College freshman Molly Kennedy discovered VR gaming when she was a lonely high school student who had recently transferred to a new school. Today the college freshman leads a pro-VR esports team and she’s setting a positive example for other young women who want to play competitive VR games.
“I’ve always loved video games,” she states. “I’ve been into games since I was seven, playing my Nintendo DS Pokémon games.”
Her gaming preferences transitioned from the Nintendo DS to console and PC games as she grew from child to young teen. It was during this time that she discovered favorites such as Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds.
Just as she was starting high school, Kennedy’s family moved from Valencia, one of the most populated communities in the Santa Clarita area of Los Angeles County, CA, to a small town in Wisconsin with about 5,000 residents. It took the family three weeks to drive across the country with all their belongings.
Kennedy describes the move as difficult, but when she received an Oculus Rift for Christmas in 2017, discovering immersive realities helped her make friends and learn to cope with her new physical environment.
Most of Kennedy’s time in VR is spent playing Ready At Dawn’s Echo Arena. Known as Mojolly in game, not only is she one of the best goalies in the game, but she’s also the only female captain in Echo Arena VR Master League Season 1.
When she was a lower level in the game, Kennedy participated in the Oculus-sponsored, ESL-run VR League and when Echo Arena joined the VR Master League last fall, she signed up as a substitute – stepping in to fill a spot if there was a missing player.
After a while, Kennedy decided to join a team, but when that fell apart, she ultimately made the decision to start her own.
“At first I contacted as many people as possible,” Kennedy explains, “and finally I got people interested in my team!”
Despite her skills, she was genuinely thrilled that other players wanted to be on her team. While this might come as a surprise to some, it won’t surprise most female gamers because there’s still a sense that you have to do everything twice as well to be accepted in a world dominated by males.
Echo VR actually has a relatively active base of female players and a development team supportive of inclusivity so it’s a bit more friendly environment to female gamers than most. In game, the way has also been paved by leaders like na_da, a community admin and mentor, and RoseyHope, who is currently managing Nfinite, one of the top five Echo Arena VR Master League teams. Many people have established a positive foundation and Mojolly will lay additional groundwork for those who will follow.
“As a young female captain,” Kennedy states, “I believe that respect is essential.”
That attitude goes both ways so she tries to show respect to other team captains, even if they make disrespectful comments that go beyond friendly trash talk.
“It’s important to be polite and ignore the comments no matter how hard it may be.”
In addition to Kennedy, her team consists of LeoTheGreat, Captainwill, and Sup-reme-boons. The team, Guinness, is performing relatively well. They’re going up against a lot of players with competitive experience as well as teams that have played together for a while. Her team will continue to practice and hopefully climb the ranks.
Meanwhile, in addition to time spent with her team, Kennedy helps as an Echo VR mentor, training newer players or answering questions about the game. She has found friends and a place in the immersive environment that has boosted her self-esteem and given her a productive outlet. Thanks to VR gaming, she has seen a lot of personal growth over the past couple of years.
“I love meeting new people in VR. I absolutely love talking to people online and hearing their stories or laughing with them,” she says. “Overall it really has helped my emotional well-being. I’m enjoying life and really enjoying the friends I’ve made in VR as well as in real life because of VR.”