On the other hand, she's noticed that some male players seem to think anything a woman says or does is dramatic. "Girls in games constantly have to be on guard to not look like they're causing drama - as their very presence sometimes creates it. It's like throwing meat to the lions, so to speak. If lions were competitive, hormone-enraged 20-something guys." She says the volatile atmosphere encourages silence from women. "Most of the women hide. They don't want the attention."
It can be difficult, though, for a female gamer to keep her mouth shut if a male player goes over the line. Recently, the leader of a top Mal'Ganis guild tried to recruit O'Reilly by casually mentioning, "Our best healer is a girl, how lame is that?"
"I said, 'Oh, my name's Christine, nice to meet you.' He acted like that wasn't what he meant to say. He even showed me the heal meters for the fights to prove that she wasn't very good."
And during a recent tryout for another top Mal'Ganis guild, a male player repeatedly asked her if she was "in the mood" or "a screamer" and would make repeated references to touching her "bottom." But she kept quiet. "I try to handle the guys on my own. I never complain about the sexually abusive comments to other people because I don't want to be perceived as causing drama."
O'Reilly thinks the fear of "causing drama" may prevent women from pursuing leadership roles in MMOGs. Although this has not been proven, a recent Daedalus Project survey conducted by Stanford doctoral student Nick Yee does suggest that male players enjoy leadership roles more than female players.
In the end, however, O'Reilly believes female mediators are more powerful than male leaders because they can do crucial HR work men can't. "Matt can't get the information I can get. He's said it himself - the biggest problems don't reach him because players are too intimidated to talk to him, or not friendly enough with him. But I can get that information. And I can fix those problems before they get taken out in-game and sabotage our progress."
Though it may be coincidental, Exordium's recent fate suggests the importance of O'Reilly's role - the guild broke up while she took a long hiatus from WoW to teach English in Japan. When she returned to the U.S., she tried out for another top American guild, but withdrew her application because she didn't agree with their leadership style. "They wouldn't communicate, they wouldn't tell us if a raid was starting late and they even got mad when we referred to each other on a first-name basis. They sucked all the fun out of the game."
And to O'Reilly, fun is the most important component of the MMOG experience. ""If I'm going to spend six hours a day, five to seven days a week playing this game, I want to have fun. I want to know the people I'm playing with, and I want to trust them. And at this point, WoW is no longer fun for me." She's already moving on to her next big projects: a homemade soap business and Warhammer Online. "Matt and I are already building our website. We want to be the best guild in America."
Melody Lutz is a freelance writer based in Los Angeles. Her blog can be found at gobedelighted.blogspot.com.