Playboy model Jo Garcia loves her video games. She loves them so much that she launched her own video-game blog, The Gamer Next Door (NSFW), and she has an expanding presence at gaming trade shows and events.
In a recent email interview, I found out how gaming hooked her, how she wants to be a part of the industry, what her favorite titles are, and what the deal is with her favorite genre (Japanese role-playing games).
Digital Hippos: How did you get into gaming? Everyone always seems to have that one moment with a Nintendo Entertainment System or a PC title that really got them into the hobby.
Jo Garcia: I have been gaming since I was young. My mom wouldn't let my dad have a gaming system. So my dad said it was for us, and we got stuck watching him play. So I said, "If I am stuck watching, then I am going to make him let me play." My first real connection with a game was for a Coleco [a game-console manufacturer who released the ColecoVision in 1982--Ed.] and it was a game where you're being chased from room to room. The goal was just to find an exit and get out without being killed.
But what truly turned me was Parasite Eve, Final Fantasy, and StarCraft.
DH: What is it that you like about video games?
JG: Games are to gamers as books are to readers. They're a way to get away and live someone else's life…a way to challenge yourself when you need to feel like you've accomplished something and, above all, a way to test your skills and limits.
DH: Why did you start the video-game blog, The Gamer Next Door (GND)? How successful has it been?
JG: GND was my way of talking about something I live for. I needed to find a way to see how our favorite games are made and to pick the minds of developers…a way to see behind the games. The only way was to create a blog. It opened a world that not many get to see unless the media reports it. So I did it for curiosity and the love of all things gaming and tech. As for its success, it is doing well, and we grow every day.
DH: What is it like being not only a gamer girl featured on Playboy.com but also a gaming blogger/journalist? Sometimes, it's hard for this industry to look at women as equals. But on the other hand, many female video-game journalists use their sex appeal to gain more Twitter followers and Facebook fans/friends than their male counterparts. Do you have any thoughts on being a female in this industry, how women are portrayed or treated, or how their sex appeal helps or hinders them?
JG: I can't speak for all women, but I can speak for me. Being a woman in this world is a struggle but not really. Gamers can be the most critical judges of non-gamers, and they attack full force those who claim to game but really don't. So it's fair to say that when a Playboy model claimed to be a gamer, every male was out for my head and to discredit me.
When they came in and got their time to interview me, they were left scratching their heads because the stuff I was talking about could not be taught; it could only have been known by those who have experienced it. If I wasn't a gamer, I would not have survived this long in this field. The males would have discredited me seconds after I came out of the gamer closet. As for sexuality to promote one's self, it can only go but so far. A pretty face holding an Xbox controller upside down doesn't keep them interested!
DH: Once your modeling career is done with, might you try to pursue a job in the video-game industry beyond The Gamer Next Door?
JG: Absolutely! I've gotten to see so many things in these studios and met so many great people. I feel at home in a gaming studio. I would love to work with the team that travels with the games to the different shows and deals with the public and media…public relations or marketing but on the side that actually plays the demo during presentations.
DH: You talk about your love of JRPGs and side quests in other interviews. What do you think of the state of JRPGs? A lot of fans and journalists seem to think that Western RPGs like BioWare's Mass Effect and Bethesda's Elder Scrolls series are the genre's best and brightest.
JG: JRPGs will, but should never, be put in the same class as games like Mass Effect, Dragon Age, and Skyrim. JRPGs have such great focus on battle systems, and they shouldn't even be put in the same category [as Western RPGs]. I truly feel that Western RPGs should be classified as something else…maybe open-world, action-adventure games. JRPGs stay true to what I always remember an RPG game to be: strategic battles; questing; minigames; an entourage; and epic, unforgettable characters and storylines.
DH: What are you playing right now, and what are some of your favorite games of all time? Do you have a favorite gaming moment like meeting a favorite developer or walking into E3 for the first time?
JG: I am playing Uncharted 3, Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Ratchet and Clank: All 4 One, Just Dance 2, and the downloadable content for Batman: Arkham City and Gears of War 3 since I've already finished the story modes.
Some of my favorite games of all time…that's a pretty long list: StarCraft, the Xenosaga series, the Oddworld franchise, the Parasite Eve series, Final Fantasy 7, Final Fantasy 8, Final Fantasy 10, Final Fantasy 10-2, and the Kingdom Hearts series.
The Final Fantasy series will always have my heart. It is the series that I dedicate the most time to completing.
DH: Do you have a favorite gaming moment, like meeting a favorite developer or walking into E3 for the first time?
JG: My favorite memorable moment was when I first started interviewing. I got to interview Peter Molyneux; it was during E3 at a party for Fable 2. He sat with me and showed me so much. He was so excited, and so was I. He didn't want to stop showing us things. He seemed surprised about how much I knew and how curious I was. His PR lady forced him to rush through the demo/interview, but he wasn't too happy about that. He actually asked us to wait so that he could run through his last couple interviews, and then he came back and showed us the world. I will never forget that day.
DH: Are there a lot of Playboy Playmates to game with?
JG: Nope. There aren't very many that play games, and the ones that do mostly play casual games. There are some Cyber Girls who play PC [games], SOCOM online and World of Warcraft, but that's pretty much all that I know of..
DH: What would be the perfect game?
JG: The perfect game would be a cross between so many titles. Let's take Final Fantasy 10's and parts of Final Fantasy 13's battle systems, Arkham City's investigation techniques, Heavy Rain's interaction and soap opera elements, Borderlands' terrain, Real-time strategy elements like building troops and defending from StarCraft, the level-building capabilities from LittleBigPlanet, the weapons and auto-reload perks from Gears of War 3, and the DNA of all the epic characters in the new Sony PlayStation commercial to create a super lead character.