This interview is the first of a planned series of interviews of professionals — lawyers naturally among them — that are avid, earnest, unabashed gamers. I conducted this interview back in September, but a number of issues kept it from appearing on A.O. Without further ado, here’s my interview with a remarkable attorney from Florida who happens to also be a very skilled competitive gamer. Enjoy. Lime
AO: Hot Chief, thanks for doing this interview. Just by way of introduction, I met you via a comment you left on my blog… I Googled your name, and discovered that lo, you were not only Dianne Bonfiglio, Esq., but also “Hot Chief PMS,” of the online all-female gaming clan “PMS Clan.” Since Halo is one of your forte’s and I’m a Halo addict–and an attorney–I was immediately smitten. You agreed to do an interview, and so here are a few questions: how do being an attorney and a hard-core gamer jive. First off, for the law: what type of law do you practice?
HC: Harry, thank *you* for the opportunity to speak with you! It is my pleasure. Professionally, I’ve been practicing law for about five years. I am a business major and had substantial experience in business before I entered law school in 1999. There was no question that I would practice business law. Commercial/complex litigation and technology-related law were an immediate draw for me. Presently, I am specializing in the forensics of litigation, particularly, the financial aspects.
AO: What is your daily legal practice like, and what is the “forensics of litigation”?
HC: HMM. Forensic accounting is investigatory in nature. In complex financial cases, we examine the financial documents produced in discovery. Of course, that involves detailed discovery management both old-fashioned paper and electronic discovery. Forensics involves complex analysis and tracing money in all types of cases involving financial transactions. Such cases include marital dissolution, partnership disputes, fraud, bankruptcy, lost profits, insurance disputes, etc. Our firm even handled a murder case where the motive was insurance proceeds! Forensic accounting can be very sexy, indeed!
AO: Were you a gamer before law school?
HC: This is a funny question! OF COURSE! I think I was born a gamer!! I come from a long line of hardcore gamers, apparently! I played games with my family as soon as I was physically able to – everything from hand-helds, to PC to consoles! I remember when I was a young girl and my older sister’s boyfriend would come calling – to stay up all night and play Atari 2600 with my DAD!!! My mom is a big fan of Nintendo. At 78, she and her 72 year old sister still enjoy a game of “Mr. Do!” on SuperNintendo. My sister, a single mom of two and a super-techie for a global security company, is a PC game addict! Her sons, both gifted teenagers, are huge console fans, playing Wii, Xbox and PS2. And the list goes on…
I grew up very close to three male cousins who were like my brothers. Naturally, I became a tomboy, interested in Girl Scouts, Football, Barbies, Video Games, Baseball, Dancing, Building Forts, BMX-ing — you get the idea? I didn’t discern between which was “traditionally” a “male” activity and which was a “female” activity. No discrimination here! I played and participated in EVERYTHING. Just like one of the guys. Just like one of the girls. I still do!
My most recent love affair, with Halo, began when I was in law school. I met and fell in love with my husband and the Master Chief. Good thing my husband wasn’t the jealous type! The appeal of Halo: Combat Evolved was the cooperative campaign. My husband-then-boyfriend and I would spend hours playing together and bonding. We played other games too, but Halo was an addiction. I was studying for the bar exam, or at least I was pretending to, when my boyfriend came home and literally “busted” me playing Halo!! (No worries, I passed the bar exam with a remarkable score.)
I waited most impatiently for the release of Halo 2. I read all the books. I waited. They delayed the release. I waited. Finally, I was working at a boutique litigation firm in Downtown Miami when I got the call. “I have THE PACKAGE.” This was code from my now fiancee that he picked up our long-awaited copy of Halo 2. I couldn’t wait to leave work!!
AO: You’re a member of PMS Clan. What is PMS Clan, and how did you become involved?
HC: I continued my affair with the Master Chief. I played the cooperative Halo 2 campaign and the addiction subsided… only briefly… right up until I played ONLINE on Xbox LIVE. That was an amazing experience. I could not fathom the complexity of the matchmaking process. I was fascinated – understanding strategies, discovering the genius of the developers, uncovering and dealing with the technological challenges, such as lag and the annoying cheaters who took unfair advantage using mods.
Most disappointing was the poor attitudes of many of the other online gamers. Once they learned that I was a female, they were either abusive, and I mean hurtfully and obscenely abusive, or they were perverts. I loved the game but I had to make adjustments. I often muted my mic and did not reveal myself. Sometimes, if I got a good “vibe” I would un-mute myself while everyone was in the post game lobby and congratulate the other players or ask for advice from the skilled players. My friends list consisted mostly of the younger players for two reasons: 1) I don’t think they were as pre-disposed to prejudice against female gamers and 2) I somehow felt that at their tender ages, they were subject to abuse as well, so if we played together, it would somehow be “safer.”
I rarely had a “successful” social experience in a game. I still played though, because I loved the game. Then, one day, I matched up in a free-for-all with another female player. We had a great time. She was a member of the exponentially expanding PMS Clan on Halo 2. The rest is history. She vouched for me as a respectable female player, and I was recruited into PMS. I couldn’t wait to make my “PMS tag”! It was such an honor!!
AO: Are your fellow attorneys aware of the insane amount of involvement you have in the Clan? What’s their typical response? Have you been able to bring any of them over to the Dark Side?
HC: Hmm. Attorneys. They are usually shocked. I think they are curious but really don’t understand. They mention it to me because it is a curiousity, and occasionally take a shot at me for being a nerd. Overall, it is all in good fun.
I work with CPAs in my forensic review, and I have to admit, I have one successful “online” convert! I’m so proud of him! He now owns a 360, a Wii and a PS3! CPAs FTW!!
AO: Can you tell us any specific challenges you have in converting run-of-the-mill attorneys into gamers? Do you have a multi-step process, something like “Awaken the Gamer Within,” the “Seven Habits of Highly Effective Gamers,” anything like that, to convert those skeptics that otherwise would be ashamed to admit publicly that they’d even consider videogaming at any age over 30?
HC: WHOA, WHOA, WHOA, COUNSELOR, ONE QUESTION AT A TIME! LOL
I can’t claim that I’ve converted any attorneys. I have run into a few online, but none seemed particularly hard core. I can take credit for, um, encouraging a few CPAs! I won’t mention any names, to protect the not-so-innocent!
I don’t have a marketable process aimed a particular age group. I have developed a system, with impressive support and cooperation from my clan mates, for organizing and managing gaming for EVERYONE in our clan. Girls from the ages of 9 to 55 are able to enjoy membership and participate regularly. No age barriers here. No glass ceiling. The sky’s the limit for dedicated gamers with great attitudes!
AO: What does your family think of your involvement with gaming and PMS Clan?
HC: Good question. I think I will ask them and get back to you. Primarily, I think they respect it and resent it simultaneously. They know what I’m doing, yet, at the same time, they really don’t know what I’m doing. They know that “the girls” get a lot of my attention. They also know that “the girls” bring me a lot of joy.
AO: How has your gaming career affected everyday life? What is the biggest perk so far?
HC: I’m not really sure it has affected my everyday life all that much. I play. I socialize. I have fun. I share time with close friends. The biggest perk is meeting up with “the girls” at events. Lots of hugs, smiles, laughs, comraderie. I am truly grateful for the opportunity to be a part of these girls’ lives.
AO: What are your responsibilities in PMS Clan? I’ve seen practice schedules on your 1UP site. It looks extraordinarily rigorous: what sort of time involvement does that mean for you and the PMS members involved?
HC: I am a divisional leader. I believe that PMS Delta is the largest PMS division at this point in time. My responsibilities include almost an executive level of management in Delta. We are very highly structured. Each girl has some level of responisibilty as a member. Minimally, members and recruits need to practice with the division four hours per week. I devote probably 20 hours per week to my clan duties.
AO: How does PMS Clan survive, fund travel to competitions, etc.? Are there dues? Is it 100% corporate sponsors? What’s the, as it were, “business model”?
HC: PMS Clan is constantly evolving and improving. We have a hybrid corporate-military-democratic-style organization structure. In other words, we have a chain of command, but we also vote.
Membership is not based on skill but on attitude and dedication. There are no membership dues. Sponsors are often looking for top-ranked teams. PMS has a few top-ranked players who are sponsored. PMS Clan has a tremendous presence, and is well-suited for promotional sponsorships as well as competitive sponsorships. In addition, our leaders are well-versed in the gaming market and are often tapped as consulting experts in the gaming industry.
AO: I see from your 1Up profile that you’re a hockey fan. Where exactly does eSports fit in the whole realm of competitive sports? What are the prizes like, and what’s the media coverage? What do you expect for the future? And how big of a part of this is the female gamer phenomenon?
HC: Objection. Too many questions under one heading. Just kidding! Your questions make me smile. Hockey is another love affair of mine.
I’m not really sure how to answer these questions. I really don’t play online sports games. Sure, I have a NHL games. The graphics on those games and the NFL games are truly amazing.
AO: What is the compensation like, ballpark, for those gamers “at the top” that you mention, like Fata1ity, T-Squared, the Ogres, etc.?
HC: YOU might have better information than I do. It is my understanding that a top team of four makes about $1M, or $250,000 each, plus endorsements.
AO: Do you play any sports or do you participate in athletics in “real life”?
HC: I HAVE only played casually. I love to play for recreation, though. I love to watch hockey and football.
AO: There seem to be several female gaming clans out there: are they competitive against each other? What interactions do you have with each other?
HC: Generally, PMS does not compete against other female clans in particular. Although we are very proud to be girl gamers, it is our desire to compete at all levels, in all demographics.
We respect those other girl clans and try to maintain good relations with them. We have a strict policy against recruiting from other all-female or other competitive clans.
AO: Michael Gallagher is the new president of Entertainment Software Association and a lobbyist in D.C. He said at E3 that he intended to fend off attempts to regulate videogames more like a drug and less like books or films. Thoughts?
HC: If Mr. Gallagher can stop Congress from telling ghost-stories, I’m behind him 100%. I KNOW he’s not the only professional playing video games… there’s me and you… and the Miami Dolphins 🙂 Do you think they’ll play Halo 3 with us?
AO: Thoughts on Videogame ratings? How about whether videogames cause violence? Is there a difference between boy and girl gamers in this sense?
HC: I do not perceive any difference between male and female gamers in this regard. I refer you to my previous comments, however, where I admitted that I historically fail to discern what activities should be male and which should be female.
I think video games causing violence is a myth. Right up there with haunted houses. Violence is a social disease that can’t be cured by mild-rated video games.
Not to make light of a serious subject, but I think video games may actually prevent violence. Gaming may be an acceptable, non-violent outlet for release of aggression. It can best be summed up by this quote from a fellow gamer, after arriving home from an unusually frustrating day at work and heading straight for matchmaking in Halo 2: “If I don’t kill somebody soon, I’m going to kill someone.”
AO: What do you think about the whole issue of in-game ads? Any we can expect to see in Halo 3?
HC: I don’t really have an opinion on in-game ads. Advertising, if it is entertaining and in moderation, is welcome.
AO: Nintendo, mobile phone games, and online casual games — saving the game industry by bringing in casual, non-hardcore gamers, with such games as “Brain Life,” the Wii’s entire casual gaming genre (bowling, etc), and mobile games such as soduku? Or is the casual gaming phenomenon harming the future of mature, challenging games on the 360 and PS3?
HC: Casual gamers are a wonderful and welcome addition to the gaming community. Our clans, PMS and H2O, are intended to be inclusive. We have a substantial number of gamers in our casual divisions. I don’t think it is harmful in the least. In fact, I think it piques the general population’s interest in gaming and helps garner respect for the serious gamers. Casual gamers get it when it comes to gaming. The way I see it, casual gamers are hardcore inside, they just can’t express it! At any given point in time, a casual gamer can switch gears and become competitive. Likewise, when a competitive gamer is faced with life issues school, family, work she has the option of becoming a casual gamer without having to drop out of the gaming scene altogether. At some level, all competitive gamers are casual — I love bowling on the Wii!
AO: Any opinion: console or PC? Why?
HC: Great question. This is a project I am currently researching among female gamers. I hope to have more details regarding the results of this research in the coming months.
Presently, I am a heavy console player. I have played PC and enjoy it, however, I think the appeal of the online integration on console over-powers all the PC advantages, combined.
AO: Let me give you a hypo: you’ve got a court filing due next Monday, for which you’ve got 12-14 hour days, everyday, to get all the work done you need to get done. You’ve also got a PMS Clan tournament next Monday, and you’ve got practices lined up for Delta Division every day for the next week. How do you juggle the two?
HC: When it comes to professional work, I have no problem delegating. When it comes to gaming, that is much more of a signature production. I would enlist legal professionals and support staff to assist in meeting the court filing, so I would have adequate time to prepare for Delta’s competition. I take my responsibility to my teammates very seriously and personally.
On the other hand, if there were other PMS girls ready, willing and able to compete in my place, I would be happy to share the opportunity with them and step aside. Their success is mine. I would be very proud of my fellow PMS representative and would support her in any way.
AO: Assume, arguendo, today is September 25th, 2007. What are you doing, and does work know about it?
HC: SURE THING, WORK KNOWS! I submitted my vacation request a month ago, already!
I’ll be playing Halo 3 all night, sporting special-edition “Depends for Gamers” so I won’t be interrupted by potty-breaks brought on by energy drinks.
AO: Thanks so much for your time, Dianne, er, Hot Chief. It’s been a true honor. As snooty Latin-quoting lawyers say, “de minimus non curat lex,” or, “the law doesn’t bother with trifles.” Which means to me, gaming is not a trifle: “Game on!”
Postscript: Hot Chief passed on this bit of information that might be of interest to you gamers out there: the Cyberathlete Professional League (CPL) announced $1 million in total prize money would be given away for an open Halo 3 competition at the Extreme Winter Championships, Tuesday Dec 18 to Saturday Dec 22, at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Dallas TX. For more info see http://TheCPL.com/winter, and note that online registration opens Tuesday October 30th (info available at Halo3Competition.com on the 29th).