From handbags to hand grenades: The story of gamer girl Ashley Jenkins

WHAT’S it like being a girl in what’s typically a guy’s world? Amy Lau spoke with former professional gamer Ashley Jenkins to find out.

Decked out in a smart black dress ensemble, you would never guess Ashley Jenkins was someone heavily invested in the video game industry. But a fortnight ago, there she was on the panel of ACMI’s Girls in Games forum in Melbourne.

American-born Ashley, or “Jinx” as she’s known in video game circles, used to be a professional gamer in additon to being the founding member of Frag Dolls, the first professional girl gamer team employed by French video game developer and publisher, Ubisoft.

In 2004, after Ashley became more involved with video game communities, Ubisoft offered her the chance to try out for a spot on their Frag Dolls initiative.

Ashley Jenkins. Photo: Acererak from Flickr

“I was about 23 or 24 at that time, and I’m pretty sure it was a pay-off for my parents because they felt I wasted so much time playing video games and it was high time I got something out of it,” she recalls.

When Frag Dolls was formed, a career playing video games was still a concept people found unusual.

“People reacted exclusively in awe and wonder,” Ashley laughs.

Sexist attitudes, adopted by mostly male gamers, also plagued the community during its early days.

Fortunately, Ashley says things are much better now.

Nowadays, guys are more accepting of the fact that so many more women play games, and they don’t just play Dance Fever. Women are playing more hardcore games in much greater numbers, and much more vocally.”

But how is a group of girls playing video games different from their male counterparts – aside from the obvious?

“Frag Dolls aren’t just gamers, they have to be representatives,” Ashley explains.

“That means being able to do public speaking and representing the team’s point of view on female issues. There’s a lot of stuff that goes on with that particular team that is above and beyond the call of most competitive teams.”

Frag Dolls. Photo: dce_76 from Flickr

Ashley left Frag Dolls in 2008 and was hired as a community manager at Xbox shortly after. Although Ashley made her start in the video game industry as a professional gamer, she emphasises the myriad of ways to enter the field.

“The gaming industry has all the needs of any other businesses, be it PR, marketing or finance,” she says.

“Your options aren’t limited to being a professional gamer, an artist or programmer.”

She encourages students to be open-minded and thorough when considering a career in the video game industry.

Firstly, explore what it is you enjoy and see how you can apply that to a role in the industry, because there’s almost certainly something within the video game industry for you.”

But Ashley points out that because the video game industry is such a great industry to work in, competition for jobs is extremely fierce.

“Realise that, and don’t give up anyway,” she advises.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist or an MIT graduate. Just be tenacious, passionate and stick with it.”

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