Breaking the Gaming Glass Ceiling: Holly Jennings talks gaming and GAUNTLET

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I’ve never thought of video games as a male-dominated hobby. Growing up, nearly all of my friends played games: everything from Mario Kart to Golden Eye to Grand Theft Auto.

While I can’t stand turn-based games, Final Fantasy was my bestie’s drug of choice and many of my favorite memories circle around playing FFVII with her, watching the incredible storyline unfold through eye-candy graphics.

As an adult, I dove into the world of MMOs and dropped several years of my life into World of Warcraft. Even in some of the top raiding guilds, I was far from the only female there. Some guilds were close to half and half. Others had even more.

It wasn’t until I starting writing books about a female gamer did everyone start telling me this is a male-dominated thing. Really? That’s news to me, and news I don’t really believe beyond the clickbait titles.

Now, when it comes to eSports and competitive gaming, that’s a different story. While most tournaments are open to any gender, male gamers typically make up over 90% of the entrants. Sometimes 100%.

For a while, I’d been craving to write a female protagonist that broke out of that perfect, ass-kicking cliché and into a realm of flaws, questionable decisions, and bad habits. As soon as I had the idea for my Arena Series – virtual reality competitive gaming tournaments – I knew I’d found the perfect *cough* arena for my character. Thrown into a virtual battlefield against men double her size, armed with only a sword, Kali Ling breaks bones and laughs about it.

If other female gamers are anything like me, they’ll roll their eyes whenever someone tries to claim gaming as a “guy thing.” But since my debut went out into the world, I’ve been surprised by the number of emails I’ve received from women involved in competitive gaming and related industries.

Since then I’ve realized: my books shouldn’t be about my perception of gaming as a woman. It should be about theirs. It should reflect the women who’ve walked that path, who’ve fought their way to the top to prove they deserve to be there as much as anyone else. Luckily, I’ve managed to snag a few of them as beta readers and now the upcoming sequel Gauntlet is a much better reflection of their trials and tribulations of busting through the gaming glass ceiling.

While I’ll never really know what it’s like to be in their shoes, I hope Kali Ling embodies the strength, perseverance, and bravery of the wonderful women I’ve met while writing these books. Most of all, I hope she inspires younger girls to keep pushing and kick even more ass – no matter who they chose to be or what professional they land in.

Ladies, this one’s for you.

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Holly Jennings

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