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The Game Press: The Sinkering

A few disclaimers:

First off I stole that title from the Qt3 forum.

I’m not a huge Mass Effect guy. I’ve played both games. I enjoyed them. In fact, I played ME2 twice which something I rarely do with RPGs. When ME3 drops I will eventually play it but I’m not going to be chomping at the proverbial bit to fire it up day one. I’ll read about some stuff here as I know most of the NHS team will be in Shep-Land soon enough. I’ll get there eventually. I usually do.

I also don’t care about voice casting. Martin Sheen. Cool. The dude from Platoon. Cool. That guy from the Wing Commander movie. How can you go wrong there?

I must admit that I had no clue who Jessica Chobot was until a few days ago. Savvy game press guy that I am, I’m sure most of you know more names of the people in the game media than I do.  That pic up there? That’s her.  Giant Bomb writes this about her in its database:

During this time, she had started modeling to support her gaming and anime habit, and coincidentally had a photoshoot on release day for the PSP. She picked up her PSP on the way, and during the shoot took her now infamous photo. She jokingly sent it to a friend who worked in video game product placement, who encouraged her to send it to Kotaku. She did, but expected nothing of it. Kotaku posted it however, and was deluged by emails asking about her. Encouraged by the photo’s success, she accepted an offer from the Kotaku’s editor to write game reviews for a partner site.

That year, she used her EB Games employment to get into E3, where she coincidentally stayed in the same hotel as Kotaku. She accompanied them to the IGN E3 party, where she met an IGN representative who encouraged her to talk to their entertainment editor as a potential booth model. Impressed with her gaming experience and fascination with Japanese culture, the editor instead offered her freelance work for their insider channel. So she left her old life, including her husband, to move to California to take her dream job.

I am kicking myself for not trying this. My career path might have been very different had I decided to get kinky with a Rock Band microphone.

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She’s done work for IGN as well as G4. In fact, just last month, G4 posted a video preview of the Kinect tools for Mass Effect 3 with Jessica as the reporter on the scene, interviewing team members and showing gamers how the Kinect features work. By no fault of her own, the preview made the Kinect version of M3 look about as absurd as it sounds. You can watch that here:

A couple of days ago we linked a Cast Announcement Trailer for ME3. But then a funny thing happend on the way to the cast party. Jessica Chobot was revealed as a member of the voice casting team.

Wait, what?

Jessica Chobot of the game press? She’s previewing ME3 a couple of weeks ago and now is …IN the game?

Yep. Here’s an article ON G4 talking about it.

“It’s a dream come true. I’m excited, stoked and honored. I’m seriously in 7th heaven,” Chobot said. “It’s cool just because it’s in a video game, but it’s also for one of my favorite companies of all time, Bioware, and in one of the most epic series of all time, Mass Effect 3.”

“Last I heard, I am one of the ‘romanceable’ characters in the game,” Chobot said. “I think you can bring me on the Normandy, I think you have the option of kicking me off too. I’m not sure if that’s before or after you romance me, so we might have a Jersey Shore moment. I think you can romance me with a man or a woman. We’ll see when the game comes out,” Chobot added.

When asked whether she planned to “romance” herself, Chobot said, “Oh, I’m gonna give it to me so hard.”

Lovely. 

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It’s good to know that Maxim has finally infiltrated the game press and BioWare continues to fuel the repressed sexual angst of both teenagers and lonely adults.  Never fear, now you’ll get a chance to nail a virtual Jessica Chobot! Maybe she’ll even do a Fem-Shep scene! Dream come true, indeed. All of this is so slimy, so juvenile, and so…profitable.

Truth is, I don’t care if Jessica Chobot is in Mass Effect 3 or not. I mean look, if I don’t care that Martin Sheen is in it I really don’t care that someone who licks PSPs makes a cameo.

G4 should care, though.

They should care a lot.

We have discussed the “close” relationship between the media and game publishers before here on NHS — not as much of late but we have driven down that road a few times. It frustrates me to see stuff like this because it goes against the very heart of what we should be trying to do as members of the media. If BioWare/EA want to pay this woman good coin for appearing in a role-playing game and shaking her money maker, godspeed. But how can anyone really expect her to be taken seriously as a game reporter? Is she just a pretty face? Is she just a gaming “personality”?

It seems somewhat difficult to look at G4’s coverage of Mass Effect 3 in any other light other than “compromised”. (Not sure if light can be compromised but you get what I mean.)

Jessica loves ME3. She totally loves BioWare. She’s told you as much. She’s also in the game—and on the EA payroll. Part of me feels sort of bad for her. She’s clearly stepped into something that perhaps she didn’t anticipate, as I’m hardly the only person to feel a bit perturbed about this. Then again, Jessica has used her sex appeal from the get go. She doesn’t get a job via Kotaku if she licks a PSP but looks like Ernest Borgnine.

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I’m not a terribly naive person. I know that this sort of thing only matters inside a small vacuum occupied by an even smaller number of people. Mass Effect 3 will come out, people will play it, the galaxy will be saved and all will be right with the world. No one is really going to care if she’s in the game or not or if she shilled for EA while working for G4.

But this is just one more example of how we’re supposed to all be under the same umbrella — the enthusiast press.

We Heart Games.

No matter what.

Bill Abner

Bill has been writing about games for the past 16 years for such outlets as Computer Games Magazine, GameSpy, The Escapist, GameShark, and Crispy Gamer. He will continue to do so until his wife tells him to get a real job.

38 thoughts to “The Game Press: The Sinkering”

  1. Let’s not overstate the seriousness of G4 as a journalistic institution, or any game outlet for that matter.  The network is, and always has been(post screensavers), one huge advertorial for video games interspersed with reruns of Cheaters and Cops.  From day one, their network mission, as G4, has been to promote, not examine, video games and nerd culture.

    It’s a grave we dug for ourselves.  It’s easy enough to say people at the big enthusiast outlets have their hands tied to a certain extent by the advertisers who support them, but even the more serious efforts to evaluate games(blogs etc.) have fallen flat on their faces.  

    The simple reason for this is that people play games to have fun, they don’t play them because they think they will walk away with a deeper appreciation for the world we live in.  Games are entertainment; music, books and movies can function as entertainment, but we accept that they also work on a more profound level.  People aren’t ready for games to work on that level yet.  People will gladly march to the theater to watch Bowling for Columine, but trust me when I say no one wants to play a game that expresses similar concerns.  It’s this absence of any seriousness of intent on behalf of 99.999% of gamers that ensures Jessica Chobot is a non-issue.  

    In fact, her presence as a sex object to enliven the promotion of a game is far more important to players than any “Journalistic” conflict of interest she may have created.  In video game journalism, I’d go so far as to say  the concept of conflict of interest doesn’t even really exist.  It’s like saying a fish needs a bike. After all, who can forget the deafening silence that followed in the wake of Gertsmanngate?  And why would there be a backlash? Most game journalists end up working for the very companies they were once “reporting” about.  Writing is just a steppingstone to their gods, the actual developers,  not an end in and of itself.  

    Here’s perhaps the most telling question of all: How many gaming outlets are going to give Mass Effect 3 a less glowing preview than Jessica Chobot’s own?  The answer is none.  All the fanboys (and yes, they’re mostly boys) who became gaming journalists have given their balls, and by extension their brains, over to the companies that make the entertainments they so love.  Until a significant portion of gamers start asking for something more, Jessica Chobot and her ilk will continue to lick PSPs, tell us what games to buy and we’ll do it, stiffies and all.

  2. Honestly, it’s this kind of biased crap that keeps me coming to this site, and now Quarter to Three for news and reviews.  I used to be a die-hard Gamespy reader, til they were bought by IGN and slowly started to care more about getting page-views and making sure they got their review copies.  (I miss reading Fargo’s articles.  Oddly enough, kinda hate the influence he’s had on WoW quest writing since going to Blizzard, but that’s a rant for another time.)

    Kotaku is a cesspool designed to get as many page hits as possible.  The editor of mmorpg.com has more or less admitted that they will continue to pad scores by using the top half of the 10 point scale. 1up has turned into a baby IGN.  I could go on and on about how much I hate the “Video Game Advertising Industry”, and make no mistake, that is what it has become.  Do I always like the scores you guys give?  No, but I at least understand them, and frankly my wife is getting annoyed by how many games I’ve been buying based on reviews and comments here and at Qt3.  

    Long story short, you guys rule, and this is an example of everything wrong with the gaming press.

  3. This really is a new low for the entire games industry, not just the press.

    Next up, I’ll be cast in the role of Gorgi Chemachekovovitch in Metro: Last Light. Read my preview of the game as well as my review, which will certainly not mention my participation in the making of the game.

  4. Whether G4 cares or not really isn’t the point.  It’s like trying to hold the Enquirer responsible for being a tabloid.  But Bioware should care, especially after the debate last year, courtesy of Roger Ebert, on whether games are art or not.  It’s a scandal when a movie studio gets caught paying off a reviewer, it should be a scandal when a game studio does it.  Selling a small part in a movie for  glowing review is frowned upon.  We, as gamers who take our games somewhat seriously, SHOULD hold the studios and the advertisers accountable for crap like this, even if it’s just through a huge uproar on a forum somewhere.

  5. My career path might have been very different had I decided to get kinky with a Rock Band microphone.

    My eyes! LOL

    Great stuff bill.

  6. The industry is ripe with female reporters, “pro” gamers and TV hosts who look halfway decent and proportedly like gaming and they gets tons of jobs.  I never heard of this chick before today which tells me two things.

    1. G4 isn’t very popular

    2. She isn’t whoring herself out like a ton of other femal personalities “in the biz”

    Bottom line is until every gamer stops falling over themselves when the see a decent looking female they will keep taking advantage of the situation. Hell remember that Ubisoft PR chick and the rukus she made for being hot a few years back.? Kotaku was at the root of that whole thing as well. They are a trash site and just further the problem.

    This chick won’t be at G4 for long. Someone will think she has a big enough fan base to put her in a movie or something, this is how it starts.

     

  7. A preview is pure promotion. I don’t see a conflict of interest between promoting a game and being in it. Expecially something like a kinect preview. There is no hard hitting journalism to be done there. If her name is on the review I would agree that it’s dodgy. As it stands the fuss seems pre-emptive.

  8. I’m of the opinion most of gaming’s ills can be easily laid at the feet of gamers themselves.

    Enthusiast press wouldn’t be falling over themselves to gain access to publishers and developers if gamers didn’t reward them enthusiastically for doing just that.

    Long thoughtful article about gaming? Some hits, some kudos.

    Exclusive screenshots from the next Modern Warfare or Battlefield game? The site is going to get so many hits so quickly the server is going to have a meltdown.

    So, what’s the message being sent to the enthusiast press by gamers? Simple. Get that exclusive access at all costs. Cosy up to publishers, PR and developers. Hell, let them market the game better by getting them to help with article itself. Forget ethics, professional standards and integrity. As long as the hits keep on coming, get that access.

    But none of that is addressing the most important issue here: someone needs to Photoshop Ernest Borgnine licking a PSP stat.

  9. Isn’t a preview on G4 more about marketing than hard hitting journalism?  I don’t see much of a problem here.  Now if she “reviews” the game for G4, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

  10. If you can’t see the conflict of interest here then I dunno what else I can say. 

    If G4 wants to be the E Entertainment of videogames, that’s perfectly fine. You see cast members of movies doing playful stuff like this all the time.

    However, you don’t see cast members of movies reviewing other movies from other studios. Does this prohibit her from reviewing other Bioware games? Other EA games? If not, why not? And why not simply give full disclosure when previewing the game?  Her saying on Twitter “hey I’m not reviewing it.” simply isn’t enough. Does this impact the review that we’ll see from G4? Doesn’t she have co-workers on staff? This is all about disclosure. There’s a reason why companies do it. You cannot have the hint that something shady is going on and when people discover it…

    There’s nothing at all wrong with websites or blogs or TV shows being cheerleaders. But G4 also reviews product. That changes things.

    Long term this means nothing and will have no effect at all on Me3 and how the public perceives it. But the slope is to the point that it’s so slippery it’s inevitable that we all fall in. 

  11. There’s also the issue that things like this further blur the line between journalism, reporting, and criticism and marketing. Casting Jessica Chobot is in Mass Effect 3 is nothing less than a marketing tie-in with G4. The fact that she’s a games…I dunno, what, personality…with a vested interested in the success of a media outlet that will be covering the game completely compounds the issue.

    You’ve got to remember that most people that play games don’t read independent sites like No High Scores or other sites that are more questioning and suspicious of industry practices. And there are PLENTY of people that would (quite erroneously) regard G4 as an authoritative source of games news and journalism. I was looking at some of the reaction to the SoulCalibur V scores at Kotaku (I’m so, so sorry eyes and brain) and they had Chick’s big fat 40 on there. All the teenyboppers were chiming in with things like “that’s a WORDPRESS site!” “since when do user reviews get to be on Metacritic” and so forth. Few were aware that Chick has been in the games writing business since before most of those idiots had their first tingling of sexual desire while playing Final Fantasy VII. But then you’ve got Bill and Todd who didn’t know what a Jessica Chobot is. They do now.

    I’m pretty sure that she wasn’t cast in the game because of her acting chops or voice over experience. She’s in there because there’s plenty of horny, desperate teenage boys that would break their fucking backs to get a glimpse of a “gamer girl’s” clevage. There’s also cross-marketing going on between G4 and EA at this point, and as Bill said this is a very, very slippery slope when games writing _of any kind_ is conflated with marketing and publicity stunts.

    This should be a bigger issue than it is. This is grade A impropriety, and it cheapens ALL of games writing from Chick on through the teenybopper sites like Destructoid and Kotaku. It demonstrates a lack of integrity for all involved parties, and it even makes Mass Effect 3 feel cheapened and diminished.

    You would NEVER see this happen in film. You’d never see somebody guesting on a record and then writing a “preview” about it or god forbid a review. It just doesn’t happen in other mediums because the journalism that covers them isn’t a sold out whore like games writing all too often is. Not that there isn’t impropriety elsewhere, but it’s not as upfront and insidious as GAMERS allow it to be.

  12.  

    p style=”background:white”>That’s what really pisses me off here.  Bioware likes to sell itself as a company that is concerned with telling good stories.  Their writing was what they used to rise to prominence as a developer, and they have been lauded for decades about the quality of their storytelling.  And now, their apparently selling a character slot in exchange for some good PR.  How can anyone believe that they are truly committed to that high-quality storytelling now?

    p style=”background:white”>I understand that gaming is a business, and that sales are what ultimately drive everything.  And, honestly, I’m still going to buy ME3 on Day 1.  I want to see what happens to Jack, Grunt, Garrus, and all the other great characters from ME2.  I want to see more Krogans being Krogan-y.  But, that doesn’t change the fact that this steaming pile of marketing bullshit is an affront to that (small) segment of the population that do really care about video games advancing as a medium.

  13. That’s what really pisses me off here.  Bioware likes to sell itself as a company that is concerned with telling good stories.  Their writing was what they used to rise to prominence as a developer, and they have been lauded for decades about the quality of their storytelling.  And now, their apparently selling a character slot in exchange for some good PR.  How can anyone believe that they are truly committed to that high-quality storytelling now?

    p style=”background:white”>I understand that gaming is a business, and that profit is what ultimately drive everything.  And, honestly, I’m still going to get ME3 on Day 1.  I want to see what happens to Jack, Grunt, Garrus, and all the other great characters from ME2.  I want to see more Krogans being Krogan-y.  But, that doesn’t change the fact that this steaming pile of marketing bullshit is an affront to that (small) segment of the population that do really care about video games advancing as a medium.

  14. Just a little surprised some haven’t heard of Jessica Chobot until now.

    She’s been doing IGN Strategize segments which used to appear practically front and center on the Xbox 360 dashboard under the “Inside Xbox” tab for the past few years. And she also used to host the IGN Daily video segment, which I know at least a few people use as their sole source of gaming news.

    She also hosted a show, Proving Ground, G4′s equivalent of Mythbusters. Ryan Dunn of Jackass fame who died after having shot the show, but while the show was still airing was her co-host.

  15. This assumes:

    1) You watch those Xbox 360 dashboard vids. The next time I do that will be the first.

    2) Watch the IGN Daily video segment, The next time I watch that…well, you know.

    3) Know what Proving Ground is.

    I have never seen any of those things. Not that they aren’t worth watching, they very well may be, I just choose to do other stuff with my free time.

    I’m sure a lot of people know who she is and for the reasons you mention, I’m just not one of ‘em. 

  16. I knew who she was just because I absorb pointless information like a sponge. I’ve seen her name, and I’ve seen the advertisments for her videos on XBL.

    But I also have never seen any of the listed programs, nor would I ever watch them unless I was subjected to them during a Ludovico treatement.

    I’m pretty sure that among a younger gaming demographic she’s much more well known and those shows are more widely watched. Granpa Abner and I don’t get those channels on the old folks home TV. Rabbit ears and all that.

  17. Tom Chick didn’t review Galactic Civilizations II after writing the manual and as far as I know, he has recused himself from reviewing Stardock games since. But that didn’t stop Martin Cirulis from raising a stink about Chick’s association with Stardock when Sword of the Stars, another 4x space strategy game, got a “meh” from Chick. Chick’s response is here.

    Cirulis is, of course, the Computer Gaming World columnist who once called out Bill Trotter, who was writing the Ascendancy strategy guide, for giving the game a glowing review in PC Gamer.

    Flash forward 15 years and Cirulis, as the CEO of Kerberos, knowingly releases
    “>a buggy game
    and suckers unsuspecting gamers into paying 40 bucks for it. What’s the deal with ex-columnists who pull stunts like these?

    (Paradox danced around the issue at the recent Paradox Con and seemed to blame the developer for the mess. I would love to see an interview with Cirulis.)

    Ethics, integrity, professional standards … these things get muddled in gaming and as long as gamers shrug it off, the situation is not going to improve.

  18. Yeah, this is the first I’ve heard of her. This and Penny Arcade are really the only places I go for for news (oh, and I follow Bioware’s own posted news, so I guess that counts). I used to read Kotaku, but it now it just serves to annoy me, so I am quite glad I have the far superior No High Scores. Plus, there is a chance for actually sane, thought out discussion here.

    I don’t know about the morality of her being in the game. I’m a historian, we have very set concrete rules about proper professional behavior (plagiarism, etc.) Is there a set of shared code of conduct explicitly adhered to through the game reporting industry? I honestly don’t know, but I can imagine it is difficult, particularly since most folks doing this sort of things are game fans, and who wouldn’t want to be in the new game in their favorite series? It does seem problematic ethics wise, but like you said, I will still buy ME3, and really enjoy it, I am sure. But I can certainly see your source of frustration – if someone in my field had a similar breach of ethics and was seemingly rewarded for it, I would be less than happy.

    As for the romance… she did seem to describe it sort of strangely. I’m a fan of Felicia Day (I know that some of the contributors are not, and that’s fine), and I really enjoyed the DLC she was on. I also got a kick out of her video playing the DLC, because she was cracking up so hard ‘flirting’ with her character – not as some sort of skeevy thing, but because it was strange, particularly since her player character was already a red headed elf. In a similar vein, Yvonne Strahovski (Miranda in ME2)’s co-worker on the TV show they were on joked that he couldn’t get her to give him the time of day in the game, and it certainly didn’t seem to be in a ‘hey this game has sex so buy it’. It’s hard to get the feeling through typed, so perhaps this person similarly joking about how it would be strange to flirt with yourself in game, so of course they would do it for the laughs. It didn’t sound like it, but perhaps that was how it was intended.

    Or maybe I’m just one of those loser lonely guys that Bioware appeals to, apparently. Though I have to say, having my character cheat on Liara while she is on board the ship with some random lady doesn’t seem like something my Shepard would do.

  19. I agree that there would be a conflict of interest concerning Chobot and Bioware.  I just don’t see it for G4.  As near as I can tell Jessica Chobot doesn’t even do reviews for G4.  But as mentioned previously there have been members of the gaming press that have written manuals and or strat guides for games, (Trotter, Chick, Emerich, Geryk, etc.)  While I wouldn’t trust a review of the game in question by that person, I have always trusted the entity they worked for to remain unbiassed.  

  20. As with all things marketing related, it’s the perception of possible bias that’s more important then the reality.  You’re might be right, she was probably hired as an actress, and the fact that she works for IGN/G4 may just be a coincidence.  She was most likely hired for her known sex appeal and popularity among the males that do most of the game buying.  She’s being used a willing marketing tool.  But that doesn’t eliminate the perception that maybe, just maybe, she got her other employers exclusive coverage, or that they might give a biased review.  

  21. But is that the sequence of events, though? I sincerely doubt that Bioware (if we want to lump them in all together like that) said, Hey, let’s hire this lady from licking the PSP and to make us look awesome when whatever company she works for reviews us? I doubt it.

    More likely, some guy in casting said, Hey, we need some to play this one off character that Shepard can seduce. Oh, there is this aparently moderately well known person that is a fan? Maybe she wants to voice a character! Or her agent got her a job, or something.

    My point is two fold: first off, most of the Bioware folk probably had nothing to say in this, and sticking all the talented writers, artists, designers, etc. and real actors involved with it doesn’t seem fair. Second, I find it highly unlikely it was in any way designed to get them a better score with the groups this lady is employed by. As everyone said, they already pad the score, do you think that Bioware really is worried about bumping it up a few tenths of a grade, the third game of their biggest franchise? That notion just seems ridicolous to me. It is, however, a problem trying to claim objectivity on a game you worked on, especially when there is a paycheck invovled. As far as I am concered the problem is entirely with whatever company employs the lady in question, not with Bioware. I see no malice in anything they’ve done.

    As an aside, personally, after seeing the picture of her in game, I think I’ll stick with the asari.

  22. I agree, it is problematic – but I think the perception problem is mostly lies at the feet the lady in question and at ign/g4, not with Bioware. Those companies should be the ones that keep her away from the Mass Effect coverage, if they want to appear unbiased (which I have no idea if they care about it, or claim to care, I’ve always seen them as jokes but I suppose they could try and claim legitimacy). There is certainly a conflict of interest, but I’m not sure if I see it as one that Bioware is at fault for.

    But I see your point, the marketing folks should have perhaps done a better job wondering how this would have been percieved.

  23. Bringing this thread back to life, but I’ve yet to find an explanation as to why she’s licking a PSP?  Why not a DS?  that’s at least a good handheld.  Hell I have a pic of some random chick with a SNES that is far superior…

  24. Maybe people will notice how creepy Mass Effect really is now. The way Bioware runs relationships and the way they’re treated strikes me as being every every bit as immature and fascile as the stuff people critisize in Bulletstorm, Duke Nuk’em or Shadows of the Damned. Except in games like that at least it’s obvious, the desire for sex more honest, in the ME series it’s cloaked. Being able to seduce a popular gaming sex symbol should be the final sign for those who need proof but ME has always, to some extent, been about banging super hot people, even aliens. There’s not a woman in the series I wouldn’t sleep with (if I was young and single of course) even the aliens all have idealized female forms.  I felt vaguly dirty after finishing my relationship segment with Amanda (I think?) in the last game. Why not put Jessica in the game at this point? Besides, does anyone take her seriously as anything other than a sex symbol for gamers? This makes it clear who all these people are in case anyone was wondering.

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