Massively interviews Genese Davis, author of MMO novel The Holder's Dominion

Massively Exclusive Interview with author Genese Davis
We all love video games, right? I mean, you wouldn't be here if you didn't, would you? Of course not. But you know what else is pretty great? Books! But who said you needed to choose between the two? Thanks to up-and-coming writers like Genese Davis, you can have the best of both worlds.

Genese is the author of The Holder's Dominion, a novel that follows protagonist Kaylie Ames as she and her friends delve into the mystery of the fictional MMO Edannair, where the enigmatic Holder, leader of an in-game organization known as Sarkmarr, has begun sending his disciples on dangerous real-world missions. It's up to Kaylie and company to figure out who this mysterious Holder really is and foil his (or her) nefarious schemes. And as it so happens, we had the opportunity to take an advance look at The Holder's Dominion and pick Genese's brain on the MMO industry, girls in gaming, and much more. To find out what she had to say (and believe us, you want to), head on past the cut and check out the full interview.

Massively: Hi there, Genese! Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions for us today. To start off, why don't you tell everyone a bit about The Holder's Dominion and its (unfortunately) fictional virtual world, Edannair?

Genese Davis: Like Kaylie (the protagonist in The Holder's Dominion), I came to gaming pretty late in life. In fact, when I was a young girl, all my free time was spent at a horse barn where I learned the art of dressage and show jumping. I never expected to become an avid video game enthusiast. I ventured into the world of MMO gaming as an adult and discovered a passion for in-game community, especially raiding teams. Working with industry professionals, I gained a deep understanding of video games and their artists, lore, culture, and development, and that's how the story for The Holder's Dominion was born. I wanted to write for gamers and non-gamers alike about the unpredictable and influential ways that video games change us and to share with others the amazing experience of collaborative video games and the communities that grow up in and around them. This fast-paced story aims to bridge the gap between families and friends of gamers who wonder about the allure behind their loved ones' fascination with video games.

The book's overarching concept and details were composed to relate to the experience of a large and well-defined gaming community. I wanted to write an epic journey that would bring validation to gamers while intriguing them with speculative technology and a new world to adventure in. The book is also a message of hope and support for anyone going through grief or has been separated from family. It's a story about a girl who discovers the world of gaming and how to get through the tough times between friends and loved ones; it reveals the secret side of online games and offers an avenue for different generations to understand one another.

What's also unique about The Holder's Dominion is that the story takes place on a college campus and therefore falls into the genre called "new adult." The foundation of this story revolves around that "shove" we all go through into adulthood. When we leave the nest, we're forced to grow up quickly. Beyond our high school days are powerful new adult stories that begin and blossom in our late teens and early 20s.

What inspired you to base The Holder's Dominion around a fantasy MMO rather than, say, writing a straight fantasy novel set in Edannair?

A fantasy novel set in Edannair would be a blast. What inspired me to create the online world of Edannair goes back to the goals for this story-connecting people together. Even if a reader has never touched an MMO, he or she can read The Holder's Dominion and find out why gamers game. I wanted to write a story that could capture how impactful MMOs can be and create a basis for family and friends of gamers to understand them and their world. I imagine we all have relatives who wonder, "Are video games a waste of time?" "Why does my spouse play video games into the night?" A parent might ask, "Why does my child want to play a video game instead of go outside and play?" The Holder's Dominion reveals online gaming in an easy-to-follow setting that marries pre-video-game generations to today's video game enthusiasts. The result, I hope, is a book that is approachable for communities unfamiliar with fantasy novels and fantasy worlds in video games.

The novel's protagonist Kaylie, like you yourself, is a female gamer. Unfortunately, there's still a great divide among the gaming subculture, and female gamers are often marginalized by developers and fellow gamers alike. What are your thoughts regarding gaming culture's perception of female players? What, in your opinion, is the greatest challenge the gaming community needs to face to enable it to reduce its stigma against female gamers?

There exists a running joke in the world of video games that goes like this: A woman logs in to a video game and speaks one word into the microphone, and a male player will interject, "Hey, that cannot be a girl. Girls don't play video games." Whether you're an avid gamer or about to log in for the first time, chances are high that you'll hear that running joke over and over. But the truth of the matter is that women have a significant presence in the world of video games, and not only as video game players. Women also hold significant influence in the creation of video games. From conception and design, to production and quality assurance, women are a part of every aspect of the video game industry.

I think that women can make a huge difference to shift the misconception about a male-dominated gaming world simply by being more vocal. There is a misconception getting perpetuated that video games appeal only to men and are played primarily by men. But statistics taken from the ESA show that 47% of video game players are women. There is a video game out there for everyone whether the game incorporates social interaction, sports, puzzles, travel, or artistry. Men and women alike can find worthy entertainment in games. (In fact, to redefine the word "gamer," I created The Gamer In You initiative.)

Women definitely impact the world of video games in a very real way. As players, designers, artists, and producers, we are fundamental pieces for the world of video games. Legacy storylines in video games are often created around inspiring female icons. Women influence various video game plots and themes, and characters and can access a whole spectrum of professional and personal skill sets through video games. The next time you hear that running joke about women not being a part of this industry or not being avid gamers, remember we're there! And we're excited to be a part of the ever-changing world of video games.

On a considerably lighter note, what are some of your favorite games? Did any of them in particular inspire The Holder's Dominion or the world of Edannair?

Final Fantasy XI is my favorite video game because of how much it changed my life and my perspective on video games. It was the first online video game I ever played, and it showed me how interactive and social gaming can be. In Final Fantasy XI there is a translator function where the player can tab through phrases in different languages and select the appropriate questions/responses. So+ even though you're playing from one country, you can still meet and forge friendships with players from all over the world. This game absolutely inspired ideas for how Edannair could come alive.

As we are an MMO-focused site, I have to ask which MMOs you're currently playing! What are your virtual stomping grounds these days (assuming you can find the time to play in all the insanity that must accompany publishing a book)?

It has been a bit of a whirlwind around here with The Holder's Dominion releasing on March 1st! In fact, I was so happy to get to play some video games during an interview last week. Final Fantasy XI, World of Warcraft, Assassin's Creed, and Call of Duty are my current favorite games that get as much of my free-time I can spare, with a ton more games racking up on my "must-play" list.

Your novel's virtual world of Edannair bears virtually no resemblance to the typical elves-and-orcs high fantasy that seems especially prevalent in many recent MMOs, instead opting for more unusual races like the catlike Zanas and the tiny, mousy Elowfons. Was this particularly inspired by a personal desire to see a similar shift away from generic fantasy settings in real-world MMOs, or was it a purely stylistic choice?

These decisions stemmed from a little bit of both. I love the current online games out there, but I did want to show something a little different and what I hope we can look forward to in next-gen MMOs. It was really exciting creating an online game that incorporated new races, classes, and unique PvP and PvE elements. Even though some of the technology I added to Edannair hasn't been fully developed, I think we're on the cusp of inventing this kind of AI and these interactive elements in next-gen MMORPGs.

There's been a somewhat recent shift in focus in the MMO industry with games like Pathfinder Online, Embers of Caerus, and ArcheAge making a move toward creating true virtual worlds by incorporating more sandbox design elements. Considering Edannair itself is presented as more of a living, breathing virtual world than a casual online game, how do you feel about this change in direction?

Love it! I think the industry will continue to create more immersive worlds that we can change and influence with our own unique styles. We all love to put our own spin on things, so continuing in that direction will help fulfill that feeling. The games you mentioned are invoking players as a driving force in the future of MMOs. It's an exciting and fascinating time to be a part of this industry.

Thank you again for taking time to talk to us, Genese, and best of luck to you and The Holder's Dominion!

You can contact Genese on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Her novel, The Holder's Dominion, released on March 1st.
This article was originally published on Massively.