstylish, or even just normal looking. It seems to me that they're being marketed as sexpots for men to drool over.

Sigh. I know selling sex is nothing new, but I just wish we didn't have to resort to that to garner the attention women gamers deserve - attention to the fact that we CAN play games, and a lot of us can play them well, too. And I'm not necessarily attacking the actual Frag Dolls here (I know that's what it sounds like, but really, I bet they're awesome people, and awesome gamers, too) - but more of Ubisoft's marketing and the gaming society in general.

On a completely seperate note, here's another tidbit from the Marie Claire writeup:

"Of course, not everyone's thrilled about the tarting up of the game world. Male bloggers gripe that women can't play in the NFL or NBA, so why are they allowed in Major League Gaming?"
Well, because in sports, it's a proven fact that women have a smaller physique than men. On average, men are taller, faster, and stronger. It's just part of our genetic makeup as humans. That's why we separate sports into the NBA and the WNBA, the men's 100m dash and the women's 100m dash, baseball and softball.

Gaming has no physical component (I'm not talking about DDR, here - I'm talking about controller in hand, eyes on the screen). It's about knowledge, strategy, reflexes, and in some situations, teamwork. Men and women are equals in these categories. Therefore, they most certainly should be able to compete against one another.

I kind of find it hard to believe that male bloggers actually think this. I wish Marie Claire had cited some blogs - I tried to google some keywords that might lead me to them, but had no luck. Has anyone run across any bloggers that truly think this? Is MC just full of it?

I know that quite a few of the resto druid bloggers out there are female, and the issue of female gamers has been at the forefront of people's minds after the Ferarro debacle. What do you all think of this? I'd like to get perspectives from both guys and gals. Thoughts?


23 remarks:

Icedragon said...

So the fact that I have ovaries makes the guys scared to go against me? Get your mind off your dingleberries and into the game!

Physical activities are separated based on physical differences that can affect the outcome of the competition. Non-physical (i.e. cognitive and reflexive) activities aren't separated in any area of competition because the fundamentals of the human brain are the same for both sexes (meaning that there's no difference that can affect the outcome of the competition). Test scores, current gaming competitions, even Rubix cube competitions aren't segregated by gender. So either the boys are scared that we're participating (and have the potential to kick their asses just as hard) or they're getting weirded out that girls are defiling their "manly button-mashing" ritual.

The guys need to get over it. Ovaries are here to stay.

Sylveria said...

Well when you talk about their image and how you think they're sexpots - I have to disagree because when they take group pictures and when they're at events etc.. they are all wearing the same attire - jeans and tees. They aren't showing very much skin at all imo. Even in the video I don't think she what she is wearing is risque. I think if they were targeting men - they would be wearing revealing clothing all around - in their group pictures, in tournaments, events etc etc... but they aren't.

I think the misconceptions about girl gamers stem from the negativity girl gamers have with each other. When it comes down to it gaming is all about having fun. Who cares about what someone looks like or what they wear? Everyone should be more positive towards one another. Period. ^_^

Orbitz said...

There will always be a stigma about girl gamers. ALWAYS.

Just like women will always be objectified in the gaming community. Honestly, those girls are making alot of guys 'fantasy' girl appear real. If thats true or not, we may never know.

If they game awesome but are naked - that is completely their choice. It's unfortunately and adds to the 'if she is hot and gaming, she is looking for attention.' Which brings that negativeness back on female gamers.

I do believe that its VERY VERY VERY hard to find passionate female gamers to look up to. Who truly play with the boys at their level; merciless, ballsy and can swear like a pirate.

Because honestly, if you don't have a competitive bone in your body and your a female gamer, GTFO - because I got epics to get. Oo

(Of course I am sarcastic and I do mock... so how serious you take this -shrug- Just my two uncensored cents! lol ^.^)

Averna said...

@Ice: Agreed.

@Sylveria: Can I point to a marketing slogan or campaign line from Ubisoft that says "Yes, we are targeting men by portraying these women as sexpots"? No, but I still think that's what Ubi is doing. And hey, it's smart - like I said, sex sells.

I don't care what someone looks like or what they wear, but these women are supposed to be role models for young female gamers - and it seems that most of their fan base consists of male gamers probably partly due to the fact that they wear corsets while playing video games. Maybe the MC article should have focused more on their female gamer fan base - because I'm sure that they have one - it's just drowned out by boy gamer fantasies.

@Orbitz: "If she is hot and gaming, she is looking for attention." - Agreed, I hate that, and I didn't want to put them in that box with this article (which maybe I did more than I intended to...). It's a fine line female gamers have to walk, I think.

Aertimus said...

I think they are being role models for girls... young girls who want to be the hot gaming girl who gets all the attention from the guys. And the fast of the matter is, that is what a lot of pre-teen/teen girls want. However, look at some of the alternatives. I don't have children, but I think if I did, I would rather them want to be like those girls who are more clothed then not and "cute" rather than "sexy" in many of their pictures (jeans and tee) - than looking up to many of the singers on TV.

We should all get together and do female resto druid photo shoot in Resto4Life tee's and jeans.

Caceres said...

Great post. Two things 1) yeah I have to agree with you, the number one golden rule in marketing is sex sells. And of course these are attractive young women, so of course part of their sell will be their sexiness. Now mix this with the fact that male gamers, especially young adolescent ones, are especially, umm, how to say this . . . well, horny. And the idea of cute girls playing video games drives them crazy. I mean, I can remember countless times in /g chat some idiot saying things to a female officer in an old guild of mine like "if I sign up for SSC on Saturday do you promise to talk sexy on vent?" Which is harmless, I suppose, if you don't mind it. But then again, I'm a male and never had to deal with that kinda stuff. But the fact of the matter is that it all shouldn't matter and at the end of the day is rather obnoxious.
2) WTF is up with the "women shouldn't be able to game" and why would Marie Clair even print that? That is so stupid it hurts. In fact I would argue that some females possess an advantage in gaming that some males lack. That is, on the social interpersonal level that raiding and guild management takes females are often better at being patient listening to a slew of QQ, stroking hurt egos and sorting out silly disputes by dudes trying to show off their e-peens. Now,I'm not saying that as a blanket statement, but in my experience in WoW, in two different guilds, it was the female officer that held the guild and/or raid together while immature guys fought over trivialities.
Just discovered your blog and find it quite good. From one tree to another, keep those HoTs rolling!

Averna said...

@Aert: You make a *really* good point. Good role models: Britney and Lindsay Lohan? Or Brookelyn and Psyche? Between those two choices, I'd definitely pick the latter =)

Viiryen said...

For the record, I don't really follow the Frag Dolls. I've heard of them, but their pictures and so on were a mystery to me. So my comment is based on the limited knowledge I have acquired within 5-10 minutes of browsing their site. However based on what I've seen, I'd have to respectfully disagree with some of the points made in your post.

They're a group and organization designed to make money, and while I'd love to think that there's a group of girl gamers motivated to empower women very few groups exist like that over any topic. Money makes the world go 'round, and doubly so in the entertainment buisiness. And on this you are entirely right.

That being said, there's a variety of theoretical statistical reasons why the majority of their fanbase is male. Considering the majority of video gamers are male, I would be VERY shocked to see a statistical breakdown that showed a larger female fanbase than male for just that fact. Consider fashion magizines with stylish guys, in example(InStyle's "Man of Style" colomn comes to mind). Is it really shocking that the vast majority of the readers' of that colomn are female considering the vast majority of the followers of fashion trends are female as well?

Is a hot gamer chick some guy's dream girl? Yeah. It's just as many guy's nightmare too. Some men view video games as their retreat from life, and I've heard of guys who purposely steer their girlfriends away from WoW for that reason. Ultimately, they're using their gender to garner attention and are certainly making money or they wouldn't continue to be sponsored, but isn't that the point? Be it sex goddess or role model, you have to be noticed first to be looked up to.

For what it's worth, I also don't consider her shorts to be overly skimpy in the video posted, I find the top worse than the shorts. >.< That probably just stems from differing opinions of modesty, though. Either way, I certainly enjoyed reading your post, thanks for the interesting read. :)

RaĆ­ne said...

I find this all very amusing. Considering who so far has posted
comments on this site: female gamers...myself included, of course.

I must agree, in the end females for whatever reason have to "prove their worth" in the gaming community. Be it men don't think they're good enough, they want to prove to themselves they kick ass just as much as anyone else, or (go figure) are looking for a little bit of attention.

Personally, I love running into a pug (on those blue moon occasions that I do) stay quiet on vent, do very well, then amaze people on at the end when I finally do speak up.

wtf? The female character on screen is actually female? I love it.

Keredria said...

#1. Totally agree about the Cameron Diaz bit on the cover. :)

#2. @Icedragon: lol!! Ovaries are totally here to stay. :)

#3. I went back and watched that video... and seriously WTH does Heelys or whatever the hell those shoes are have to do with gaming? That was annoying.

#4. I do agree that there is a fine and sometimes confusing line. Yes, I totally agree with being meh and bleh with gals who put their image out there simply to get more attention for being attractive.

But how about a gal who puts her image out there to show that not only do girls game, but yes, normal, everyday, cool, attractive girls game as well? Would a girl with this mindset who happens to be attractive be accepted as a genuine female gamer who is not out there to just get attention? Or as you mentioned, are hot girls automatically placed in the first category?

Again, yes, its a fine line and it all depends on how the gal puts herself forward. But I would hope that the gals of the second category wouldn't be automatically derided as attention seeking whores.

#5. This is where I do agree with Sylveria and would hope that female gamers would be more supportive and open minded with each other.

Corgii said...

First this:

"Excuse my vulgarity, but do guys walk around in spandex to show off the fact that they have a dick?"

... made me lol SO hard. Props to you, Av.

I have to say that I'm on your side with this entire article. While all of us resto druid fembloggers are all very hawt indeed, all the members of Frag Dolls seem to almost gloat about their good looks and other things like that; they don't seem to be modest at all.

Girl gamers are making strides towards being considered equal to male gamers. I think soon enough they'll be seen that way and be accepted for more than just pretty faces.

Dan said...

Av, one of your best posts :)

As a quick side comment, it's worth mentioning that with regards to certain aspects of gaming, women are actually MORE suited to the hobby than men. I recall a distant lecture in sophomore Bio 3050 where it was mentioned in passing that women have slightly faster reaction times and slightly better hand-eye coordination than men, on average.

Anyway.... :D

I think the "celebrity" groups like FragDolls are almost always going to be the ones that play it up and over-hype, overdo, and over-sex themselves. It's how you get noticed by media and the public alike.

I think a far better example than FragDolls of how female gamers can and do kick just as much ass would be Hafu, the druid healer for champion 3v3 team Fnatic Orz - just about the best 3v3 team out there for much of TBC.

Their nail-biter win versus Gravitas Gaming in the MLG-Dallas 3v3 tournament stands in my mind as probably the best arena I have ever seen played.

I respect her as a HEALER. The fact that she's female is just icing on the props-cake to her.

Boize said...

"...but do guys walk around in spandex to show off the fact that they have a dick?"



Corgii said...


Ah! I totally forgot to mention Hafu, my IDOL. Hafu is one of the reasons I did hardcore PvP for a short period of time. I wanted to be like her; skilled and humble at the same time. I don't see her running around in skimpy clothes. Hell... I don't see her ANYWHERE other than in tournaments.

I wish I was like her :(

thanners said...

Hmm. Well, I think it is great that there is a group of girls out there playing in--and winning--gaming tournaments, just like any other.. gamer.

I don't know what I think about their image, though, because my thoughts can't seem to sit still. Are they attention-seeking? Is that a bad thing? What if they aren't seeking attention, they just really like dressing like that and damned what anyone else thinks? Are they pandering to males? What if they want to do that? Maybe it has the beneficial effect of showing that you can be a gamer-gal and sexy, too? But wait! Isn't that bad? Does it imply that only girl-gamers who fit this image can be accepted? i.e. as if to say "look at this, there are girls who play video games. And they're "real" girls, sexy corset-wearing girls" (I want to clarify that the last sentence was meant to be sarcastically snarky, and isn't my view. Just in case someone comes skimming over it and becomes outraged). And so my thoughts keep going back and forth.

There isn't really any barrier that makes it intrinsically more or less difficult for females to be effective at games, it just comes down to the individual. Gaming is an even playing field. If there are fewer females recognized as top gamers, then I'd suspect it's because there are just fewer female gamers.

Now, I might be going a bit rambly and veering away from the original subject now, but I just thought of a female friend of mine who is a more enthusiastic, and, as I have learned on more than one occasion, a more skilled gamer than I. I've noticed that she often uses genderless aliases in games, and for the month or so that she was playing WoW, she played a male dwarf character, and so far as my other friends knew, she was just another guy. She'd done nothing to indicate or even imply her own real-life gender, so I didn't say anything, either. I do wonder whether they might have acted any differently at all if they had known, and I also wonder whether that's why she deliberately chooses male characters. It's something I never thought to ask.

(Well, in addition to the fact that some of the female 'armour' is pretty ridiculous).

Wow, I uhh, rambled a bit.. a lot.

Dan said...


Yeah, the female "armor" in most MMO's is certifiably moronic in its design.

I will say, however, that as time has passed, the armor that Blizzard has put out has very quickly veered away from the "chainmail bikini" design of launch content. From Tier-1 onward, it's been real, functional-looking armor (banana-shoulders aside). There have even been a few caster robes in there that had some stylish and tasteful designs specifically when worn on female character models.

I think for the most part, men who have made it out of their teens have generally gotten over a lot of their "OMG A WOMAN IN GAME TALK TO MEEEE" tendencies (though there are certainly exceptions).

Ascended (the guild Averna and I play in) is lucky. We're a pretty aged guild (our average age is probably around the mid-to-high 20's), with a sizable number of couples and parents-with-kids playing. I think that
environment has encouraged more and more members to have their spouses play with them. Offhand I can think of well over 20 women that game with us, and at least 8 that make raids regularly.

Lissanna said...

My response didn't fit in a comment, so I had to make a whole blog post about it. It really is hard to be a female at gaming conventions and not "dress up" for the boys... Even I slip up some times and wear things that I shouldn't. I mean, I did show up at Blizzcon with "druids do it animal style" written on my tank top...

Kae said...

@Orbitz: "I do believe that its VERY VERY VERY hard to find passionate female gamers to look up to."

I know some ;) They ended up becoming regional volunteer coordinators and even staff for the gaming company itself. Great people... unfortunately that company was shut down, we've lost touch.

In WoW, though, I think there are quite a few passionate female gamers that others look up to, and many are within this thread of comments!

Roman said...

Btw girls are exceptional healers, no matter which class they play. I've seen just a few, but they were good at it. Still, I've met no decent female damage dealers -_-Uh, no! Only one. She kicks ass.

Now seriously: there is a stereotipe that girls can't do this or that, gaming included. And it's true when girls don't take what they do serious. Like driving a car and trying to put some make up on at the same time. But when girls are aware of what they are doing, when they think, analyse, make deliberate decisions, it takes some great effort to compete with them. Also one should not forget, that not every girl plays to be number one, to beat everyone and prove girls are the best. Some play just for fun, and it's both genders alike. But due to stereotipes we'll totally ignore men and point at every woman's mistake. But the truth is: there is nothing in games a woman can't physically or mentally do. Gaming is just not that popular among girls, and most don't take it as serious as men often do.
(Not too long ago someone of level 12 whispered my 17th level pally-toon and asked to help kill a level 21 elite, and I was like "Hey, wait! Life's not thad bad", the answer was "No one's gonna die, silly, it's a game!" That was kinda cute)
Well, in brief, if a girl wants to play and show some results, she does. And I won't even listen if someone will try to dissuade me.

Shawn said...

It was said in the article. Ubisoft sponsors the team. What is Ubisoft's main market? 25-35 year old males. What do they like to see? Skin and stuff dieing.

Now given that, half my guild are female. I have the utmost respect for them and really enjoy hearing their voices over vent. I just wish I could figure out how to get my wife more interested in games...

Notabear said...

Don't sweat it, kid. Seriously. I have been gaming for most of my life and I can say that while the majority of gamers are guys, some of the best players I've met have been females.

And I'm not talking about the "Have-Boobs-Will-Heal" variety who sprinkle their vent talk with tee-hee, I have boobies and a girlie voice, listen to me moan as I spam CoH without regards to health bars.

Granted, I have played with many exceptional healers who were girls, my g/f being one of them (and also taught me how to play this game >.<)

No, I'm talking about the 13 yo girl who rapes you on her hunter, the 36 yo rocket scientist who makes you cry on her gnome warlock, the 22 yo prot pally who hates giggling bimbos, the 16 yo mage who just joined the guild and made you look like the worst mage to play the game, the 48 yo mother of 3 who can somehow tank in bear and feed three obnoxiously loud children at the same time while putting out so much aggro that other tanks quit the game.

Some of them have been gorgeous creatures that have to fight guys off with sticks. Some have been overweight with image issues, some have been absolutely normal. Big breasts, small breasts, tall and lanky, short and stubby, old, young, mean and surly, fun and satirical, it doesn't really matter.

Even beyond mmos, girl gamers are one of two things.
1. Better than everyone else and don't point out the fact that they have breasts.
2. Giggle a lot and draw attention to their girlishness so guys will ignore their lack of skills.

I despise the latter half.

I don't see guy vs girl gamers myself. I just see good vs bad gamers.

Roman said...

Notabear *totally* sais the things I wanted to express, but wasn't able due to lack of language skill.

Kae said...

(Well said, Notabear :) )

My guild picked up a pugger shammy for our 10-man Ulduar last night. The shaman told us that they were very shy and may not talk in vent; we said that's fine, we just needed them on vent so they could hear instructions.

I'm pretty sure that her saying that was just to cover herself from being revealed as a real girl, after some bad pugs. You can imagine her surprise when she found out that there were 4 other girls in the raid, and her being there made the raid half female! She was more willing to talk then :) We tanked, we healed, we damaged... we joked and had a blast. We knocked out hard-mode achievements at the same time. Were we flaunting our genders to do it? Nope, we were all just a part of the team... 50% of it, in fact.