In an interview with the Escapist News Room, Xbox.com Community Editor TriXie discusses the GamerchiX project: a private, all-female community within the official Xbox.com forums.
Recent weeks have seen an interesting development within the official Xbox.com forums: the creation of a private forum community available only to female forum members, or specifically, members of "GamerchiX."
Xbox GamerchiX (XGX for short) began in early June of this year, with a forum post by Xbox.com Community Editor TriXie (who, like her fellow Xbox.com personae, prefers to go by her online tag rather than her actual name). TriXie's initial post was a call to women and girls "of all ages, all sizes, all platforms and all skill levels." It included a "GamerchiX manifesto," which mandates supportive, inclusive conduct and prohibits trash-talking and infighting.
In the weeks that followed, the post generated more than 1,600 replies and eventually led to the creation of a members-only XGX forum and a custom Xbox.com forum icon. On August 1, 2006, TriXie posted an official GamerchiX page on Xbox.com, complete with gushing quotes from community members, a Rosie the Riveter-inspired graphic, and an open invitation to female gamers. To date, there are more than 250 XGX forum members.
In the following interview, TriXie explains the motivation behind the GamerchiX project, the reaction it provoked within the community, and what makes XGX different from other industry-sponsored girl gamer groups.
The Escapist News Room: First of all, a little bit about yourself. You're currently the Xbox.com "Community Editor." What exactly is your job, then?
TriXie: I manage the content for everything you find in the Community channel on Xbox.com; the personalities, Game with Fame, Calendar of Events, etc. I do quite a bit of writing as well--the Gamer Spotlight, GamerSpeak, Xbox Undercover...everything you find on the TriXie pages. I also manage community-building programs such as Xbox Ambassadors and Xbox GamerchiX, and am responsible for programming/scheduling stuff like Mystery Gamer, Frag Doll Friday, and Xbox All-Nighter.
ENR: The GamerchiX concept made its first public appearance as a topic in the Xbox Forums in early July. You mention on the new GamerchiX page that the idea was hatched much earlier, though, with the help of fellow Live members DirtyDiva and PMS Kitty. Can you explain a bit more about how the idea developed?
T: The germ of the idea began when the Women's Game Conference in October 2005 coincided with some particularly nasty catfighting between female clans. It was a perfect storm that made me really frustrated with both the perception that people have of female gamers and the reality of how they were behaving. There were all these great girl gamers out there, but they were being exploited (with their consent) for T&A, and bashing each other. Again, I'm generalizing...certainly not all gamer girls or clan girls were behaving badly--but the small number that were doing it were really damaging the community as a whole. While I was in Austin at the conference I started to think about what I could do to a) counteract the cattiness, b) attract women to gaming and c) encourage the next generation of gamer girls. Two of the coolest and most sensible female gamers I know are also Xbox MVPs--DirtyDiva and PMS Kitty. I asked them what they thought about starting a group for female gamers that would be inclusive of ALL female gamers whether they play FPS on a console or MMORPGs on the PC, or just a round or two of Zuma or Tumblebugs on their lunch hour. Our number one rule would be NO talking crap about any other women--that just brings us all down. Diva and Kitty were all over the idea and wanted to get started right away. I was basically the holdup in the process...Xbox Ambassadors, E3, just the day-to-day business of the website kept anything from happening. Diva and Kitty would ask every few weeks when we were going to unleash the chiX on the world--they were completely ready to go! So one day I think Kitty had had enough of my procrastinating; we had a logo, a forum icon and the manifesto. We even had limited-run bumper stickers and t-shirts that we had given out to our friends. I think maybe deep down I was afraid I'd unleash the idea on the world and no one would be interested. I finally made the forum post "Looking for Xbox GamerchiX" on June 5. Diva busted out her amazingly cool "We Can Do It" poster, and it's just been an amazing ride since then!
ENR: Your initial Xbox.com forum invitation led to a community of more than 200 GamerchiX, but it also sparked a fair amount of vitriol, particularly from some male forum members. How would you explain the negative reaction?
T: I think part of it is that gaming has been a fortress of testosterone for so long that (some) male gamers feel threatened. There are some young men whose only interaction with females is with their mothers, Lara Croft...and maybe the DOA Beach Volleyball babes. And if they run across a female that is neither making them a sandwich, wiping their butt, or bouncing in a bikini for their titillation--they just don't know how to react. So they lash out.
We fully expected the vitriol, and I came in fast and furious with the ban-hammer to make it clear that that sort of crap was not going to deter us from building our group. What we didn't expect were the legions of supportive gamer guys who encouraged us, defended us, and sent their moms, grandmas, sisters, daughters, wives and girlfriends our way. The first time I saw the forum sig "GamerchiX Husband" I had a HUGE grin on my face for hours.
ENR: Females of all ages are obviously a demographic of great untapped potential for the gaming industry, and it's certainly in Microsoft's financial interests to bring women and girls into the gaming community. Yet you've stated previously that Gamerchix is not a marketing effort. How is the GamerchiX project different from other industry-sponsored female groups, clans, or gaming communities?
T: Well, I'd say the number one difference is that this is a grassroots group. I have had exactly zero budget for XGX, and honestly, I didn't get permission from anyone before doing it. This is not some Machiavellian marketing initiative. This is something that arose organically because Diva, Kitty, and I felt a real need to do something for girl gamers. Number two is that we're not promoting any game, publisher or even console. Sure, right now the vast majority of us play Xbox 360; but most of the girls play on the PC as well, and many also own one of Sony or Nintendo's products. And that's totally cool. I would love nothing more than to have a whole bunch of PlayStation girls join us. The more cool chicks who love to game the better. Any girl gamer can get a gamertag for free on Xbox.com, join GamerchiX and come hang out in our forums...I guarantee they will meet amazing women to game with, and probably meet friends they will have for life.
ENR: The GamerchiX currently have a private forum community, their own Xbox forum icon, and the Monday night slot on the Xbox.com Calendar of Events. Are there any plans to add to or expand these services?
T: Like I mentioned before, we have no budget, so the additions you will see at least in the near future are the ones we cobble together ourselves. One of our early members started a COD 2 Clan called TriXie's GamerChix, other members have been creating kewl lists of members, tracking XGX birthdays, hosting a Little ChiX night for the 7-12 year olds, planning a pajama party for when Vision comes out (the idea being we don't have to dress up for each other and can play in our pj's) and designing logos and t-shirts. These girls are amazingly creative! So it's the small-time for now; but we have big dreams. In the next 2-5 years I would like to see a GamerchiX Summit, maybe our own website, a gamer picture, and pink XGX headsets. I'm only half kidding on that last one...come on, Plantronics--hook us up!
ENR: To what extent is the GamerchiX community geared toward Xbox owners and gamers, as opposed to those who game on other platforms?
T: Well, you can't ignore the fact that I work for Microsoft and our forum lives on Xbox.com. So I'm not going to try to tell you that Xbox isn't the dominant console right now in XGX. But as I mentioned earlier we absolutely welcome gamer girls from every platform, genre, etc. I would love to find a way to reach more PS, PC and Nintendo gamer girls; maybe this article will help!
ENR: Obviously, neither gender has a monopoly on jackass forum behavior. The GamerchiX "manifesto" demands a certain level of respect and civility from its members, however. Does this actually translate into an easier-to-moderate and closer-knit community in the GamerchiX forum sections?
T: It's kinda freaking me out, but I have yet to see one single negative comment in the GamerchiX forum. I did delete one of TGC Pink PiXi3's posts one day because in her enthusiasm to recruit for her COD 2 clan she'd made about four different threads, but that is the only thing I've had to moderate. Honestly, the girls are all so friendly and supportive and welcoming that it renews my faith in the human race. Having said that, if I hear about any XGX girl attacking other Xbox Live members, or saying nasty stuff about any other girls or clans or whatever-it will not be pretty. I'll give them one warning; anyone can lose their temper or have a bad day. But if they do it again they're out. We stand by our no trash talking rule. We hold ourselves to a very high standard and take our commitment to being good role models for our younger members and potential members extremely seriously.
ENR: How are DirtyDiva and PMS Kitty involved in the community at present? I've noticed their gamertags are prominently displayed on the GamerchiX page.
T: They are both Xbox MVPs and way better gamers than I am. DirtyDiva is very involved in Gamertagpics.com and Kitty is a Halo 2 division leader in PMS. Their 'tags are right there with mine on the GamerchiX page because they have been invested in this idea since the beginning and have been absolutely integral in getting it off the ground and keeping it going.
ENR: A quick glance at your own gamercard shows that you're an avid Live Arcade player. It's probably not the card of someone most gamers would characterize as a traditional "hardcore" gamer, though. How would you describe your own gaming interests, and how do they fit in with those of the GamerchiX community?
T: Yeah, I am not hardcore in any way shape or form. I love the Arcade games though and am pretty proud to have beaten Zuma. I hear Bill Gates is still on Level 9. I get motion sick from FPS and racing games, and I really don't like killing stuff-it just doesn't interest me. For a long time I felt like I didn't qualify as a 'real' gamer. But when you look at the hours I rack up on Zuma or Luxor or Animal Crossing...Hell yeah I'm a real gamer. And if I am, so are the millions of women playing Sudoku and Bejeweled. My goal is to bring those chicks together. And if they meet great friends and expand their horizons to other genres...that's awesome.
ENR: What kind of feedback, if any, has the GamerchiX project received from higher-ups at Microsoft?
T: I think we're still under the radar as far as the big boys are concerned; though I have seen many of those Xbox GamerchiX bumper stickers I ordered from stickerjunkie.com on a lot of office doors and laptops. I anxiously await the day Peter Moore or J Allard says "So what's up with this GamerchiX thing?"
ENR: At present, neither you nor Microsoft have been heavily promoting the GamerchiX community. Is that going to change at some point?
T: I don't have plans to promote it in some big official way. I think slow growth is good for a community group like this. We have forged some great friendships and if we got 1,000 new members tomorrow, I worry that it would become impersonal. If it takes us a year or 18 months to get to 1,000 I believe we can maintain the personal feel that makes it so cool.
ENR: Comparatively speaking, the GamerchiX community is still quite small. What do you hope the future will bring in terms of membership and participation?
T: I don't have a magic number in my head that equals success. I think GamerchiX is a raging success already in that it fills a need in the community, women are becoming more confident on Xbox Live, are trying new games and making great friends. In my four years at Xbox, I think this project is the thing I'm most proud of. And we're just getting started!
ENR: TriXie, thanks for your time.
T: Thanks for helping to spread the word about XGX! If you know any gamer girls who would like to meet other chicks in a hassle-free environment, send 'em my way. Send an email to [email protected]!