Q&A: Jessica Chobot

We already know you love video games, why else would you be here? But do you also have a passion for sketching ideas or writing reviews? For those looking to develop their skills and to be able to share their love of video games, working in video games is a great place to do that. Be it writing reviews for a site such as Console Monster or becoming a concept artist on a new game, whatever takes your fancy, video games are a great place to show off your talent.

We know that it’s hard to get started, we’ve had to do it ourselves. However, in this series of articles, we’re going to give you the help you need. With tips and their own opinions on their jobs from industry professionals, they should hopefully introduce you to the wonders of the video game industry.

In this edition, we’re going to kick things off with games journalism. I do it, the rest of the staff here do it and the staff at the many gaming sites across the world do it. We get to talk about games, give you the latest news and travel to events, seeing new games first hand. Now, here, we could have interviewed any of our staff, but we thought we’d be more adventurous. Here we have Jessica Chobot, known on her blog as “The Baroness” (GI Joe fans will understand that) You may also have seen her on IGN and, more recently, Inside Xbox (for those in the US)

So, let’s get started.

Console Monster: Thank you very much, Jessica, for agreeing to help us out.

First of all, let’s get to know more about you. Tell us a little about yourself

Jessica Chobot: I currently work full time as an on-camera host and as a staff writer for IGN. com Entertainment. My main focus and love is videogames, but I’ve also covered everything from red carpets to movie junkets to manga and anime reviews to a dating column.

During off-work hours, I try to get my own projects started: Currently, I’m working on Soul Code. An original screenplay I helped to write with Steven Lisberger from Tron, and which is in development with Reliant Studios. I have a collectible Jessica Chobot statue in the works with Symbiote Studios.

I’m a “regular guest” for Maxim Sirius Radio’s: The Stretch Show on Monday mornings and am a representative for J!NX. com‘s female clothing line.

When I’m not working, I’m usually playing games, reading old female movie star’s biographies (I’m currently working through one on Joan Crawford) or trying to get some sleep.

CM: How did you get into gaming?

JC: I got into games rather young. I think around 6 years old. My parents brought home an Atari 2600 which I LOVED. We had that for quite a long time (my parents were more into sending their kids outside to play rather then letting them stay in the house in front of the TV) and didn’t upgrade our systems until way after the NES had been released. We eventually got one and from there we (my brother and I) regularly made our way up the systems ladder. However, in the meantime, I would go to my friend’s house and play on their NES and PC.

You’re stuck on a desert island with a wide selection of consoles, a TV and electricity. You can only take your Top 5 games with you. What are these Top 5 games of all time?

JC: That’s tough because I love a lot of different games for a lot of different reasons. If I absolutely HAVE to choose though, I would pick (in no particular order): Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Silent Hill, Final Fantasy VIII, World of Warcraft and Super Mario Bros. 2.

CM: You seem to be into all things Japanese. What do you think of many JRPGs and other anime based games being pumped out?

JC: I like them just fine…if they’re good. Just because something is Japanese doesn’t mean I automatically like it. It certainly doesn’t hurt its chances with me but it’s never an instant win. One thing I am finding though is that as I get older, I have less and less patience for playing in-depth RPGs. I don’t know if it’s because of my schedule limitations or the fact that the genre (up to this point) hasn’t changed much over the years. Whatever the reason, RPGs just don’t hold my attention the way that they used to.

CM: What are you looking forward to in the next year or so?

JC: The one game I’m really looking forward to coming out is Mirror’s Edge. That looks absolutely AMAZING!

CM: E3 becoming smaller – Good or bad?

JC: Bad for the fanboy in me. Good for the videogames reporter in me.

CM: What game/games do you think have really pushed the boundaries of gaming?

JC: Portal was quite impressive: very unique in both concept and development. Guitar Hero and RockBand are distinctive in the sense that they really have managed to tap into the “inner rock star emotions” that everyone harbors. Again, I think Mirror’s Edge will be another game that will really attempt and potentially be successful at attacking the videogame market in a captivating manner. World of Warcraft has nailed the MMORPG genre on the head and now commands it (with no threat of being de-throned anytime soon). Bioshock took hold of a “style” in a way I haven’t seen since Shadow of the Colossus.

CM: Right. Now onto the next set of questions

What is it that you do?

JC: I kind of already answered this in the first question, but boiled down to the barest of bones: I report on videogames and the videogame culture/lifestyle.

CM: What was the starting point for your career?

JC: Many people would reference the infamous “PSP lick” picture as the starting point. I would refer to that as more of a crossroads where I could have either vanished into internet obscurity or ended up along the path that I’m traveling now. Therefore, I like to think of my starting point as being a combination of writing for Brian Crecente of Kotaku fame and hanging out with the IGN crowd in Tokyo during TGS of 2005. That face-to-face time with the IGN editorial staff and the developing videoteam proved to be invaluable to landing my current job.

CM: Where did you go from there?

JC: Working for Crecente in exchange for games helped me to develop a voice within my writing and get used to things such as deadlines, how to embed an article, how to deal with both good and bad reader responses, etc… Hanging out with IGN in Tokyo gave me the chance to show them my personality and knowledge of the videogame genre first hand and eventually led me to freelancing with them on IGN Insider, both as a contributing writer and as a video host. From there it was a short while before it became my full-time gig.

CM: Many people think this business is an easy one. Was it an easy ride getting to where you are now?

JC: Absolutely not! I’ve worked very hard and often for free (or at cost to myself) in order to get into the career I currently have. I’ve had to make a lot of sacrifices and tough choices, both professionally and personally. It’s totally worth it though. I love what I do.

CM: What are you currently doing?

JC: At this very moment, I’m pre-planning our E3 coverage and my duties there, as well as getting ready to head to our studio to do the voiceover and intros for our IGN tips and tricks show: IGN Strategize which is also available for free on Xbox Live’s Inside Xbox. Oh, I’m also eating my lunch.

CM: Where do you hope to go next?

JC: LOL! HOME! I’ve done a TON of travel this summer and need some time to myself in my own place. Lucky for me, E3 2008 is in LA so that should buy me some time from having to go back to the airport right away. Next trip after E3 will be San Diego, then possibly Paris (again), Germany and then Japan.

CM: I, myself, know that it isn’t an easy career but it does have it’s perks. What is your favourite part of the job?

JC: Seeing really innovative and creative stuff that gets me excited to run home and play the game ASAP. I have a short attention span, so if something is engaging enough to get me to sit still and concentrate for any length of time, then you KNOW it’s a winner!

CM: What things are essential to do well in games journalism?

JC: My biggest gripe (and what I often see certain game journalists do) is to avoid the fanboy mentality as much as possible. You HAVE to be as objective as you can when reporting on these games, whether you’re giving it a good or bad review. Also, make sure to justify your reasoning with solid examples and any facts you might have. Just running on pure emotion and opinion gives the reader nothing more than a glorified blog post. Lucky for me, I don’t have to review games, so I can add a little more personal opinion into the mix. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I don’t think I’d have the heart to tell a development team that I thought the game they came out with was a piece of crap. Even the junkiest games take work.

CM: Finally, do you have any advice for our readers on what to do to get their reviews or articles published?

JC: Hold yourself to a high standard. Like I said previously: avoid the fanboy mentality. Give examples and back up your opinions. Do your research. Most of all, keep plugging away. You never know who might be reading your stuff!

CM: Thanks, again, for taking part and good luck with E3 and any future projects.

Chris Taylor

Chris is a Northern lad with a passion for video games. With his opinions on video games and his need to force these onto other people, Chris began writing for Console Monster in 2006. Chris is a bona fide nerd who enjoys any decent game that can keep his interest. Being a keen music fan, in his spare time (what little he has) he likes to go to gigs and spends most time with some music on.

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