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Last Updated: Monday, 14 February 2005, 12:21 GMT
Girl gamers who shoot first, love later
Dot.life - where technology meets life, every Monday
By Jo Twist
BBC News science and technology reporter

PMS clan member in character from Unreal Tournament
'Fancy a snog before I shoot you?'
Falling in love with someone you meet online through a chatroom or dating service is so old hat.

Falling in love with someone you meet online while annihilating them with a lightning gun seems much more fun.

And it is happening regularly, as more women gamers set up their own clans and become serious gamers.

Amber - or Athena Twin PMS - is the 28-year-old founding member and leader of PMS - the Psychotic Men Slayerz.

They are "sugar and spice with guns" and are the largest competitive, multiplatform (Xbox Live and PS2 Online), all-female clan.

"Romance happens all the time - running the largest female clan in the world I see it all day," the Texan blonde told the BBC News website.

"I don't even think people realise it happens as much - I get personal confessions and people are always coming for advice."

Some, not all, of the relationships become "intimate" online when players leave the gaming environment and go into other areas such as chatrooms. But many simply become deep friendships which may or may not grow into something.

These relationships can form much faster online because conversation has no physical cue to latch onto.

One PMS clan members played with, fell in love with, moved in with, and is now engaged to a gamer she met online.

Another was "lost" after her offline fiancÚ found out about her online gaming "affair".

All for one

But do not be fooled - the prospect of romance is certainly not why women play games or join clans.

A clan is a group of players who regularly play together in multiplayer online games as a team. Playing via Xbox Live means they can speak to each other too.

They are often "buddies", on or offline, and can act as a support network, just like non-gaming mates.

It is at LAN (Local Area Network) parties where gamers meet face to face with PC and game in tow and at major pro-gaming tournaments.

Started when Xbox Live came online in 2002, the PMS clan now has about 150 members globally.

Some of the PMS clan
I don't care if they have online boyfriends - I have no problem with that. If they have multiple boyfriends, then that is a problem
Athena Twin, PMS
It is about to start a UK arm supported by games/fashion firm, Joystick Junkies, and will be doing the pro-gamer tournament circuit this year.

PMS is not just about getting more women into online gaming but it is about creating a safe gaming environment - while "kicking boy booty".

In the UK, women make up just over a quarter of the total number of gamers, compared with 39% in the US and 69% in South Korea, according to a recent report.

The most common complaint they have when they first enter a Xbox Live or PlayStation Online environment is about the constant harassment, sexual stereotyping and abusive behaviour of male players.

PMS and other groups - like the Frag Dolls who were set up and sponsored by games company Ubisoft - see their role as proving a haven for female gamers who want to break down misconceptions about female gamers.

But with more women in the game, that inevitably leads to more relationships.

Rules of engagement

As with any kind of "clan", there are rules and guidelines which guide any possible romances that might spring up.

"We monitor it - we macro manage it - we will not allow any inappropriate behaviour," said Athena Twin.

Some of the PMS clan
More women gamers opens up the possibility of romance
"I don't care if they have online boyfriends - I have no problem with that. If they have multiple boyfriends, then that is a problem."

The clan had to kick out one of their members four months after they started because of her cybersexual antics.

"This girl was a 'PMS whore'. In all honesty women can do what they want with their bodies - but when you are on a PMS tag it is like being at work," explained Athena Twin.

The male players she had been having cybersex with had no idea they were being virtually two-timed and when they found out, they reported her.

"She was having online sex with anyone and everyone. I don't know if she met any of them face-to-face," said Athena Twin.

"She divided an entire clan. It ruined their friendships."

Relationships between clan members can also get in the way of what the clan is about - commitment to game and clan.

Often when two players hook up, they will disappear for long periods of time to play offline with each other.

"They need to monitor the time invested in a relationship. When it takes away from what we need, then I have trouble with that," said Athena Twin.

Very happily married Athena Twin is also very savvy about managing online platonic relationships that form deep ties.

"You can put boundaries on real world, but not on online. It sneaks up on you.

Screengrab from the Frag Dolls' website
The Frag Dolls were recruited by Ubisoft
"But PMS keeps girls playing with girls and then the problems don't happen."

Many of the relationships have sprung up between PMS women and their brother clan - H2O.

The "waterboys" were set up for male players who wanted to join PMS. Their role is to be as supportive as they can to the PMS gamers.

"My H2O Nefarious Souls is my best friend but I have never met him. He knows more about my family and friends than anyone.

"Would my husband have a problem with that? Probably, but I would never do anything on an intimate level.

"I would not trade my husband in for a tonne of gold."

Within the gaming world there is some cynicism over whether certain female gaming groups - like the Frag Dolls - are there as "man magnets" to get more men buying games.

The attractive Frag Dolls admit they are a group of girl gamers brought together by Ubisoft as an "all-star" team to play and promote games.

But that seems disingenuous to females who are passionate about gaming, and who just might discover the love of their life is in fact an alien with a gun.

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