Got Game

These ladies kill one another and laugh about it. But don’t cross ’em.

Bonfiglio grew up in Long Island and moved to Coral Springs in Broward for high school. She's been gaming nearly her whole life. "My dad got an Atari 2600," she remembers with a touch of nostalgia. Bonfiglio had a lot of cousins nearby. "I always played with the boys. It was like family-bonding time." When asked if she ever left the house, Bonfiglio flares up. "I was always out playing football, baseball ... every sport there was!" she exclaims.

In 2001 she was neck-deep in law school when Xbox made its debut. Halo, one of the first games, was popular because it allowed team play. Halo 2, released three years later, is the only Xbox game to sell more copies.

Bonfiglio liked playing on a team. There was only one drawback: guys. "They do all kinds of things," she says. "When they kill you, they'll crouch over your body and bounce up and down, like they're fucking you — as soon as they find out you're a girl." At first she would mute her microphone to hide her gender; she mostly teamed up with young boys.

Master Chief, the archetypal protagonist of Halo 2
Master Chief, the archetypal protagonist of Halo 2
The PMS Clan with its legendary founder, Amber "Athena Twin" Dalton (front row, second from left), at the DigitalLife Expo in New York
The PMS Clan with its legendary founder, Amber "Athena Twin" Dalton (front row, second from left), at the DigitalLife Expo in New York

She had been playing for about six months when she met a young female player named Kitten of Death, who was a PMS member. The two hit it off immediately, and Kitten invited Bonfiglio to practice. Three weeks later, she was in.

Since then, Bonfiglio has become a minor celebrity. At last year's Major League Gaming (MLG) competition in Orlando, she was surrounded by boys who lined up for her autograph. "They were like, öOh my God, it's PMS!'" she recalls, laughing. "I signed hats, I signed T-shirts, I signed somebody's Xbox.... They were like, öOh, I have this PMS girl and this PMS girl and this PMS girl....' because they knew the names, and they were collecting! I felt like one of those Pokémon cards."

Indeed some boys have joined the clan. They're called H2Os, or waterboys. They can't participate in girl practice, but they get to team up with PMS girls in coed matches. In Bonfiglio's division, she enforces a rule that potential H2Os must be known to a clan member for at least six months. "You can imagine," she explains, "there are lots of guys dying to get into H2O — because you get access to all the girls."

As Delta overlord, Bonfiglio spends hours — she guesses about twenty per week — doing clan work. She organizes events, discusses new policies, and talks to underlings on the phone. "We're not just dealing with gaming. Girls come to us with problems — kids who cut themselves, kids who are abused. I've had girls call me aside and say, öYou're a lawyer; what should I do about so and so?' I knew at the beginning that I would probably hold a leadership position," she recalls. "I was newly married at the time. But they needed me."

Craig Zaidel is one of very few males who have been to the inner sanctum of PMS Clan practice. The 29-year-old met Bonfiglio online and was so intrigued by her group that he decided to write his senior sociology thesis for the University at Buffalo about its members. Zaidel convinced Bonfiglio to waive the strict girls-only rule so he could attend a session. "It was freaking insane; there were twelve, fourteen people in our little room there, and everyone was talking, and you couldn't hear anything," he remembers. "I was like, öOh my God, how can you guys even hear each other?' And Bonfiglio said, öWe're just excited. We haven't seen each other all day.' All day, she said!

"It's such a weird world to be in," Zaidel continues, "but I can totally see why you would want to be in it. Kinship. Friendship. It's a safe place; it's a home."

Bonfiglio would like to create a local cadre of PMS members. Places like Scorpico are a start, she says. But they don't foster local talent the way a major tournament — like MLG in Orlando, which drew thousands — does. Also PMS can't afford to sponsor many teams. "When it comes into gaming season, those girls are run ragged because they're running from one tournament to another."

She wants local companies — Miami-based software company Alienware, for example — to step up and sponsor local competitions. "The market's there; the people are there," she insists. "I'd love it if every Friday night was competition night. I'd love it if we had a local team and our team could compete."

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