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June 24, 2009

Girls Gone Geeky

Women turn the ultimate go-nowhere pastime—video games—into a career.

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female video gamer

Girl Gamer

Photo Credit: Clint Hild/iStock Photography

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Professional video-game tournaments—traditionally the province of the 300-pound dorky guy next door—are starting to look more like a Spice Girls show, thanks to female teams like the Frag Dolls. The Dolls are one of a handful of girl groups going head-to-head with the guys at Major League Gaming contests. The question: Did we really need to bust into this male bastion?

Some say yes: An estimated 94 percent of teen girls now play video games—it's part of the culture, like it or not. And Major League Gaming is on a roll, boasting thousands of competitors and a content deal with ESPN; the top prize at events can reach $100,000. For players like the Frag Dolls—who go by names such as Brookelyn, Phoenix, Psyche, and Rhoulette—gaming is a career opportunity; they get paid by a software company to compete in tournaments, work the booths at trade shows, and do press stunts, like teaching Kim Kardashian how to play Nintendo Wii.

It's not a bad gig for young women such as Brookelyn (Brooke Hattabaugh, 28). Before joining the Dolls, she was a shy, depressed high-school student who had burned down her mother's Kansas home while frying a chicken patty. The Frag Dolls forced her out of her shell. (After the Dolls? She wants to write children's books.)

Of course, not everyone's thrilled about the tarting up of the game world. Male bloggers gripe that women can't play in the NFL or NBA, so why are they allowed in Major League Gaming? But other guys dig it. At a recent tourney in Texas, Brookelyn, clad in a black corset, with a pair of diving doves tattoos on her shoulder, was swarmed by an army of preteen worshippers. "Can I get a picture?" one asked. "My buddy'll be so jealous." Indeed. Some boys even like to brag that they've made out with Brookelyn and her gal pals. Dream on, dudes.


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