I’ve personally never logged on to Xbox Live. Tales of assholes and jerks aside, I’ve just never been interested in it. But Xbox Live is a widely popular service, and though it remains predominantly male, Microsoft estimates that 10% to 20% of the subscription base is female. Still, many women who dare tread into boystown are faced with a harsh reality: they’re not welcome there.
Enter GamerchiX, which, according to the L.A. Times “functions as a virtual Grand Central Terminal for women and girls who tread into the testosterone-steeped world of console gaming.” Led by Christa Phillips, GamerchiX is where you want to be if you want a safe haven from sexism and harrassment.
Phillips, 38, has run GamerchiX since June 2006. She was inspired by PMS Clan, an online group of competitive female players. Many of them compete internationally for cash prizes.
“I’ve heard it all,” said Amber Dalton, who founded PMS Clan. “They tell you to go to the kitchen and get them a sandwich. Or they ask you if you’re hot. You can also be targeted just because you’re a girl. They all just start shooting at you the second they find out you’re a girl.”
Phillips said the group was “awesome for empowering women,” but she thought Xbox Live needed a group that made online life easier for pros and newcomers alike.
“I wanted to create a safe place for all women gamers,” she said. “It’s a place where you can go to socialize and not have to worry about being harassed or hit on.”
As much as I’m glad this sort of thing exists, it makes me sad that it’s deemed necessary in the first place. I spend most of my gaming time in World of Warcraft, which isn’t lacking in its supply of idiots (/leave trade ftw). But I’ve yet to encounter issues over being a female player. In fact, a lot of the time, I find that I’m just as likely to be playing with a female than a male, and it’s all very well and good.
Blizzard will be introducing a voice chat option with its next content patch, however, and I’m curious to see if the gaming experience for females changes at all with this development. PuGs that enable the voice option will know if they’re talking with a female or male gamer, and I wonder if that will change the group dynamic at all.
Is it that a girl in an MMO is perfectly acceptable whereas a girl playing an FPS game isn’t? Will there come a time when the need for safe havens like GamerchiX becomes obsolete?
I hope so. But it doesn’t look like the time is now.