15 Minutes of Fame: The Frag Dolls' Valkyrie

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"I can't handle it when people say, "It's only a game,'" says Amy "Valkyrie" Brady, a WoW-playing, card-carrying member of Ubisoft's well known Frag Dolls all-female gaming team. This all-business gamer has helped create and lead the a multi-platform clan of more than 300 gun-toting women who compete across five FPS (First Person Shooter) games in 10 separate divisions. In December 2006, Valkyrie was part of the four-member Frag Doll team that took first place in the Rainbow Six Vegas tournament at CPL in Dallas. Rainbow Six 3, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, Halo 2, Final Fantasy XI ... On top of considerable hours spent on weekly practice for the Frag Dolls, she puts in some 50 to 60 more in personal game play -- and among those games is World of Warcraft.

Main character Athêna
Guild Pandoras Mighty Soldiers
Server Darrowmere
WoWstyle 25-man raiding

15 Minutes of Fame: WoW raiding is quite a different atmosphere than the FPS environment you're so used to. How does your background in FPS affect your outlook on WoW's PvP experience?

Valkyrie: You would think that I would love PvP, as I thrive on the competition on FPS games, but in all honesty this game has always been about PvE for me, which I still find highly competitive. The little time I do PvP, I have noticed the crucial way you rely on your teammates to win. Yes, you have to rely on teammates in an FPS, but not anywhere near as much as you do in WoW PvP. It takes absolute synchronization with others to win and survive at all times, and there aren't really comeback opportunities if one of your teammates goes down.

How long have you been a WoW player?

I have played WoW off and on (off when I am preparing for the FPS circuit) for almost five years. I started in the original content and I still think back on the 40-man raids: "How the heck did we ever manage to coordinate that many people, when 25 is hard enough?" Of course, the majority of the raid content requires much more movement and coordination nowadays, but only end-game raiders can truly appreciate the amount of skill and dedication it takes to be a good raider. I can't handle it when people say "it's only a game"; it's much more than that for people that put their focus and dedication into it.

What's your focus in WoW right now?

I am currently on hiatus from the game, as I am training on Call of Duty Modern Warfare 2. I am not really able to play WoW and another game at the same time, as WoW has tendency to take over my life. I always have to quit cold turkey if I am trying to gear up for competition on another game. Before I left, my focus was always end-game raiding and achievements. I am the type of player that likes to do everything I can in a game and I really do try to do it all.

Planning to be here for Cataclysm?

The release of Cataclysm is most certainly when I plan on being back in the game. Ever since I saw and heard about all the new and exciting things that happened at BlizzCon, I have been antsy to see how it will all work. I love the new races, new places to explore, and best of all, new gear! I can't wait to see the old content re-done and explore the areas I know by heart in an entirely new way.

Everyone covets your position as a professional gamer -- but what do you actually do? Is being a Frag Doll a full-time position?

People always confuse our jobs as professional gamers with "sponsored gamers." I am not sponsored; I am employed. I listed some of my job duties already, but really there is so much more to it. We are akin to a brand in Ubisoft, and we were created to market other brands in the company. We go much further than slapping a logo on our shirt and calling it a day.

I work about 20-30 hours a week online, and if we are traveling, a lot more. When we travel, we are the ones at the industry and consumer events promoting Ubisoft games, teaching people how to play them and performing the media interviews for them. This does not include gaming time, which we are supported on if we are going to be competing. So yes, it is a full time job and one I love!

Your gaming time must be absolutely packed. How much "work" gaming would you say that you do in a typical day (or week)?

Well, actually there are quite a few things I do for my job other than play. We do work in the promotions group of Ubisoft's marketing department, so we do some viral marketing, social networking and community management in forums and such for Ubisoft's brands. Aside from that, I also edit and manage the site content and make travel arrangements for our group.

As far as my gaming time goes, I have an awesome schedule (if you are a gamer, that is). After a couple of hours of work in the morning managing the things I listed, I am on whatever game I am focused on literally the rest of the day, until I break off to read a bit or watch a TV show . All in all, I game about 10-12 hours a day. Any game I am playing, I take quite seriously.

Is there such a thing as a typical workday or week?

While it is very typical for me, it most certainly wouldn't be typical for most other people. Our job is unique, and I don't think many can live up to the gaming time, dedication, as well as perform the other functions as a spokesperson.

Please tell us you've observed at least some degree of evolution in the perception and acceptance of female gamers over your years as a gamer. Please?!

I would like to say yes, but truly the only acceptance I see (at least in hardcore and competitive gaming) is the fact that some of guys like to play with girls and be around them while the rest auto-attack with the non-creative "You must be a fat," "Get back the kitchen," etc.

In all honestly, unless a guy gets beat by a girl, even the supportive male gamers assume in the back of their head that women are subpar in competitive gaming. What they fail to think about is the numbers game going on competitive gaming. When only a few cream of the crop can rise out of hundreds of thousands of men, how many females really have a chance out of a few hundred? I am not talking about playing the games, I am talking about those that dedicate their full effort at being the best. We are still a vast minority in those terms.

However, what I do see is that more females are playing, and the market continues to grow. When more of those females start focusing on being truly competitive, we will see more top-ranked females, and this will help the stereotypes that exist about us. So I guess you can say the evolution is occurring, but we're still in guerilla stage.
What about age? Aren't you getting a little long in the tooth for a hardcore gamer?

Why does everyone keep telling me that I am too old to play games? I get paid for it, I have many career options when I decide to leave, and I assure you my gums aren't receding yet. I love being able to work from home, and the majority of my job is a dream come true. I can't imagine going back to wearing a suit in an office again -- been there, done that. Aside from that, I have always had a purpose and that is to show that women have game. And trust me, I have it. =P

What's coming up for you in gaming over the months ahead?

The biggest event we have coming up is PAX East (Penny Arcade Expo) at the end of March, where I will be working for some upcoming Ubisoft titles with my teammates and possibly enter into some tournaments. Other than that, we are waiting for the announcements from the leagues to hear what games they will be hosting for the 2010 season, to see if we will be competing. The spring will launch the leagues and convention season ... and you should see me at all of them. ^^

"I never thought of playing WoW like that!" -- neither did we, until we talked with these players. From an Oscar-winning 3-D effects director to a rising pop singer ... from a quadriplegic player to a bunch of guys who get together for dinner and group raiding in person every week ... Catch our 2009 year-end retrospective for a year's worth of WoW personalities.
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