All-Girl Quake Clans Shake Up Boys’ World
by Janelle Brown 5.Feb.97
“It’s always going to be boys versus girls. It’s something that’s been with us since grammar school,” says Mia, aka PMS_Anna. Its no surprise she feels this way: As a member of the girls-only Psycho Men Slayers clan, she and her “sisters” battle boys every day in the male-dominated universe of Quake.
Girls have been outsiders in the violent gaming world since its inception, often hiding behind genderless logins to avoid discrimination. But girl gamers are now beginning to emerge as some of the top players, and some are even flaunting their identity with women-only clans and taking their place in tournament competition.
There are hundreds of clans officially registered by Quake – most with their own rituals, insignia, and homepages – which regularly challenge each other to team Quake competitions. Of those clans, there are only two which consist solely of girls – PMS and the CrackWhore. Mia, a University of Victoria student in British Columbia, Canada, joined the PMS clan after it was founded last September by a group of local female Quake players upset that they were being left out by the boys. The clan, now nine strong and ranging in ages from 14 to 30, tries to recruit as many women as possible in the name of sisterhood.
“Since you’re a girl the guys expect you to really play poorly. So we take pride in ripping them to sorry little shreds,” says Mona, a CrackWhore member. “The fact that we are mostly girls just seems to pile on the sexism. Everyone wants to play us, and everyone wants to either talk sex or give us shit.”
PMS and the CrackWhores aren’t exactly hiding behind a demure or genderless identity: Visitors to the PMS Web site are blasted with the theme song “Bad Girls” and the slogan “Under every floral print dress lies a lady wearing black garters, carrying a big f*cking gun!” Similarly, the CrackWhores tout seductive imagery alongside the admonishment, “We take Quake very seriously and our clan ROCKS! There will be no flirting during the matches – only severe mayhem!”
“We’ve had fun with the sexy image,” says Mona. “Net behavior tends to always run towards the outrageous. We’re simply making the point that we like to fuck and we like to fight.”
PMS is less aggressive in its use of sexual imagery. “We try real hard to let people know we’re still feminine, but there’s a lot of negative vibes that come out when they know that you’re a girl,” says Mia. “People will stop shooting and ask me what I look like.”
Despite the sexism, being women has brought the girls-only clans a certain amount of fame. “Playing Quake and being a woman is great because we’re such a minority,” Mia says. “We can pretty much be celebrities.”
Besides visibility as women, their celebrity is also growing due to their reputation as “kick-ass” players. Fourteen-year-old Jen (PMS_Phoenix) wasn’t identified as a female, due to her gender-neutral login, until she joined PMS last September and attached “PMS” to her name. Identifying herself as a female brought on a slew of sexist remarks – but the fact that PMS has been proven to “kick ass” in competition has earned respect from some male Quake clans.
“When it started no one took us seriously. Now we go onto servers and they go, “Wow, it’s PMS,” Jen says. “When you get to the top of the scoreboard and they’re at minus-one, suddenly they show a lot of respect.”
Jen has also gained a reputation on her own, outside of PMS, and is even being recruited to play in the tournament circuit. SpaceTec, which sponsors the GameMasters, a team of top Quake players which tour around the United States on the tournament circuit, began recruiting women last week to create what they eventually hope will be an all-women championship team.
Outside of the girls-only clans, convincing women Quake players to emerge from their shells has proven to be difficult. “Surprisingly we haven’t had as many queries as we’d like,” says Jane O’Toole, marketing director for SpaceTec. “I think the women are more tentative, they aren’t as sure that they belong to this elite.”
Despite their identity as the only two girl clans, there’s still some mistrust between PMS and CrackWhore. Complains Jen, “CrackWhore spends more time talking about sex than about Quake.”
Meanwhile, a match-up between the two clans is expected in the next few weeks. Mia says with a laugh, “I think we could generate a lot of hype. It would be quite amusing.”