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PMS Clan cofounder Amber Dalton at Twitch's office in San Francisco

The Girl Gamers Of PMS Clan Can Pwn You Any Time Of The Month

PMS Clan, one of the oldest groups of the Xbox Live platform, holds its own in the arena—but it's also creating a nurturing community for women gamers.

Even when it comes to gaming, they do everything bigger in Texas. Known for their LAN parties-cum-barbecue bashes, sisters Amber Dalton and Amy Brady used to host upwards of 32 gamers in an old Victorian in San Antonio to play Halo on four big-screen TVs and a 108-inch DLP projector.

When they were done being hospitable, the two would sit down with the guys, pick up a controller, and proceed to destroy every opponent. "We realized we had a talent for this," Dalton told Fast Company. So she cofounded the female gaming group PMS Clan with Brady.

Amy Brady

Back when Microsoft introduced Xbox in 2001, 56k modem speeds were still commonplace, so bandwidth limited social gaming geographically. That meant when the sisters weren't throwing LAN parties—ad hoc events where gamers would bring their own computers or consoles to play over a local area network—they could be found shooting fellow Texans online with the help of some tunnel software.

As twins, Dalton and Brady say they began competing in the womb. "I don't think people realize how competitive it is, but when you're being compared your entire life, that becomes ingrained in you," Dalton said. That extended to school athletics, card games, and video games from Duck Hunt to Halo. Though the cofounders have stepped down from running PMS Clan's day-to-day activities, they remain in an advisory capacity, and both work for video game companies: Dalton as marketing director for Twitch, a Justin.tv offshoot that livestreams game play, and Brady as an associate competition engagement manager for the game maker Ubisoft.

As women on Xbox's platform, they were an anomaly, but this difference wasn't apparent to fellow gamers, or even to themselves at first. In-game communication was crude back then, so players heard others only when their characters were in proximity. At one point, Brady recalled hearing a woman's voice and approached this player, trying to get her attention while repeatedly asking if she was a girl. "And she kept killing me over and over again," said Brady, who goes by Athena in the gaming world.

When the woman finally realized Brady wasn't attacking, they headed to a virtual lobby to chat. The sisters found a new gaming ally, and the idea for creating a female clan was born. "We were smoking it," said Dalton, who picked up the name AthenaTwin. "The excitement of finding other girls and forming a team of girls was cool. It wasn't until later I realized there was more significance to creating a female group."

The gang named itself the PMS Clan. It was succinct yet made clear these women were to be reckoned with. The letters originally stood for Psychotic Man Slayers, but about two years later, PMS began landing sponsors and getting flack for its name. It had also learned of a disbanded all-girl gaming group from the '90s called Psycho Men Slayers, so it decided it was time for a name change. Pandora's Mighty Soldiers they would call themselves from then on, and a storyline was crafted about Pandora's Box and the soldiers who had to track down and return its evils.

Amber DaltonPhoto by Alice Truong

Sponsorship deals with Microsoft, Alienware, Patriot Memory, and others gave PMS Clan the funds to send girls to compete in tournaments globally. Over the years, PMS has counted about 50 championship placements, helping the group gain a sense of notoriety. "We would walk in with our makeup on, hair done, and cool pink PMS T-shirts," Dalton said, describing its presence at gaming conferences and tournaments. "Everyone's like, What the heck is this? And it kind of exploded at that point."

Having launched in 2002 along with Xbox Live, PMS Clan is among the oldest groups on the platform and was at one point its largest clan. It eventually expanded and created a male group, H2O Clan. At the helm of PMS were two distinct leaders: Dalton, known for being nurturing, and Brady, fiercely competitive and always down to business. "We are the yin and yang, and it made everything perfect," said Brady.

As the "mama bear" of PMS Clan, Dalton guesses she's met 600 to 700 PMS Clan members in real life—"at least," she says. There was one woman, a victim of domestic violence, who found the strength to leave her abusive relationship with the support of fellow PMS members. There was also the time she met the mother of a 15-year-old member over coffee. Dalton learned the teenager was depressed and potentially suicidal, but her mom, a reverend, said joining PMS was transformative. She had seen her daughter smile for the first time in a while. As a leader of PMS's now-defunct teen division, her daughter found the confidence to join volleyball and other extracurricular activities in school. "I've heard many, many stories—too many to count—that go along the same philosophy," Dalton said.

Regina Wu, a software engineer at Intel who is getting ready to take the reins of PMS in December, said she felt comfortable turning to Dalton for career guidance. Wu joined PMS in 2006 when she learned of the group's charity work. "I realized this was more than about gaming," she said. "I felt like I could help guide some of the girls into either pursuing dreams in the games industry or just guiding them on their life paths."

Yet as supportive as PMS Clan was, the trolls were unavoidable. "I've seen firsthand how girls would come on and they would leave," Dalton said. This wasn't an issue in the nascent days of online gaming, but as broadband speeds grew, so too did the harassment. Outside the watchful eyes of parents, teenage boys would turn into monsters. "They're the kind looking to ravel you in any way. The girl card is just easy to pull," Brady said. As a guideline, PMS instructs its members not to respond to attacks, believing doing otherwise would give its flamers fuel. Dalton recalls having controllers thrown at her, and in one frightening episode, she received a threatening and vulgar message along with a satellite image of her home. She tracked down the 16-year-old behind the hostile note and ended up talking to his mom about his behavior.

Though PMS Clan remains competitive, the group has softened over the years. It has loosened requirements to adapt to the changing lives of its members. "Women's lives change. We have babies. We graduate from college. We get engaged," Dalton said. "We wanted to make sure we had an environment where women can go through these transitions in life and come back when they're ready." The group still sends girls to compete in tournaments, but sponsorship dollars slowed when Dalton, who wrangled many of its deals, stepped down to focus on work.

While killing boys is still core to PMS's identity, the focus now, it appears, is on providing a community for female gamers, regardless of platform or title. With the rise of Angry Birds and its ilk, women now make up 45% of gamers, according to the Entertainment Software Association. Both sisters believe the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One launches this month will only introduce more women to games, helping bring them to the forefront as PMS had done all those years ago.

[Photo by Alice Truong]

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124 Comments

  • Madison Motta

    I saw this Article a while back and refrained from commenting. Since then they've established new leaders (both female) one of which has had an "in" for me for several years. She recently was able to black list me from the clan permanently for made up reasons (because the real ones were personal). Things are almost worse now. Over night, since my banning, the PC platform, which I was heavily involved in, took a major hit as they went on a manhunt trying to burn out anyone who may have been involved with me. I am beginning to suspect the naked pictures deal is a sort of hazing this very same leader does for the more impressionable girls of the clan (I was not one of them) for the purpose of both initiation and blackmail reasons as those who complete their task successfully do seem to be in her "inner circle". This clan is most definitely not a safe place for girls who want to games even if that was how it was originally established it has strayed far from that goal. ----

  • Madison Motta

    Aside from all of those detractors they tend to run their forums like a North Korean Newspaper. Soon after I was banned My Husband decided to leave as well. He wrote up a post for his departure which was quickly ushered to the back recesses where no one could view it. I'm going to link the letter he wrote which I copied to my FB notes. For those who care, it's a rather good summation of the clan. He works full time as an auditor of government organizations so his expertise in how organizations should be operating is rather extensive.

    https://www.facebook.com/notes/madison-motta/my-husbands-h2o-damotta-resignation-from-pms-h2o-clan/10152451845081633

    ~Dio

  • mrpulsar@gmail.com

    Honestly, they're more marketing than really feminist. They also degrade men and in my particular case sided with a woman who had no evidence and spoke of lies about me, now I'm no longer a member after three years of giving to charity and in supporting their message. Really says a lot about their way of thinking. They don't want a place for women on the net, they want women to be THE place of the internet. I am for equality and just don't feel they're taking the right approach. I just get the silent treatment and they call anything a threat, even a cough or sneeze. There needs to be a better female gaming clan out there. One that isn't focused primarily on marketing an image it will go to extreme lengths to defend.

  • Rapedbyclans

    Ivejojned the club all they do is be mean to you outcast you haze you and the men sends you naked pics of themselves and the women al they do is want to spread there legs and tbh they are a bunch of randys i will call the authorites and report the pms clan for abusive photos extorsion and rackateering please just stop trying to make uraelfs out to be something your not all girls who read this pms is sexialluy abusive to there members and the male make you take naked pics and make you get naked on cam !! Please report them if you are in this position i jnow i was and honestly being raped and abusived over psn cam isnt acceptable espixallly from the males who blackmail me even today so please head this warning report pms or they wi make u do things you dont wann forceably

  • Michael Bettasso

    There is something bigger going on with this clan, quite possibly a national security issue. Please tell me everything you know about this group. I'm investigating.

  • Brad

    Pms doesnt know wtf they are doing they have no rights or morals or anything

  • PMS OutOfTampons

    You know I have to be another one of those people that sit here and say that this clan has gone from being the best thing every to being nothing. I have been ganged up on when I was in the halo division. People made me feel like I wasn't worth there time. Emma Frost being one of them. If you did't follow her then you were nothing and she will make you feel like you weren't welcome. She would get everyone to hate you even not being in that division I have got ganged up on for no reason. As for Shel and Doc they sit there on there high horse and act like they are better then everyone else. Bullying people who are trying to do good in this clan is not fair. Doc acts like she does everything when she sits there and does nothing for this clan. Shel just tells you that he will give you a DA if you don't want to tell him about the drama you want to stay out of. I miss the clan that I use to know and love. Now the clan is trash. I don't like what its become. Just putting this out there also Shel's not the only person who has sexually harast girls in this clan. I'm pretty sure wakeing up to dick pics from a leader for the COD Ghost division is sexual harassment. Its stupid that it has went this far with out people getting in trouble something needs to change!!! Shel also goes out of his way to talk shit about people who are trying to make a difference in this clan its not fair and stupid.

  • shewolf

    you're talking about Buddha!!! yeah this clan needs some massive work starting from the top to bottom, that is all I am going to say.

  • divaqueen

    it's not just pc and halo, it's the same with the leaders over in Cod. BlueRose investigates nothing and believes everything the leaders tell them. I wasn't able to defend myself at all. You have no rights as a member. I say the mods and generals need to be revamped, they do nothing and just act like jerks.

  • PMS OutOfTampons

    I agree with you 100% I know how it was in the COD division also its stupid something really need to be done.

  • Unhappygirl

    Don't get me started about the Halo division. I have never felt so unwelcome in my life. All it takes it EmmaFrost PMS having a problem with you and she will make up all kinds of stuff about you so everyone will hate you and then all of the managers will be looking at you threw a magnifying glass just so they can find something to get you in trouble for and have something to gossip about and then she will send her lap dog of a co after you because Emma is too much of a coward to confront you with her lies because she knows she is wrong. Then the BlueRose will cut you off not letting you defend yourself and tell her the truth of what is really going on. I never had a chance, I was da as soon as I joined the clan. Everything was just wrong in that division and I have watched far too many people get hurt and that is why I went casual. I refuse to go back until Emma and her managers are not in that division.