Gaming girlz
November 18, 2004 12:31 PM   Subscribe

The Frag Dolls "represent the ladies in gaming with the taste and talent for beating you at your own games. So, for all you guys who think the only gals in gaming are the leather-clad, pixilated beauties on your screens, think again. We're real, and we've got the skills to teach you a few tricks of our own." They're also sponsored by UbiSoft. Dismantling stereotypes or reinforcing them? (via Annalee Newitz, and a nice counterpart to this thread)
posted by mrgrimm (52 comments total)
 
I'm not exactly sure how "look, we're hot! Isn't that interesting?" is the rallying cry for gender equality in a male-dominated environment.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:35 PM on November 18, 2004


Ooh look, bewbies!
posted by fenriq at 12:39 PM on November 18, 2004


Yeh, it always makes me chuckle when someone can seriously question whether something like this "dismantles" or reinforces stereotypes. If "team" membership is purely skillz-based, I'll keep quiet; but somehow I doubt it. (And I also tend to doubt they made up their own nicknames....)
posted by lodurr at 12:40 PM on November 18, 2004


Okay, actually, you know what? Yeah. This is demeaning as all hell:
The Frag Dolls are a group of girl gamers brought together by Ubisoft to play and promote games. It’s much like a sports sponsorship in which a company helps the athlete do what she does best. Ubisoft asks us to be informed about certain games so that we can talk about and play them well. In exchange, we’re supported in playing video games, competing, going to events all over the country, writing our own editorial blogs about whatever, being involved in online communities, and generally representing girl gamers by being ourselves. Because this is a community outreach effort on Ubisoft’s part as much as it is anything else, we have a mutually beneficial relationship.

The recruitment process was straightforward. The Craig's List “casting call” for girl gamers was posted. Respondents went through a multi-stage interview process in which the coordinators and candidates discussed the project’s overall goals and direction. In the final interview stage each candidate’s gaming skills were tested via Xbox Live. The competition was intense and final offers were made to the cream of the crop.
In other words, physically attractive girls were hired to play video games at the behest of a software company trying to market to an audience primarily of young males.

My sister used to play videogames with me too; she didn't make a website about it filled with bios akin to Playmate Profiles and cartoon cheescake vixens similar to the very "stereotypical" VG girls the sight claims to "refute" and use revolutionary activism as a marketing ploy. How are these people different than the models hired to dress up as Lara Croft at the trade shows? Because... umm... the website says so? Uh-oh, careful, don't mess with these girls with attitude! Christ.

This company sponsorship isn't looking for breaking new ground, they're looking for a slick angle on a hopeful Maxim spread. Enoy your fame, ladies, but you're a fucking street team that's selling software instead of overpriced shots at the nightclub.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:46 PM on November 18, 2004


steath marketing, as discussed on boingboing.net and other places
posted by 445supermag at 12:48 PM on November 18, 2004


fwiw, it wasn't a honestly serious question. i was trying to present the concept as neutrally as possible. they certainly claim to be "dismantling" stereotypes, or at least that's how i read it.
posted by mrgrimm at 12:51 PM on November 18, 2004


What's "stealth" about it, anymore?
posted by lodurr at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2004


reflexes...you can tell i'm not a gamer...Sorry, mrgrimm, I shouldn't have implied you meant it seriously. I didn't really think you did.
posted by lodurr at 12:52 PM on November 18, 2004


Obviously, this just reinforces the stereotypes, and it's really just a way for gaming companies to expand their market, but it's hardly exclusive to gaming. After all, we live in a world where Avril Lavigne is a feminist icon.
posted by jpoulos at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2004


Shills or not, I'm endlessly puzzled by the "Yeah, I'm a girl and I game, too! Deal with it!" sentiment. I am unsurprised that you game, lady. Lotsa women do too and I can't fathom a situation where that would be otherwise. I'd rather see a clan of 60+'ers frag me to hell and back because that'd be something new ("I voted for Roosevelt and I game too, bitches!").

But maybe I just came of gaming age in a progressive gaming area, where the girls were the saddistic ones with the proxmines in GoldenEye.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2004


Perhaps the 'stereotype' being dismantled here is that only ugly, couch potato, dweeb, engineering type girls like video games? I mean, that's the only way they could POSSIBLY be claiming to be making any kind of statement. I mean, are they saying that there wasn't a single average,non grrrrrll looking female that didn't whoop ass on the XBox?
posted by spicynuts at 1:00 PM on November 18, 2004


Well, unlike the booth babes at E3/CES, these "grrls" can at least kick my ass in Halo. I can respect that.

Oh wait a minute, Halo isn't a UbiSoft game, so the "Frag Dolls" don't play it. Ha! I win!

Although I'd still resent them owning me due to wielding distraction as a competitive edge. Hmph.
posted by DaShiv at 1:04 PM on November 18, 2004


I voted for Roosevelt and I game too, bitches!


Oh, I love that!
posted by George W. Bush at 1:04 PM on November 18, 2004


This company sponsorship isn't looking for breaking new ground, they're looking for a slick angle on a hopeful Maxim spread. Enoy your fame, ladies, but you're a fucking street team that's selling software instead of overpriced shots at the nightclub.

So what are you trying to say? You mean those girls aren't going to sleep with me if I buy Rainbow Six 3?

Oh man, I hope EB takes returns...
posted by SweetJesus at 1:06 PM on November 18, 2004


proxmines in GoldenEye. now there's a bad flashback.
posted by mrgrimm at 1:07 PM on November 18, 2004


Shills or not, I'm endlessly puzzled by the "Yeah, I'm a girl and I game, too! Deal with it!" sentiment. I am unsurprised that you game, lady. Lotsa women do too and I can't fathom a situation where that would be otherwise.

Exactly, and that's why it's so insulting. The entire premise of their fake message is that girls DON'T play video games- thus making it some kind of magical event that these girls are. My mom used to break Level 30-Fast in Dr. Mario; she had to buy a second Game Boy because she kept stealing mine to play Tetris. Girls game too, you say? Amazing! Do they use the internet too? Have we taught them to read yet? They're so fragile, you know.

Outside of a bad 80's movie, I don't think there's a single instance where a girl showed up to play a video game and the male social circle "just couldn't deal with it." This is like hiring a bunch of models to pretend that they know how to drive. "Look, girls, YOU can do it too!" Umm... yeah, we know.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2004


My choice for a girl-gamer " rallying cry for gender equality in a male-dominated environment"
posted by foxy_hedgehog at 1:13 PM on November 18, 2004


*retches*

As a (yuck) 'girl gamer', I'd be offended if I thought these people represented me in any way. Thankfully, the site and writing are so obviously thinly-veiled corporatespeak that I can't imagine anyone seeing it as a serious, to be honest. It's just so... packaged. And oddly obsessed with the whole 'they kick arse, but still wear heels and play with makeup' deal. It's not 'out there'.

I agree with robocop is bleeding - 'dismantling stereotypes' is all well and good if it's genuine, but the idea of a videogaming girl being something really, really unusual just doesn't occur to me, and never has - I play games, my girlfriend plays games (although that's partially my fault...) and maybe half of the girls I've ever known have played games. And none of the men I know have ever been more than slightly surprised. Ubisoft, as ever, are hopelessly behind the times.

Oh, and I've honestly yet to meet a single woman who plays Rainbow Six in any of its forms. I'm not making a point there, really - it just seems as if they haven't done their research into the games real, non-marketing-droid girls play.

Hell, if they want to convince me they're real gamers, all we need's their top Psyvariar 2 scores to beat.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2004


It reinforces the stereotype that most gamers are male and that attractive women are good at selling products.
posted by euphorb at 1:14 PM on November 18, 2004


I think there is a stereotype the Frag Dolls are at least attempting to dismantle here. Hoards of hot chicks are at gaming conventions to sell video games, and it's understood that not a one of them is there to play. That's a cruel, sexist stereotype.

And it's true, also, that hoards of chicks, some hot, many not, play video games. But, and pardon me for saying this and I only just woke up, it seems like there's an alternate stereotype, as held by twentysomething guys, that assumes girls who play video games are somehow sub-female, ultra masculine or something, unless they do something remarkable to indicate their super-female qualities. I'm a female gamer, and I've encountered this; recently, a friend and fellow female gamer remarked on the rash of girl-gamer-bloggers-turned-camgirls who needed to somehow "prove their gender."

So there are, I think, two blurry stereotypes. There's a weird "Real girls don't play videogames, but if a girl does play a videogame, she's obviously bizarrely masculine, or subfemale," and the a subsequent stereotype, "If a hot girl plays videogames, she can't be for real." Being an attractive female undermines your credibility as a gamer, and being an average-looking female gamer undermines your credibility as a woman.

I think the Frag Dolls really had their eye on undermining both stereotypes. Obviously, they don't undermine anything, because they're just sex objects to the gamer guys and, in turn, detested by the female demographic they "represent." Not to mention being sponsored by Ubisoft. Which I did not know until I read Miss Newitz's article, although I had examined the Frag Dolls website before.
posted by jennanemone at 1:24 PM on November 18, 2004


They do play Halo 2 (although not well). You can check any players stats on Bungie.net. Take a look at brookelyn stats.
It seems to me that "Skillz" were not the first asset they were looking for when putting this group together.
posted by barbershopdan at 1:27 PM on November 18, 2004


you know, for all those grrl gamers out there, the boys still get all excited when they think they're playing one online. recently heard on Halo2 multiplayer: "are you a real girl? are you hot?"
posted by NationalKato at 1:29 PM on November 18, 2004


NationalKato: Yeah. One time I got, "Are you a girl?" "Yes." "No, a real girl?" "Yes." "I mean, are you a girl in real life?" I was enraged.
posted by jennanemone at 1:32 PM on November 18, 2004


... instance where a girl showed up to play a video game and the male social circle "just couldn't deal with it."

I like to laughed out loud at this one.
posted by lodurr at 1:38 PM on November 18, 2004


P.S. Here's a new question: If a clan of girls run amok online defeating males, and they aren't sponsored by Ubisoft, do they reinforce or dismantle stereotypes?
posted by jennanemone at 1:38 PM on November 18, 2004


jennanemone: I totally agree that they could well have gotten into this under the impression that they'd be shattering stereotypes. Which makes it even sadder that they've ended up as corporate shills, presumably being told what they can and can't write about in detail and constantly (check out the main graphic on the site) having their femininity/sexiness shoved to the fore. It's made them back into the booth-babe sex objects they claim (hope?) to be opposing.

I guess it's just that a certain kind of man seems to assume that any woman taking part in a traditionally male-oriented activity must be so completely outside the traditional image of femininity, or she'd obviously be far more interested in shoes and makeup and dresses. They just seem incapable of grasping (without photos, constantly being reminded or a big stick upside the head) that the two can coexist. I know that's a bit of a non-point (extra, extra, expectation colours human interaction!), but I honestly doubt it runs an awful lot deeper. I've participated in a few fairly hardcore gaming forums in my time, and guys seem to get over this sort of thing pretty quickly just through being exposed to it.

Which is why the Fragdolls irritate me a little, I guess. I just don't think we, as female gamers or whatever, need to make these showy look-we-can-play-too statements of ass-kicking intent. We just need to play, and be there, and be as vocal and varied as anyone else, and I think the guys (apart from the whiny Yank kids on Live, but there's nothing to be done there) will get used to it.
posted by terpsichoria at 1:48 PM on November 18, 2004


Gender stuff gives me a headache.

On prev: jennanemone, I think they probably don't do either, really. The crew you link to seem simply interested in carving their own space; that may undermine stereotypes a bit, but I can't see it dismantling them. Which is probably better for them: The more people define themselves by what they're not, the more they're letting other people define them.

Your cam-girl/gamer-girl example is really interesting to me. What the hell is going on there, anyway? That's why this stuff gives me a headache: Every time you think you've got it sussed, somebody figures out a new way to be offended, or decides somebody else should be offended, or gets scared somebody else might get offended... And then you mix in the rapid expansion of American neo-Puritanism (where the environment becomes hypersexualized at the same time as uber-moralists begin to assert tighter and tighter rights of control over our moral behavior -- and particularly as pertains to sexuality)...where the hell was I going with this? Oh, yeah: It gives me a headache.
posted by lodurr at 1:48 PM on November 18, 2004


omg whiskeyttangofoxtrot n00bs with b00bs!!1

I can't wait to PWN these ladies if they show up for CoD:FH.
Dear Eekers, I'll be the one with your head in my scope.
xoxo, bomby.
posted by car_bomb at 1:59 PM on November 18, 2004


We just need to play, and be there, and be as vocal and varied as anyone else

terpsichoria: Thank you for that. You're absolutely right. Even if the Frag Dolls really hope they're accomplishing something, they simply aren't going about it the right way, and there really is a right way. You're absolutely right.
posted by jennanemone at 2:02 PM on November 18, 2004


I don't get it, I guess. We had a couple of women in my Quake/Quakeworld Team Fortress clan back around '97-'98ish, and it was no big deal. In fact, as a newer member (snicker), I had to sit in second string for my earlier tourneys in case one of them didn't show, until I got a chance to earn a spot in the starting lineup myself. No big deal, as long as everyone can handle business with a rocket launcher.

Video game promoters like to point out that the demographics of gamers is older than the stereotype, but certain genres (FPS's in particular, and to use an overly broad brush, consoles) in particular feed the "teenagers who need to get laid" demographic. As the gaming market continues to explode, I don't think the increase in women gamers is offsetting the sheer concentration of the teenage boys in certain communities. C'est la vie.

Question for the women gamers: do the boys (and I mean boys in the age sense too) freak out when they hear your voice over the headset on Xbox Live, Roger Wilco, etc? I dropped out of hardcore FPS around when voice chat was just starting to take off, but I've always wanted to snicker at the likes of Soulless Dragon in real time ranting about "AWP whores!" etc. It would've filled my soul with glee to hear a women put him in his place.

Because I've umm, never used words like "whore" in that context. Never. Cough, ahem.
posted by DaShiv at 2:37 PM on November 18, 2004


As someone who is not only an avid gamer but also a developer, I think the Frag Dolls are clumsy, near-foppish shills. However, they're amusing in the sense that one could invert reason, combating offensive toilet odors by marketing pre-bagged and scented poop.

Most girl gamers I know (quite a few, but yes, fewer than the fellahs) find this kind of thing regressive. That said, there's an "image" problem the industry is trying to overcome, though it's unlikely to yield any fruit with this sort of blatant scheming.

But yeah, as mentioned above, the target market isn't the female half of the population. It's doubtful a non-gaming woman would discover the Frag Dolls and decide suddenly to pick up Socom. But it's bound to attract more dudes to the UbiSoft E3 booth or at least garner a few sidebar notes in the electronic gaming rags. (Lookit all the midrifts!)

And bloop! -- they're on consoles! You can't really play competitive shooters with thumb-sticks fer chrissakes.
posted by undule at 2:58 PM on November 18, 2004


she didn't make a website about it filled with bios akin to Playmate Profiles and cartoon cheescake vixens

snip

This company sponsorship isn't looking for breaking new ground, they're looking for a slick angle on a hopeful Maxim spread.

I actually know the guy (link)that drew the cartoon gals and it's funny that you mentioned maxim because he illustrates for them..... hmmmmmm
posted by Hands of Manos at 3:01 PM on November 18, 2004


I actually don't give any thoughts to the gender of someone I'm playing against online. Who cares? Can they play? Good. If not then they're fragbait.

Either way, it doesn't matter in the least. Though I did like those nekkid lady skins in Quake years ago.

undule, good point. I blew a buddy's mind when he saw me play UT04 on my Mac with mousing and keyboard, he said there was just no way he could ever play a game like that.
posted by fenriq at 3:09 PM on November 18, 2004


I am feeling old since I equate "gaming" to include old fashion RPGs and who can forget the days of playing Telengard on the mighty Trash-80?

But back on target, it is disappointing that for all the Frag Girls call of gaming independence they still call themselves girls and even with the appelation of Grrlllzzz it still implies a preference for the young, attracctive and potentially mean. The aim is obvious, only the young and nubile need apply to be a gaming girl.
posted by jadepearl at 3:48 PM on November 18, 2004


I don't get the point of FragDolls.

Their existence serves what marketing purpose? To pull in the already hooked 14-30 male market and make them play Ubisoft games? Redundant much?

I am a female gamer. I am vaguely feminist in the "I don't care if you stay at home and be a mom or go out and break the glass ceiling" sense. I don't find the FragDolls insulting or compelling. I find them irrelevant.

I thought marketing campaigns were supposed to appeal to the harder-to-reach markets. Why are game advertisements all aimed at men and boys who will play the latest FPS regardless of which large breasted yet vapid model is promoting it? I am not trying to be dense. I just don't understand.
posted by xyzzy at 4:16 PM on November 18, 2004


xyzzy, i think the point of this kind of advertising scheme - - and others like it -- is not so much aimed at securing more of the already secured market, but for publishers to steal portions of that market from each other.

A publisher would love nothing more than to have themselves positioned as a brand; which is absurd really, it'd be like going to see a movie because Paramount (or whomever) distributed it. Gamers follow studios -- and to a lesser extent, individual designers -- not publishing houses.
posted by undule at 4:30 PM on November 18, 2004


OFF TOPIC

There should be a halo 2 metafilter clan. that would rule.
posted by Jeremy at 4:45 PM on November 18, 2004


Self link (sort of).

Jinx Fx turned up on this thread in response to a call out of Fragdolls as an "astroturfing PR campaign by Ubisoft" (scroll down, way down).

As a girl who works in games who actually plays games, I think about this topic a lot. Fragdolls, yawn. They do nothing to break down gender stereotyping in the industry and do nothing to promote gaming to anyone other than the "core" young male demographic. As xyzzy said, they are irrelevant.

Quite apart from from anything else, perpetuating the idea that shooters are the only games that matter isn't particularly helpful.
posted by arha at 5:29 PM on November 18, 2004


sorry, that's Jinx FD
posted by arha at 5:31 PM on November 18, 2004


I feel like the fact that Frag Dolls are sponsored by Ubisoft is sort of moot. I mean, there are plenty of other all-girl gaming factions (I linked to PMSclan before, and one of its members/its webmaster, I noticed, is Valkyrie from Frag Dolls), and these factions cater to the same "Kick ass and look good doing it" mantra. Is there a problem with that part? Personally, I'm not sure. But I do know I take offense to the idea that the Frag Dolls are less legitimate as gamers because their hotness is on display. I also take offense to the Frag Dolls because their hotness is on display, which puts me in a strange cognitive and emotional dissonace.

Obviously, Ubisoft caught wind of the trend and decided to make a marketing tool out of it. People have made marketing tools out of subcultures, and thusly made them mainstream, for years. I'm wrathful at the thought of using these women as marketing tools and objectifying them. Sure.

But what about the other factions upon which the Frag Dolls are based? They willingly play up the Ultra-female Hot factor of their own accord, in some weird backlash against the stereotype largely held by young male gamers, "If you're a hot girl gamer, you're probably not a credible gamer; if you're a regular girl gamer, you're probably not a very credible female," which is really visible at some of the popular gamer-blog-communities (which, by the way, is how I observed the gamer-camgirl phenomenon that is now ubiquitous).

I feel like the other factions, those that have established the template for Ubisoft's misguided marketing attempt, are in response to something really sexist that I've gotten whiffs of but can't quite properly articulate. But these factions are, in their execution, pretty reverse-sexist themselves.
posted by jennanemone at 6:13 PM on November 18, 2004


But I do know I take offense to the idea that the Frag Dolls are less legitimate as gamers because their hotness is on display. I also take offense to the Frag Dolls because their hotness is on display, which puts me in a strange cognitive and emotional dissonace.

Well, that's what makes it interesting....

I remember reading something some time back -- not sure where it was, but I know the resultant thread had lots of gender-war smackdown going on -- to do with "geek groupies" at DefCon. It had a similar ring to this: Girls "flashing some tit" (I think that was the phrase) to get interest from the ur-geeks, while they're working with women whose gung fu is every damn bit as good as theirs.

Gaming I suspect is a more raw form of meritocracy, in that your scores determine your status, to a great extent. In the geek realm writ large, though, women can be (and in my experience largely are) virtually ghettoized by controlling the language and metaphor in ways similar to those your suggest -- funhouse-mirror images, in a way. If a woman complains about the fact that there aren't many women in a technical profession, the standard responses fall into one of several categories, all based on some seriously flawed reasoning: "More of them should choose it" (circular reasoning), "they just aren't good enough" (as judged by whom?), and, not most frequently but most loudly and stridently, "why do you hate men so much / does my masculinity threaten you". There's an unspoken set of roles for women that are deemed appropriate: project management, documentation, marketing, product development, and rote sysadmin roles. Women stepping out of these roles tend to be marked. Particularly when women function as individual contributors, in my experience it's much more common to have someone (say, a team-mate) rapidly qualify her by asserting her credentials ("she really knows her SQL", "she used to do AI in Pascal", "she went to school with Morris", are three examples that spring to mind). In a team environment -- face to face -- I've found that women do get respect. But I've also seen them cut out of primary I.C. roles, or pushed off into areas where they don't work so much with male I.C.s.

Similarly, mere skill often doesn't seem to be sufficient to prosper, for a woman. She's got to be more aggressive, more assertive than the men she works with, in order to get assigned to the interesting or critical parts of the project -- or, more precisely, to have her parts of the project defined as critical, since as I think of it, it's more often (again in my experience) been a matter perception rather than actual importance. If someone with a lot of Karma (and I use that term, always, in the most cynical sense you can imagine) is assigned to a project, that project becomes more important than others by virtue of his association.

I'm not suggesting that we do everything strictly based on gung fu, BTW. That works in gaming (sort of) because that's what gaming is. It won't work outside of gaming because social systems based on raw competition for resources (whether real or karmic [or otherwise virtual]) tend to break down pretty rapidly -- where they produce work product, the quality of the work product degrades rapidly. (Interestingly, the structure of these social systems tends to case these degradations in quality to go unnoticed, but that's another issue for another time...)

I'm curious, though: Do woman gamers here ever feel that the win is perceived by others as being less valuable if they accomplish it than if it had been accomplished by a man?
posted by lodurr at 5:21 AM on November 19, 2004


Part of the fabricated atmosphere of the group comes from the high level of whiteness. One token asian girl? Who has a japanese handle, just so that you don't somehow miss her? Pretty lame, Milhouse.

lodurr: I'd say that it's arguably seen as _more_ valuable, because of the sometimes-percieved difficulty curve against one.
posted by zusty at 11:18 AM on November 19, 2004


But would you say there's any differential in perception between women and men?
posted by lodurr at 6:45 PM on November 19, 2004


(I apologize for not jumping into this earlier. I've had a crazy week).
As one of the Frag Dolls and, in fact, one of the founding members of the group, I would hope my perspective could be an interesting addition to this discussion.

"Shills or not, I'm endlessly puzzled by the "Yeah, I'm a girl and I game, too! Deal with it!" sentiment. I am unsurprised that you game, lady. Lotsa women do too and I can't fathom a situation where that would be otherwise."

You're right, and people who know female gamers and assume that they're a natural part of the gaming culture are not who we intend to reach. Ideally, everybody would know that women play games and play them as well as men, but we're not there yet. Case in point: when I was preordering my copy of Halo 2 several weeks ago, I was talking to the EBGames employee for a couple minutes before he said "wait... you're getting this for yourself?!?" When I nodded my affirmation he proceeded to express his disbelief/wonderment and even poked his co-worker to exclaim "dude! She plays!" This was a somewhat amusing spectacle, but not in the slightest bit uncommon and I encounter something like it on a regular basis.

"Oh wait a minute, Halo isn't a UbiSoft game, so the "Frag Dolls" don't play it."

My above statement would prove otherwise. Ubisoft gives us money to know their games, play them and spread the word, but that's not even remotely to the exclusion of playing/knowing/talking about other games. They hired a bunch of gamers with existing gaming lives and none of us would have joined up if it meant having to put our favorite habit under serious restrictions. In other words, we're playing Halo 2 right now and enjoying the hell out of it.

"Which makes it even sadder that they've ended up as corporate shills, presumably being told what they can and can't write about in detail

My above statement applies here, too: we didn't sign up for this gig to be bound and gagged in relation to gaming at large. We write, edit, and post our own blogs, and communicate freely on forums, while gaming online, and in-person at events. We talk about whatever is on our minds and are not restricted by anything other than the usual conscientious respect of an employee to her employer: we won't go out of our way to say bad things about Ubisoft games, but we're not expected to lie about liking them if we don't.

"I've honestly yet to meet a single woman who plays Rainbow Six in any of its forms. I'm not making a point there, really - it just seems as if they haven't done their research into the games real, non-marketing-droid girls play."

LOL. Check out the PMS clan website. No further research needed. They've been playing these Clancy games for years and that's undoubtedly part of the reason Valkyrie and Brookelyn love being Frag Dolls as much as they do: they're getting to play games they were deeply involved with already. If you have any doubt, I would recommend you check out Brookelyn's RainbowSix stats.

I will grant you one thing from that statement, though. It appears that the great majority of female gamers play puzzle games, RPGs, adventure games, etc. But this is yet again another stereotype that girl gamers get saddled with. When we go to the store to buy Myst or the Sims, most people don't blink an eye. But you start reaching for Halo or Ghost Recon and you encounter disbelief. It's even better in-game when you're holding your own in a match and the bitter losers start saying things like "tell your boyfriend he played a good game" because they can't believe a girl could be beating them. This relates directly to the next quote:

"And it's true, also, that hoards of chicks, some hot, many not, play video games. But, and pardon me for saying this and I only just woke up, it seems like there's an alternate stereotype, as held by twentysomething guys, that assumes girls who play video games are somehow sub-female, ultra masculine or something, unless they do something remarkable to indicate their super-female qualities. I'm a female gamer, and I've encountered this; recently, a friend and fellow female gamer remarked on the rash of girl-gamer-bloggers-turned-camgirls who needed to somehow "prove their gender."

Exactly. In my years of experience playing online PC games, I was told time and time again that I couldn't possibly be a girl and they challenged me to prove it (I usually would laugh and continue to play; didn't really matter to me if they knew I was female). Xbox Live makes this a bit better because voice chat is proof enough that there's at least a girl in the room. But then we get the "it's your boyfriend playing" or "you must be a total dog" comments. Jennanenome said it well: "If you're a hot girl gamer, you're probably not a credible gamer; if you're a regular girl gamer, you're probably not a very credible female,"

"But I do know I take offense to the idea that the Frag Dolls are less legitimate as gamers because their hotness is on display. I also take offense to the Frag Dolls because their hotness is on display, which puts me in a strange cognitive and emotional dissonance."

In general response to the dissonance being caused by our "hotness", I will admit to being amused and baffled. I certainly think we're a group of cute girls, but when I see accusations that we're "ridiculously hot" I get the impression that our attractiveness is being blown way out of proportion. We're not supermodels by any means, and in fact, we're pretty normal looking. We're also normal girls in that we wanted the pictures on our site to look as good as possible, so maybe that's where the exaggeration comes in.

Nonetheless, it's all flattering to be frequently referred to as "hot", but when used against us as reasoning for why we can't be real gamers, it's purely silly. First, why does our being attractive mean that we don't actually play games? Second, are we supposed to be ashamed of how we look? I'm honestly intrigued by some people's suggestions that we might, in fact, want to downplay our attractiveness if we want to make sure that our true gamer status is what people focus on. I'm intrigued because I might be inclined to agree if not for my feminist sensibilities which refuse to let me change my image just to prevent people from jumping to sexist conclusions.

"Do woman gamers here ever feel that the win is perceived by others as being less valuable if they accomplish it than if it had been accomplished by a man?"

This final question gets into the most fundamental study of women infiltrating a stereotypically male-dominated culture. This is the stuff I personally am exploring as a Frag Doll and as a woman in the game industry (I have an industry day-job).

In my experience, I don't feel like my winning is perceived as less valuable that that of a man, but as intrinsically different, somehow novel. A woman's gaming successes seem to be considered abnormal at this point; more a fluke than a trend.

The curiosity for me is how future co-ed leagues and clans will work. I haven't yet been part of a co-ed competitive FPS clan, but I would be interested to know if the girls would tend to fill certain roles or if they would fit in like any other team member? Do women have enough of a generalized tendency in terms of playstyles and strategies to justify differentiation along gender lines? If girl gamers found themselves being regularly assigned to certain kinds of roles, would this be perceived as an injustice or understood as a way to use our feminine talents for the greatest team success? My hope is that no matter what trends we see, the competitive gaming world is straight-forward enough to let the best gamer be the best gamer even if she's a girl.

(These are my personal ponderings by the way, and not necessarily representative of the interests of my teammates. : b)

In any case, I invite anyone with questions to seek us out and talk to us. To dismiss us off-hand as "merely a marketing device" is to ignore the fact that we're a group of women with minds of our own, years of gaming under our belts, and reasoning behind our actions. We'd be happy to tell you why we believe in the Frag Dolls and what we hope to accomplish.
posted by Rhoulette at 2:16 PM on November 20, 2004


She wins. GG.
posted by dazed_one at 9:28 AM on November 22, 2004


To dismiss us off-hand as "merely a marketing device" is to ignore the fact that we're a group of women with minds of our own, years of gaming under our belts, and reasoning behind our actions. We'd be happy to tell you why we believe in the Frag Dolls and what we hope to accomplish.

And to dismiss all of us offhand for pointing out that you still ARE a marketing device is equally unfair. In the process of fighting a stereotype that insults your intelligence, you're insulting mine, be it directly or indirectly.

Despite the harshness of my previous comments in this thread, Rhoulette, you'll note I haven't discarded you, or your gaming ability (as I'm hardly the hardcore gamer, I'm sure it exceeds my skillz by leaps and bounds), or made any demeaning attack based on any notion that you're a woman. What annoys me is the idea that you're promulgating amazment at being a female gamer while pretending to not want being a female gamer to be stereotyped. Those two contradict each other.

You've made the point, which no one really contests, that you all love to play video games. So why not just go play video games? That doesn't mean you should hide being a woman. But emphasizing it, even in a positive way, makes that an element of your character. Male stereotyping isn't calling you out as a "girl gamer-" you are, and then you want to "fight it."

Look, I don't like the misogyny of women in most male-dominated entertainment realms- it's there in my hobby of drawing comics just as much as it is in your hobby of playing games. But defining yourself as challenging the male-dominated arena implies an acceptance that there IS a male-dominated arena. As I already said, I think most guys can and will accept you naturally- pre-emptive declaration of feminist opposition to a percived male bias doesn't strike equality; it simply ghettoes yourself by gender.

The difference between UbiSoft's marketing team that is FragDolls and your friends' personal clans such as PMS is that FragDolls is claiming to "challenge the male stereotypes" while doing exactly the opposite- it markets directly to the male stereotypes by way of hand-selected, semi-manufactured photogenic women.

It bothers me that FragDolls promotes a message of challenging the male demographic when what FragDolls is meant to do is ATTRACT the male demographic- "hey guys, here's when and where the cute girls are showing up." With no offense to your talents, I don't need you to tell me girls can play video games. As noted in previous comments, I knew girls could play games long before I even knew girls were hot.

As for the photogenic aspect, I think you're playing willfully ignorant. Your own site highlights that there was a selection process, and it's contradictory to any sense of UbiSoft's sponsorship if you think you're not there because they want cute girls to promote their wares. Even before you asked me to in your comment, I already checked out Valkyrie's site- except over there, she's not Valkyrie. She's Amy, or for that matter Athena. Valkyrie is Amy now, but I don't think she will be in five years, should this campaign last that long- Valkyrie will be whoever UbiSoft hires to replace Amy because Valkyrie needs to be a mid-20's girl gamer. You know that's the truth, because you know that's the aspect of FragDolls that makes it a marketing strategy.

I think what makes this this most disappointing is that you have the opportunity to meet and befriend countless people naturally just by going online and interacting with them. I wouldn't have that interest seeing you branded as one of the FragDolls, because no matter how much you try to convince me otherwise, it feels like I'm trying to be sold something. I disagree with you in that I do think FragDolls is nothing but a marketing ploy- that doesn't mean I think you yourself are nothing more than one. You're a smart, intelligent, web-and-game saavy, and beautiful woman. It bothers me that you're letting a website exploit that.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:48 PM on November 22, 2004


Not to mention, of course, the whole "probability that you paid the five bucks to make that one comment and will never read MeFi again, thus I wasted an hour writing that" thing. But I digress.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 12:49 PM on November 22, 2004


You guys need to drop your hateraid and conspiracy theories. I have been an avid gamer for years as well as helped in the development of many games at many different companies.
We're not out there flashing our boobs and being some sex symbols looking to do pinups and such. I mean, most of the time we're wearing hoodies because the AC is turned up so high at LAN events. Ubisoft didn't tell us to do anything different than we already do. Ubisoft didn't give us our nicknames. I found this website on my own and am writing this without sensorship or encoragement.
I have gotten so much great feedback from the female side that actually games and girls that haven't really gotten into the scene. If you compete, you know the time and effort it takes to do so, we just happen to love winning, traveling, and having a good time with other girls that have the same interests. :) It's not just showing that girls "can do it too" it's getting some of those guys who give us so much crap that we're "not hardcore gamers" etc a chance to swallow their pride. I'm sick of going to a game store and seeing childrens games in a section called "Games for Girls."
How many female competitors have you seen get first places in big co-op gaming events? Even those CounterStrike female teams who are supposed to be so good don't even rank in the top 10 overall. So many women call themselves gamers when they've played one MMO and post 10 pictures of themselves on a forum, and I have to constantly prove I'm not one of those women. This is the stereotype we're breaking in my opinion. We're not just all talk and a bunch of pretty pictures like the random girl you'll see on forums and IRC that just wants attention. We have that natural skill it takes to compete as well as the drive to practice.
Of course, you're not famous till people start hating on you. WOOO I'M FAMOUS! haha But seriously, humans should be happy that other humans are happy and being supported in doing what they love. Any #1 rated team loves to boast. We're not an exception. We put a lot of work into these competitions.

If you think our "image" is so strange, you need to be around the average woman some more and you'll see we're all pretty similar. We care how we smell and take care of ourselves. It's not wierd to have femininity, though for some reason people can't grasp that when you're a gamer.

I mean, god... fatal1ty even says he's the "michael jordon of video games" and kornelia just plain owns everyone and neither one gets this crap.

I'm pretty impressed with this site though, it's interesting. :D
posted by eekers_FD at 2:17 AM on November 24, 2004


PS. COD is too slow.

;)
posted by eekers_FD at 2:24 AM on November 24, 2004


Okay, stop. I acknowledge I drew some anger from being a bit over-reactive in my first few comments here, but I think my general observation still stands: most of us here are, for better or for worse, pointing out that Frag Dolls is something manufactured and simply did not form in some kind of vacuum of grrrrl power. And, essentially, the only response from you towards our pointing out this obvious concept is basically, "nuh-uh!" Or, to be specific, that we're simply "hating on you" and "drinking hateraid." (because, apparently, when not gaming you moonlight as a nine-year old. "Hateraid?" Jesus.)

I'm not "hating" or "threatened" for a number of reasons, the main one being I really don't care about the gender dominance in gaming. I don't play that many games. I also never used a skateboard in my life, so I'm not threatened by Tony Hawk, nor am I "hating on him" by pointing out his over-saturation as a marketing gimmick.

I'm really not making this a feminist/anti-feminist issue. The only reason I reference your all being female is because that's really the chief angle of UbiSoft's marketing strategy. I'm glad to see women increasing their influence in the gaming world, but you've provided no rational evidence that this was what UbiSoft intended. It's quite clear that UbiSoft did this because they want to make money. There's nothing wrong with that, but there's something wrong with your denial about it.

You're apparently defensive of me calling FragDolls that, and yet in your attempts to say we're all misguided or incorrect in our accusations, you really haven't given one of the major responses I've been seeking here: why? Why does it bother you to be called a marketing act? It's not as much an insult as a simple pointing out of the obvious.

The closest analogy I can think of is probably going to annoy you, but it's appropriate. The Fragdolls seem to defend accusations of being manufactured by pointing out that they're real gamers who really enjoy gaming. My response to that, with all due respect, is so the hell what? The members of N*Sync are all (by profession, not necessarily by quality) singers/dancers, and they all really enjoy singing and dancing. That doesn't mean they weren't a carefully-selected, hand-picked team manufactured by a board of directors to use their talents as a cash cow. Actors and other celebrities lend their talents and namesakes to thousands of commetcial products. No offense to your skills and abilities, but people with talents and occupations that far exceed the importance and cultural relevance of being really good at Halo allow their abilities to be exploited for financial gain on a daily basis. The irony of a group of women that belong to a marketing team being so devoted to pretending that companies simply just don't think like that is almost captivating.

Just because your talent is legitimate doesn't mean your origin is. You'll probably find this offensive, although it's not meant to be, but basically, FragDolls are the Menudo of gamers.

The recurring statement that I "need to see what an average woman looks like" is honestly the most insulting theme for me in this whole thread. I know damn well what an "average woman" is. I also know there's no such thing as an "average woman" with the exception of terminology in a marketing department. "Average woman" occurs about as frequently in mainstream dialogue as "zesty" or any other fabricated description of food. There's no such thing as an "average woman." As such, I ALSO know how to recognize a carefully constructed pitch to a selective demographic. Frag Dolls consists of a perfected parody of the demographic of gamers UbiSoft wishes to attract. (Except, of course, for black people, who although make up a decent percentage of gamers make up a very small percentage of the population of conventions where, for example, FragDolls would be promoting themselves and UbiSoft. But I'm sure that's just an amazing coincidence.)

On a side note, the endorsing link to SeanBaby's 2,000-word essay on how you're all "cute," "sexy," "have model looks," and are "certified hot?" Ummm... yeah, great job with the whole "our looks aren't part of the plan" thing. The fact that you're welcoming that kind of promotion completely validates Annalee Newitz's Alternet column.

Understand, however, I'm not saying I'm against that. Sex sells, and it's obvious. You've noted the presence of "booth babes" several times yourselves. It's just amazing that of all the themes in the FragDolls pitch you're actually trying to dispell, it's the idea that UbiSoft isn't using attractive women to push products- as if this isn't the nature of half the marketing strategies in human history. No one argues that music videos, lingerie ads, liquor ads, movie trailers, and especially video games, don't use sex to push a product. Just because you wear hoodies instead of dressing up as BloodRayne doesn't mean an attractive-female angle doesn't linger in UbiSoft's plan for all this. Not every marketing strategy wears the same uniform.

I understand, and completely, 100% agree, with your anger that people would dismiss you as "just a marketing ploy." And I'm really sorry for those who would cast you off immediately for being attractive women used to pitch to the young white male demographic of the average gamin convention. You're not just a marketing ploy. But that doesn't mean you're still not one. And as I said before, responding to me and everyone else by saying we're naive, or stupid, or "hating" because we're pointing out this undeniable fact is what's aggravating. You all seem like intelligent, mature people, and it bothers me that these questions and comments are refuted merely by constant cop-out suggestions of my fallacies, not your employers'.

I am not jealous, nor threatened, not angry, nor misgynist. I am also, hower, not gullible, and I would hope you can start respecting that instead of telling me I'm misguided. I'm really not sure where else to go with this, because it's pretty clear that this entire thing have devolved into "you're this" versus "no we're not" and never the two shall meet. At this point my only hope is that you all realize that we're trying to defend against your interpretations of us just as much as you are of ours.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 7:21 AM on December 1, 2004


Without indicating any meaning, or taking either side, I would like to point out that assigning this man to illustrate semi-teenage girls who don't want to be sexualized is an choice that requires some consideration.

And you can say, that's just his 'Girls' section! And that's a valid argument. Except.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 4:56 PM on December 1, 2004


CRAP / hit 'post' too fast
spelling error still intact / I have n00bed.
posted by dougunderscorenelso at 4:58 PM on December 1, 2004


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