August 11th, 2009

One of the most interesting things that emerged from my research on the Frag Dolls was the nature of the community that has grown up around Ubisoft’s all-female, pro-gaming PR team. Sure, I figured they have fans, but a dedicated horde?

This is a group of hardcore gamers, to hear Frag Doll leader Morgan Romine explain it, largely male, who fall between the ages of 18 to 34. Unlike other members of the gaming community who write off the Dolls as glorified booth babes, they’re not spending hours each week on the team’s message boards to heckle them. They’re in full support of these women players but — as contestants in the recent competition to become the newest Frag Doll found out fast — theirs is a deep but a tough love.

Kristin Reilly, who’s experience with the competition I chronicled in my PCWorld article, explained how would-be Dolls had to brave a trial by fire to earn the support of the community. “The IRC chat room [on the site], it’s not moderated, so if you go in there you go in at your own risk. It’s a free for all,” she recalled. “There were a lot of hateful things that were said in that room. When you’ve been a girl in gaming as long as I have you know the boys aren’t the most receptive to females coming into their world. Any new person who comes into the community they’re going to give a hazing to.” She added, “They’re not bad guys… but occasionally the internet troll that everyone has inside them will come out.”

Once the contestants got on their good sides, they saw a whole new face to the community members. Lynae Gara, who did end up making it as one of two new Frag Dolls, reported from E3 of those who joined the Dolls at events, “The community members are characters. There’s a guy who’s always around. We call him Pancake. He’s always making sure we’re okay, asking if we want drinks or Starbucks. We can tell they really look up to the Frag Dolls, even though they are guys. They respect that these are women gamers and they’re a heck of a lot better than us. They’re not booth babes.” I also spoke with a community member named Andrew who had flown all the way to L.A. on the off chance that the team would be able to get him a pass so he could act as moral support.

Who are these guys? Are they so loyal because they’re fawning over beautiful female gamers, or do they really see something to identify with in the Frag Dolls? Said Romine, “They like the fact that we’re girls. They’ll be the first to tell you that playing with a bunch of immature dudes on Halo is not that fun. They say really rude things to each other. It becomes this Lord of the Flies situation. So having girls to play with is great. It’s more balanced. I tend to consider these guys to be a little more mature… Most of them haven’t played with girls before and they think that’l be a welcome change from what they’re used to.”

Tags: girl gamers

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