Pamela Horton, who is Miss October in Playboy magazine, stands out among the magazine’s models because she’s one of the first to confess to being a hardcore gamer. She’s a die-hard World of Warcraft fan, plays a lot of League of Legends, and recently put 38 hours into beating Final Fantasy XIII-2. She got a “realm first herbalist” ranking and is playing the Mists of Pandaria expansion for Wow. While she could get plenty of gigs being a model for game characters, or as a “booth babe” at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) trade show, her real ambition is to design game characters.
The Wichita, Kansas resident may get noticed wherever she goes. But even with all the advantages that come with being Miss October, she realizes she might very well run into some barriers and that stereotypes could both help her and hurt her.
GamesBeat: Has there been a Playmate before who’s as big a gamer as you?
Horton: [Miss June 2012] Amelia Talon is actually another gamer. She just chose not pursue that kind of route. … I don’t know if she’s a bigger gamer, though.
GamesBeat: It seems like it’s still unusual for people to believe that pretty girls can be gamers …
Horton: Yeah. There’s still a lot of stereotyping going around. It’s hard to beat that.
GamesBeat: In some ways you’re breaking a stereotype. You must feel good about that.
Horton: I’m just trying to set the standard a little bit higher for women trying to be taken seriously as gamers. It’s a push and shove kind of thing. Sometimes I have a hard time, sometimes it’s easier. It’s touch and go.
GamesBeat: When you’re known as every gamer guy’s dream, then you’re almost sort of fulfilling a stereotype at the same time that you’re breaking one.
Horton: Um … kinda? I get a lot of grief for that quote. People tell me that it’s very arrogant. But that quote was taken to imply that I was single. … The actual quote is, “I enjoy being my gamer guy’s dream.” But you know, it has to be implied that I’m single [laughs]. And in the process, they made me seem really arrogant. I have a little something to live down there.
GamesBeat: You’ve had to deal with this a long time, way before you were famous. How would you say that you’ve seen that develop or change over time? The whole gamer stereotype thing.
Horton: Ever since online play has come into its own. Very recently, with a lot more competitions and tournaments and things like that, online play has become a big thing, and with online play there’s a lot of anonymity and ways to quote conversation. People hide behind that anonymity. In some ways it’s gotten better, but in some ways it’s gotten worse.
GamesBeat: Yeah. I don’t know if you play on Xbox Live a lot, but the chatter during matches and the lobby time is just so severe when it comes to anything to do with sex or race or …
Horton: Yeah. It’s pretty bad in first-person shooters.
GamesBeat: So what do you like to play right now?
Horton: Right now specifically, I do play World of Warcraft, Mists of Pandaria. League of Legends. I recently got into Theatrythm Final Fantasy. I just picked up Pokemon White 2. I’m really big into the RPGs.
GamesBeat: Tell me more about that. How much are you playing, and what are you achieving in some of those games?
Horton: I don’t have a lot of time to just constantly play. I only get a few moments here and there lately. Achievements aren’t that big for me anymore lately. But I did beat Final Fantasy XIII-2 recently. That’s the only real game that I have under my belt through the last two months or so. I haven’t had time to commit to a game and beat it. I’d say I put in … 38 hours?
GamesBeat: Wow. That’s pretty crazy. How about World of Warcraft? I guess you’d be level 90 or so?
Horton: Actually, in the new expansion, I have almost all my characters at level 85. Sometimes I’ll be like, “Okay, I’ll play the paladin today.” Other times I’ll say, “Oh, I’ll play the priest.” So most of my characters are still under 90.
GamesBeat: You’ve got this great career in modeling. Are you still interested in something on the game side, in game development?
Horton: Actually, what I’m trying to do is on the game side. I’m trying to pursue a career in gaming, and modeling just happens to be my current job. It’s my gateway into gaming.
GamesBeat: Tell me what that’s like. It probably isn’t easy to break into the games industry as a woman as well, right?
Horton: People are very skeptical. Like I said before, there’s a lot of stereotyping. They have a really hard time grasping how serious of a gamer I am. I get questioned a lot. I get pestered a lot. People test me a little bit more than they would a guy, or even a girl who isn’t gaining notoriety from being a model. I’m getting the brunt of the skepticism. So…
GamesBeat: Are you up for the challenge? Do you enjoy it?
Horton: Yeah! I’m still pushing through. I feel like I’m proving myself.
GamesBeat: Have you been to an E3? Do you go to some industry conventions?
Horton: Up until recently, I was never really in a financial situation where I could go to conventions, although I wanted to forever. I wanted to be the one who goes to E3 and says, “Oh my gosh, I got to play this demo!” and all my friends are jealous and excited. I wanted to live that aspect of my social circle, because all my friends get to do it.
GamesBeat: It sounds like you want to be a game developer, though.
Horton: Well, not a game developer exactly. I want to be a character designer. I’ve always been an artistic person, and to use my art in a creative way through gaming is a huge dream. If I can have it come true… I mean, who am I to not try to pursue that?
GamesBeat: You have your own art storefront on Etsy, I noticed.
Horton: Yeah. Right now it’s only got my two t-shirts, but once things die down and I’m not as busy, I can get back to bringing out my art commissions, my little hand trinkets, keychains, jewelry, stuff like that.
GamesBeat: What kind of characters would you design?
Horton: I like more fantastical characters. I can do realistic, I can do science fiction, things of that nature, but… Like, for instance, in League of Legends, being able to design a woman who uses, say, purple fire… Just being able to not have so many limits on what you’re able to do. I mean, if you want a girl who uses a pillow as her main weapon, that’s not especially frowned on there.
GamesBeat: Female characters in games … they tend to be very stereotyped, again.
Horton: Yeah. Very proportionate. Giant breasts. Long, nice legs. Tiny waists. Yeah. It’s a little unfair. As a girl, I can appreciate the femininity portrayed in a lot of the characters, though, and I love it. You have to take it a little bit at a time. As frustrating as it is, I still enjoy it.
GamesBeat: Have you had any experience so far, any chances to break in?
Horton: I’m still trying really hard. I’m not the best or anything, but I’m trying really hard to get in. You never know what kind of thing can get your foot in the door. I don’t need to be a big name, you know? I’m okay working an average, day-to-day job being a normal person.
GamesBeat: Have you ever done cosplay?
Horton: Yeah. I actually went as Ayla from Chrono Trigger to an anime convention a couple of years ago. That’s the only one I’ve done, though.
GamesBeat: If you had a chance to be a character in a game, what do you think that would be?
Horton: I love being empathetic or really feeling for characters in RPGs. I’m a big RPG fan. Finding that female character that I can relate to is always really nice.
GamesBeat: There’s been some controversy lately about the “girlfriend mode” that’s been designed into some games, the fact that they refer to the easier mode as a “girlfriend mode.” Is that one more thing that we have to get past?
Horton: Personally I play on normal and hard. I’ve never really heard about that and had it be an issue for me. So I guess that says plenty about how it’s affected me.
GamesBeat: Online, would you say that you usually pick a female character when you play? Does that tend to draw your attention?
Horton: Not really. Guys pick female characters all the time. I’m not the only one. I’d say it was just about the same.
GamesBeat: When you’re interacting like that with people online, how much fun is that compared to, say, real life? Are you making more of your friends online than you do offline?
Horton: My most recent friends have been online, actually. I’ve gotten to know people in California, in Utah, in Florida. I’ve been getting to know people really well through online gaming. So I’d say yeah, that’s a real thing for me.
GamesBeat: When you’re beating guys online and they find out you’re a woman, do you get some satisfaction out of that?
Horton: Yeah, I get a lot of satisfaction out of kind of representing the gender, but there’s still a little bit of … not resentment, but there’s just that stereotyping. Not all women are one way or another. Guys probably don’t like being stereotyped either, so it’s the same situation.
GamesBeat: Do you have any job offers yet from the games business?
Horton: Even if I did, I couldn’t clarify that one. [laughs]