It’s well known that, for the longest time, the esports world has had a reputation of not being the most welcoming environment towards gamers who happen to be anything other than straight, white, and male (and that’s putting it mildly). Luckily, things have been changing for the better over recent years with multiple initiatives to bolster diversity, gender equality, and address toxicity in gamer culture. With all of this progress, oftentimes it’s easy to overlook the fine folks that paved the way for such growth. One such example dates back to the early 2000’s, when the gaming industry was first starting to develop into the global economy that it has become. PMS Clan—once short for “Psychotic Man Slayerz,” now an acronym for “Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers”—was founded in 2002 and has since grown to be one of the largest all-female gaming communities in the world.
18 years ago, when the internet was still new and esports was still working its way from community-organized tournaments, there was (even more than today) a deeply-entrenched notion that video games were only for boys. Female gamers were hardly visible on the landscape and often had to deal with various forms of harassment. Then, in 2002, in an effort to actively fight the notion that to be a serious gamer you had to be male, twin sisters Amber and Amy (now surnamed Dalton and Brady, respectively) founded PMS Clan. Gaming under the gamertags Athena and Valkyrie, aka the Athena Twins, the duo embraced the acronym PMS and transformed it into an empowering moniker for their group.
For a long time PMS, often an acronym for Premenstrual Syndrome, would be the sort of barb or joke aimed at women when they were behaving in a way guys considered to be “difficult” or “bitchy.” Instead of allowing PMS to act as an allusion to ‘that time of the month,’ the Athena Twins reclaimed those three letters, making them stand in for “Psychotic Man Slayerz” instead. Initially a clan founded on XBox, by 2004, the clan had expanded to form a Playstation division, an EU division, and in response to criticism regarding their name, changed PMS to stand for “Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers” instead.
Over the years, PMS Clan has grown to become one of the largest and longest-established all-female gaming groups in the world. According to PMS Clan’s website, in the years since its founding, “PMS Clan has provided a home for thousands of gamers, created 60+ game divisions on all platforms and launched divisions in all regions.” When they first started, Dalton was actually self-funding the organization, but eventually, sponsorship allowed the group to incorporate and Dalton to leave her job in finance. That industrious spirit would go on to allow PMS Clan to have “sponsored over 30 competitive teams or players, and achieved near 50 championship bracket placements at tournaments such as CPL, MLG, WSVG, WCG, ESWC and more.”
One of the more interesting things about PMS Clan as an organization would have to be the holistic approach to their mission. Whereas many esports organizations would prioritize supporting their teams and content creators, striving for success in competition and garnering sponsorship deals and such, PMS Clan has been able to pursue those goals while also building a community devoted to “providing a pro-women environment, fostering competitive spirit, and building an inclusive support network for women and our allies.” That goes beyond uplifting female gamers in terms of visibility and resources as gamers; the ethos of their work is to provide the sort of support for people, specifically female people, to “value [them]selves, overcome the fear of not belonging, and take risks to discover our inherent strengths.”
By building a network of allies, PMS Clan has also invited male gamers to participate in making the gaming sphere a better environment for everybody. Starting in 2004 as H2O Clan, folks from outside of the PMS Clan community came together to support what PMS Clan was working towards. Ultimately this group of “friends, spouses, siblings, children, parents, sponsors, and others who are just as passionate about supporting diversity and inclusiveness” would go on to be referred to as PMS Allies or PMSA. As noted on PMS Clan’s website, their mission “can’t succeed at normalizing women in gaming without our allies,” which serves as an important reminder to the wider gaming community that everyone has a part to play in making the esports industry a more equitable place.
Overall, Amy and Amber have been able to effectively pass on the torch of leadership for PMS Clan while also pursuing their mission in different positions. Dalton went on to compete professionally in a variety of games before transitioning to Twitch in 2011, where she has been working as Director of Event Sales and Sponsorships. After being a part of the first all-female team to win a pro circuit at CPL in 2006, Brady continued to compete until ultimately transitioning to work for Ubisoft and Twitch in marketing, esports strategy and event directing. Still representing strong women in the gaming industry, the Athena Twins have allowed current PMS Clan leaders RaShaun “RaylaDivine” PMS and Krystal “Ovaryacting” PMS to focus on heading the community they’ve built.
After all this time, PMS Clan is still going strong with 60,000 members. Luckily, now they’re not alone. At a much higher rate than in 2002, multiple initiatives and organizations are joining PMS Clan to further the fight for diversity, inclusion, and equality in the gaming community. Nowadays, it’s almost taken for granted that diversity and inclusion are issues that need to be addressed, which makes it all the more important to remember that PMS Clan has been at the forefront of the fight for gender equality in esports since the beginning.