They were the last words I heard before my boyfriend and I left for The Frag Factory (TFF). “Don’t worry, you’ll enjoy yourself.” Easy for him to say, he being a LAN regular and already acquainted with many of the people who would be there.
I had no such luck. The only contact I’d had with anybody from TFF was a few conversations over MSN Messenger and the TFF forum with Sally. Sally, one half of the couple who runs the event, assured me that she was going to look after me. Originally set up by a group of male gamers, TFF has been running for eight years. Sally’s parents’ company, Overclock UK, took over the event before Sally and her partner Aaron starting running the show in February of this year. TFF LANs currently run every six weeks in the Barnsley, South Yorkshire, with attendance varying between 25 and 40 people per LAN. There are four to eight tournaments held per LAN, depending on the sponsor, and the staff also bring along an Xbox 360 for those who don’t want to spend the whole weekend playing on their PCs.
Unfortunately, from the few conversations I had with her before the event, it appeared that there would be a distinct shortage of female gamers attending: a possible six out of around 40 people.
This fact has not escaped the notice of those on the LAN scene. In her first post to me, Sally herself stated, “I think there should be more female gamers, as it might lift the whole ‘gamers are geeks’ tag that is associated with it.” From what I can tell, there are many people who share the opinion that there are not nearly enough of us ladies on the LAN scene.
What makes the subject even more interesting is the fact that the apparent split between male and female gamers in the U.K. is 45 percent female and 55 percent male. If this is the case, then why is there such a lack of women involved in the LAN scene, and how can we change that?
Perhaps not enough has been done to sell these events to women. A perfect example is Multiplay’s last LAN party, i34, at which Gemma Atkinson recently made an appearance. Of course, it was a great way to sell the event to all the teenage boys and frustrated male gamers out there, but what did women get? I noticed there were no Chippendales on the guest list …
There’s an even bigger issue; I will admit that my principal reservation (one which, from searching through blogs on the internet, appears to be shared by more than a few other female gamers) was the treatment I would receive from male participants. The stereotypes that surround your average male gamer do not help with this reservation; my boyfriend cautioned, “You would not believe how much porn is available at a LAN.” Sadly, I think I have a very good idea, and let’s face it – this is not a good reflection on the lads who attend these events.
The one major issue which seems to keep cropping up is the fact that some men seem to instantly dismiss women as being weaker opponents. Some women talk about the times they’ve been the target of unsavory comments when an unsportsmanlike male gamer realizes he’s just been beaten by a girl. Some have even been specifically targeted by their male counterparts during online play.
At the end of the day, the simple fact is that women LAN gamers don’t want to be treated any differently from their male counterparts. Considering the first remark I heard when I arrived at TFF was “Oh my god, Angelus has brought a woman with him,” I must admit I was not filled with confidence.
It turned out, however, that my assumptions were wrong. After the initial few jokes about my Welsh heritage (not the barrage of sheep jokes I usually encounter when meeting new people), the guys at TFF turned out to be a really nice bunch of people. I didn’t hear a single joke about women throughout the event, although there is the chance they told them all out of earshot. Apparently red haired women of Welsh heritage such as myself have a little bit of a temper …
Evident as soon as you walk through the doors of the community center where the LAN takes place was the family atmosphere. There were three generations of Sally’s family in attendance: her parents, her sister and Maddie, who is TFF’s first baby at 4 months old. Gamers of all ages are encouraged to attend the event, and there were a few younger kids among the participants (all of which put me to shame by staying up far later than I think I ever could). Not everyone is related, but you nonetheless get the feeling that they are all very close.
Despite their familiarity with each other, the great thing about the people who frequent TFF is that how welcoming they are of new people. I never once felt like a stranger there despite not having met any of the participants before.
The only downside to the whole event was the fact that I had to withdraw early due to a migraine. I must admit that one of the highlights of the LAN for me was the bacon and egg butties kindly made by Sally’s mum, Sue, that Sunday morning (something which I sadly had to miss out on due to the migraine). Then again, as one of the other participants at LAN said after the event, “You’ll just have to have twice as much next time.”
So, the big question is: Will I be frequenting LANs in the future? Actually, I’ve already signed up for my next one (another smaller event running over a weekend with space for 40 participants), and I can definitely see myself attending TFF again. I’m not sure whether I’ll ever attend the larger events. I liked the atmosphere at TFF and you might lose that to a certain extent if you have 100-plus people attending an event. Then again, I may end up attending a larger one at some point just to see what the fuss is about.
If there are any female gamers out there who are considering attending a LAN, put aside your reservations and do it! There are plenty of people who would like to see more female faces on the LAN scene, and we could certainly do with a little help when it comes to bolstering our numbers.
Rachael Griffiths is a freelance contributor to The Escapist.