August 12th, 2009

I’ll admit, the first thought that came to mind as I sorted through the videos of contestants for the recent casting call for two new Frag Dolls wasn’t, “Wow, there are so many talented, spunky female gamers out there today.” It was, “Wow, these girls are all hot. I wonder where they’re hiding the normal-looking ones.”

As part of my research for the PCWorld article I did on the Dolls, I got a chance to ask team members, would-be Dolls, and even fans their take on what I’d call the “hotness issue.” Sure, these women kick ass at games. Sure, they believe in gender equality in the industry. But at the same time don’t they stand for all that’s off in the gaming world? They’re beautiful women brought together for men to watch in order to draw attention to and sell Ubisoft games. So could an unattractive competitor really have had any chance at becoming the next Frag Doll?

Team leader Morgan Romine readily acknowledged that the members of her group are all attractive women, but explained, “For a position where you get as much spotlight attention as we do, we end up getting girls who are gorgeous. I would say that the 90 girls we had apply, it’s an amazing looking group of girls. We don’t pick based on looks. It’s one of those chicken and the egg things. The girls who are more attractive are the ones who are more confident.”

She was also quick to dispel the mystique of beauty around the current Dolls. “Our existing team, we’re good looking girls, but when people come and say, ‘Oh it’s just Ubisoft hiring models and putting game controllers in their hands,’ that’s flattering, but we also know its Photoshop and makeup. You can make anybody marketable. You can take an average looking girl and do the whole photo process and they will totally work for what we need to do.”

At least one of competitos, Lanai Gara, who ended up becoming one of two new Dolls, found it hard to adjust to all the attention. During an interview I conducted during E3 she said, “I haven’t worn a dress since homecoming, and I’m 21. All these French guys were hitting on me [at an industry party], being like, “You’re beautiful,” and I was like, “That’s cool.” I’m a gamer. I’m one of those people who goes home after work and just plays games… The attention is something to get used to, but I’m not the type of person to let it go to my head.”

As for me, I’m not 100% convinced — even if Frag Doll community member Andrew Jiang said picking a new team member wasn’t about looks, it was about personality. Still, I understand that the group is first and foremost about marketing, and there’s nothing too marketable about an unattractive gamer, even if she can trounce with the best of us.

Tags: contests, girl gamers

3 Responses to “Aren’t the Frag Dolls just hot chicks with controllers?”

  1. D.F. Says:

    Everyone I ever talked to about the Frag Dolls said it was nothing but a gaming siren to lure more men to their products.

  2. Chiaki Says:

    I would call shenanigans, but Ubisoft seems to do this with a lot of their women. Complete with that director who did Assassin’s Creed.

    I think the skepticism is hard to shake. Even if they meant that this was meant to be a fair contest for any gamer girl, I think there’s a personality bias for people that look better. It’s unfortunate to say, better looking people are seen as better people in communication studies. It’s why people think punk rockers are all snot-nosed brats, and the elderly as slow and dull witted.

    I would also think, what qualifies as a girl anyway? I’m a tranny myself, I play a mean game of Brawl, CoD, and Rockband, does this make me eligible to be a Frag Doll? Would they, in total honesty, have chosen me if I had gone in with an application?

  3. Football Helmet Visors Says:

    Interesting interview. He strikes me as a This magic theory worked for me so everyone should do it type of guy. I wonder what Chris would say about someone like me, who has run for over 20 years in running shoes w/o ever having a major or really minor injury that has prevented me from running.

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