Jessica Nigri gets asked to leave PAX East for her Lollipop Chainsaw cosplay

Jessica Nigri was asked to leave the PAX East show floor on day 2. The reason for her dismissal from the show had to do with her choice of outfit as she portrayed Juliet Starling, the protagonist from the upcoming Lollipop Chainsaw game. Jessica Nigri has been portraying Juliet Starling for a while now after she won an online contest to see who could make the best Juliet. She’s attended events dressed up as Juliet, but at PAX East she really came out in something meant to turn heads. But there’s a problem, PAX often has kids running around, and no doubt their heads were among those turning and fixating on her attire.

Initially Jessica was asked to change her outfit, which she did, and she put back on the same outfit that Juliet Starling wears in Lollipop Chainsaw by default. This outfit is basically your standard sexy cheerleader suit, with the short skit and the low cut top. Even this change, however, was not enough for the PAX East crew, and they asked her if she could wear a more conservative top. In the end, Jessica left the show floor on day 2. Below is the image of the outfits worn by Jessica at the show.

Jessica Nigri Lollipop Chainsaw
Jessica Nigri as Juliet Starling from Lollipop Chainsaw at PAX East 2012

Personally, I don’t have a problem with PAX East asking Jessica to either change her outfit or leave. I know that many cosplayers are roaming the show floor in somewhat revealing outfits at times, but it’s different when you’re dealing with an exhibitor. PAX East is different from E3, where the show is locked down and no children under 18 are allowed into the show, even under adult supervision. And while Jessica’s outfit isn’t going to harm anybody or turn them into any sort of deviant, I have to respect Penny Arcade for working hard to create a family friendly atmosphere, even if it’s not the most popular stance to take.

The incestuous relationship between games journalists and PR

It’s something that gets talked about once in a while, but it’s always a subject that either quickly gets brushed under the rug, or it gets laughed off nervously. It’s a reality, however, and it’s the biggest obstacle in our industry when it comes to getting gamers to trust us as journalists. I’m talking about the incestuous relationship that exists between games journalists and game developers and PR.

To deny that there’s a whole lot of coziness going on between games journalists and PR is akin to sticking one’s head into the sand. As I talk about this, I’m going to name specific examples, but I’m going to refrain from naming names or companies outright. The point of this article isn’t to point out who is guilty, because the problem runs much deeper than what can be named from a few specific examples.

A few years back, a bit before the launch of the Wii and PS3, I attended a media day at a large publisher’s office. We were there to see games for the 360, Wii, and PS3, and for many in attendance it would be their first hands on with Wii and PS3 software. After the first couple of major titles, we broke for lunch. The publisher treated us to a nice catered meal, but I noticed that a few reporters left to “go get some real food” with a couple of members from the PR team. At the time it seemed harmless.

As we sat down to eat, a few guys at the table grumbled that the guys who left for lunch were getting a great free meal, but that they “typically paid it back with a glowing preview.”

I didn’t think much of it and chuckled at the comment, figuring it was more of a joke than anything. But sure enough, as embargoes lifted, the guys who went to lunch served up previews that were devoid of criticism that were also packed with bits of information that nobody else had access to at the event.

The experience caused me to open my eyes a bit to the practice. I’ve witnessed countless similar occurrences in other settings. I took a trip to cover a gaming event outside of the country once. I was treated amazingly well on the trip, but again, there was another group that had a deep familiarity with our hosts who ended up posting previews that were far more glowing and, once again, contained additional information than we were able to collect at the event.

I’ve seen the same sort of stuff take place at E3. I’ve seen it take place over Twitter. Anybody who is looking will see it, you don’t need any sort of insider access to see that certain reporters benefit from a friendly relationship with developers and PR.

These relationships aren’t some devious plan or the result some under the table dealings in most cases. The reason this happens is because we often become friends with PR or developers as a natural consequence of communicating and spending time with them. The problem arises when people find that they have an easy time talking about what they like about their friends’ work and that they struggle to criticize that same work. The issue is compounded when former journalists are now in production, and they have former co-workers handling critiques. And while I do like that some journalists often refuse to review games that they get a little too close to during development, they still do benefit greatly from increased exclusive access.

So what can be done? If the nature of the industry pushes us naturally into these positions of friendship, is there a way to avoid favoritism? If you’re on the PR side of things, wouldn’t you want those who tend to give you the best press to be the ones you trust with increased access to your products? If you’re the reporter, wouldn’t you overlook a few minor gripes in exchange for a better working relationship with your PR contact?

Well, it would take a denial of basic human nature. I don’t know that journalists are ready to fairly criticize their friends, and I don’t know that PR is ready to bestow equal access to all individuals and news outlets, regardless of how critical or kind they may be. It’s what needs to happen for us to improve as journalists, and for the games themselves to improve. Proper criticism is key to improving products.

If we truly love this industry, we’ll start doing the hard thing and start getting honest, even with our friends.

January in Review

January gave us a chance to play through all the goodies we picked up during the holiday rush or to catch up on backlog titles that have been waiting a long time to get some play in our rotation. Here are the games I completed in January, most of which were for the first time, others just for nostalgic reasons.

Bayonetta (Xbox 360) – This was a game I reviewed for Kombo and one I was beyond excited to get my hands on after getting a few short minutes with it back at E3 last year. The game turned out to be what I was hoping to be and I had an absolute blast with it from start to finish. With fluid controls, an excellent combat/combo system, and a wacky presentation, Bayonetta will more than likely be in my top games of 2010.

Assassin’s Creed (Xbox 360) – Yeah, it took me until early 2010 to finally finish Assassin’s Creed. Like many I became a bit fatigued by the repetitive nature of the missions, so when other releases started coming out that interested me I set the game aside. With the release of Assassin’s Creed 2, I needed to go back and wrap this one up for storyline continuity sake. In the end I enjoyed the game, but I’ll always be quick to point out that it has its fair share of issues.

Duck Tales (NES) – One of my favorite games ever made (look for an upcoming Best Game Ever feature on this), I will come back to this one for a few speed runs or high score challenges. Never do I put this game into my NES and feel like I’m only enjoying it for the nostalgia effect. This game is a timeless winner from Capcom and Disney.

Uncharted 2: Among Thieves (PS3) – Simply a fantastic game that deserved the many awards it picked up in all the game of the year voting for 2009. The action, story, presentation, and overall experience all combine to make Uncharted 2 a must play for all PS3 owners. The behind the scenes content on the disc is pretty fun to watch as well (you can also find the videos on YouTube).

Castlevania (NES) – Another game I commonly go back to for a quick play, Castlevania is a challenging title that tests my ability to stay sharp when it comes to retro gaming. Much like Ninja Gaiden on the ┬áNES, these old action games really keep the enemies coming nonstop and have very basic but solid level designs. This is definitely not the last time I’ll be playing through Castlevania.

King’s Quest VI (PC) – Ah, the Sierra On-Line classic. I was a big fan of the King’s Quest, Space Quest, Quest for Glory, and Police Quest games and I tend to play through one or two of them every couple of months. They’re great to have on your laptop to play on the go or to casually experience while watching TV. King’s Quest VI was probably my favorite in the KQ series, though they’re all pretty fantastic if you don’t recognize King’s Quest VIII (it NEVER happened).

So here’s what I’m working on in February so far, and I’m hoping to get to Dragon Age: Origins, BioShock 2, and Mass Effect (yeah, the first one) by the end of the month.

Assassin’s Creed 2 (Xbox 360) – Wow, what an improvement over the first iteration in the series. I put this disc in almost immediately after finishing the first game and right away I could tell they had upgraded the graphical engine. The first game looked nice, this one looks fantastic. The free running feels more accurate and the mission variety is way better. More importantly, the game really does a great job at urging you to explore the landscape, but there are also plenty of helps to make it an easy going experience rather than a frustrating one.

Retro Game Challenge (DS) – A funky little game that came out a few months ago, this is one I’m glad I didn’t pass on. It’s hard to explain this one in a few words, but basically you’re playing retro style games to meet specific challenges laid out for you such as a high score to beat or to achieve a number of kills in a certain manner or time period. The game has tons of nods to classic games, magazines, and industry professionals. It’s just a great package overall.

Star Control II (PC) – I come back to this game a lot. A lot.

My gaming resolutions for 2010

I’ll be the first to admit that these kinds of posts are stupid, but I’m actually serious about setting some goals for myself this year and trying to make gaming a more enjoyable hobby in 2010. Funny enough, several of my resolutions read very similar to those being made by non-gamers.

1. Save more money

In recent years gaming has become more expensive. The average price of a game is $10 higher on consoles and $5 higher on handheld games. And while online retailers like have great sales, it’s still hard to go as far with your gaming dollar as you could during the last round of consoles. To make up for this, I’m going to only grab the absolute must have games on release day and wait for sales, price drops, or (sorry publishers) for used copies of the game to become available. I’m also going to rely on rental stores to help me experience the games that I’m more likely to play through once.

As much as I love gaming, I really think it’s one area in my life where saving a few bucks would be a good idea.

2. Finish what I start

I have a real problem finishing a lot of the games I start. I know I’m definitely not alone in this, but I really could be better about focusing on finishing the games I get into before moving onto newer releases. Doing this will stretch the amount of gaming I get out of each dollar spent, and it will also allow games I’ve yet to get to see a price reduction while I work on my backlog.

This also refers to getting my podcasts recorded, edited, and released more regularly.

3. Lose some weight

I’ve always considered myself a bit of a collector, but lately I’ve been better about selling off some of the excess and dead weight in my collection. I can definitely be better at this, however. Basically I’ll need to be a bit more honest with myself about what games are going to be keepers and what games should be sent along. Not only will I get some extra money to put toward other games, but I can pass along a good deal to another gamer looking to pick up a newer game at a cheaper price.

4. Finish a JRPG and a Western RPG

It’s been years since I’ve finished a console JRPG. If I had to guess, the last one I finished was probably Final Fantasy X. I’ve always like the genre if it’s executed well, but I’ve been horrible sticking with any of them long enough to finish one. Western RPGs are something that I’m still warming up to, but it’s been just as long since I finished one. Knights of the Old Republic was the last Western RPG I completed start to finish, but in 2010 I’ve got a mind to finish Fallout 3 (finally) and Dragon Age: Origins at the very least.

5. Resist the Madden hype

Every single year I get talked into picking up Madden near release date and I every single year I realize that the series hit its peak on the PS2/Xbox last generation. No more buying the game for me until they can prove that the series is indeed worth the yearly price tag once again. Same goes for NCAA football.

6. Improve my reviews

I’ve always been satisfied with the quality of written reviews I do over at Kombo, but I really want to figure out how to improve them even more. Also, I’d like to do more reviews here on the blog as well, and I’m guessing that this would be the perfect place to try out some different review styles.

7. Post more on the blog

I have some new projects coming, but I also want to keep this blog going and ┬áhave an active posting schedule. I’m sure that during busy times I’ll struggle to keep up, but I can’t control that. It’s the laziness that I can shrug off a bit better in 2010, I feel.

8. Enjoy the hobby more

I’m not 100% sure how I can enjoy gaming more, but I’m guessing that if I stick to the resolutions I’ve made that I’ll find that 2010 is a better year than 2009 was from a pure enjoyment standpoint.

And to everybody else out there with any resolutions, good luck with them and have a fun 2010.

And millions of fansites suddenly go silent…

RIP, Geocities. Today is the day that Yahoo is pulling the plug on Geocities and all of its background midi and tiled background infested pages. Anybody that’s grown up with the Internet knows that Geocities is home to countless fansites dedicated to video games, video game characters, fanfics, crappy screen art collections, and all sorts of websites that refused to grow up with technology. Geocities once had its place, but in recent years it has been nothing more than a dumping ground for spam and cheap websites. For posterity, I’ve screencapped the first Geocities site that came up in a Google search for “Geocities Zelda” Take a look (click to enlarge).

Classic Geocities Design