Step aside boys, there are new gamers in town.
The PMS (Pandora's Mighty Soldiers) Clan, made up of a group of over 500 female gamers who play and compete as a team against other clans in the gaming world through PC, Xbox, and PlayStation platforms -- are stepping up their game.
Formed in 2002 at the launch of Xbox Live, the PMS Clan, among several other female clans, has raised many eyebrows in the male dominated gaming world. Not only are they making their presence heard, but they are changing the common stereotypes associated with female gamers in the industry.
"Our mission is to provide a fun, safe and competitive environment for female gamers. We try to encourage women on competitive game play and get more women in tournaments," Amber Dalton, PMS Clan leader and co-founder, told Gamecore.
While playing "Halo" tournaments and "Game Spy" online for a year, Amber Dalton (also known as "Athena Twin") and her twin sister, Athena, met another female gamer online for the first time. After playing several matches, they decided to form a girl team, which was originally called the "Psychotic Male Slayers." They posted on the Xbox forums for more girls and came up with five founders, which has significantly grown in membership since its inception.
The PMS Clan is made up of developers, tech-gurus, individual Web site owners, students in design as well as ordinary females who just love to play video games. The PMS Clan is sponsored by Verizon FiOS and Patriot Memory. They are also supported by the H2O Clan, an all male clan, who are in a competitive league of their own, but have been honored by the PMS community.
Dalton explained that clans, which are typically male, are usually found on competitive titles, since they are formed for purposes of competition or team-based games.
According to a study conducted by the Consumer Electronics Association, the average gamer is 30 years old and, within the age bracket of 25-34, women outnumber the men.
The study indicated that 65 percent of the women and 35 percent of the men said they play video games. The only difference was that the women play more casual titles, such as Tetris, Solitaire and puzzle games, whereas the men play Xbox or PlayStation 2.
On the other hand, Dalton pointed out that Massive Multiplayer Online (where many players working together online) draws in many females because they are very social games. There aren't headsets involved, so it's hard to differentiate who is male or female online.
"The PMS Clan's origins are in the FPS (First Person Shooter) genre, and this is the area where traditionally women have been a minority and need development. This is also the genre most of the PRO games are taken from, so we need women training on these titles to ensure active role models are visible at events and media," Dalton said.
"While statistics show there are a lot of female gamers, I believe the numbers are still lacking on competitive male-dominated genres such as FPS, sports, fighters and racers. However, as more women are exposed to these types of games, I also believe our numbers are steadily increasing."
As if it weren't hard enough to break the mindset that there are only male gamers in the gaming world, there's a stereotype associated with female gamers and gamers in general that the PMS Clan would like to shake.
"I think that stereotype is changing as tournaments and media are highlighting more actual gamers," Dalton said. "It is important to break the traditional gamer stereo-type of a 'nerdy kid locked in the basement' to grow gaming and women groups help do this."
The portrayal of women in video games is debatable. Oftentimes, they are objectified or mistreated. Grand Theft Auto, for example, has been known to cross the line with their portrayal of women and violence.
"I think the key here is diversity and choice. We should be able to play what we want, and so should the next person," said Dalton. "As long as there are many games with a variety of women characters or elements, I am a happy gamer!"
"Games, as with any media, are a reflection of the creators, just like in movies and on TV," said Felicia Williams, a games producer at mtv.com/arcade.
Williams gave the example of how Japanese video games personify the Japanese experience- and don't necessarily have other races in their games. She also reiterated that each creator has his or her own ideologies.
"At work, I try to give a fair representation of characters and be gender balanced (while creating and designing video games for mtv.com/games/arcade)," Williams said. "It's a powerful medium. I was surprised to see such a large group of women -- a community of women -- understand my addiction," Williams said with a chuckle.
"I can certainly say that I myself support free-content in games. I think we, as adult gamers, have the right to play what we want to play (although there are some taboo lines that could go to far), and that the industry should be supporting the ESR (Entertainment Software Ratings) to ensure minors are not on violent titles without parental approval."
Dalton is an active member of ECA (Entertainment Consumers Association), a lobby group to support gamers against anti-videogame legislation and ensure education/research in videogames.
Refocusing on the entertainment aspect of gaming, the PMS Clan has had its brush with fame and not just from their own news coverage. They have seen a few celebrity gamers play, who also support a female presence in the gaming world.
"Elijah (Wood) loves the 'Splinter Cell' series, Chris Ferguson is a huge 'Half-Life' player when he is not playing poker, Willmar Valderama thinks of himself as the 'unofficial' Xbox spokesperson and I have witnessed Dave Navarro owning people in 'PGR' (Project Gotham Racing)," Dalton said. "I think all of them, as gamers, respect women playing ... although I am sure none would want to be beat by one!"
For more information on the PMS Clan visit