Jessica Chobot interview about Mass Effect 3
Jessica Chobot (or, judging by her recent marriage, Jessica Herter) has been around the game industry for quite some time. She's worked for years over at IGN (and still kind of does) before eventually shifting to G4, making appearances on X-Play, Attack of the Show, and the TV series Proving Ground, in which she re-enacted experiments with co-host Ryan Dunn.
Now you can add "video game star" to her list. Bioware recently announced Chobot was joining the cast of the about-to-release Mass Effect 3, playing a new character that can help out Commander Shepard with his (or her) task of saving the world from the Reapers. We managed to sit down and chat with Jessica about her role, how she wants both guys and girls to "romance her" in-game, and her initial reaction when she was invited to the project.
GameZone: First off, after spending so much time reviewing and playing video games, you're finally in one. How psyched are you? And the fact that it's Mass Effect 3...your mind must be blown, right?
Jessica Chobot: I can not stress enough how much of a dream come true this is for me. I discovered BioWare a little late in the game (via Jade Empire) and have been in love with them ever since. They really sealed the deal on my devotion with the Mass Effect series and Dragon Age: Origins. Something about the way that BioWare tells a story draws me in and creates an obsession. Not only about the world I'm running around in, but also in the characters. I truly care about what happens to them. This goes double for my FemShep. I've always said that she is the first female character I've ever played that I actually admire.
To have a role in one of the most momentous gaming trilogies of this current console generation...well, "mind-blowing" is quite the understatement.
GZ: How did the development of your character come about? Was it Bioware's idea or...?
JC: At its core, it was BioWare's idea to have my likeness/voice as a character. It is no secret to the public, or to BioWare I imagine, that I am a huge fan girl of their titles. I've made some half-hearted fan girl attempts to get a character named "Commander Chobot" in ME3 via my personal twitter feed but really didn't expect anything to come of it. That was mostly just fan-service and just for fun.
Then, lo and behold, one day I opened my email and there was a message from Ray Muzyka (which was rad in and of itself!) mentioning that having me voice a character is something that BioWare would like to explore.
I went completely nuts! I probably re-read that email about ten times to make sure it was real and not some prank. Once it all sank in, I started screaming and running around the IGN offices (I was up in the IGN San Francisco branch at the time). Then I called my parents to tell them the good news, but they had absolutely NO IDEA what I was talking about. After that, I just waited till I got home and told my cat about it. She's good at keeping secrets.
GZ: Now, when it came to coming up with your character, was that BioWare? Your idea? Or a collaborative effort?
JC: Diana Allers is 100% BioWare's concept. Of course, they came to me to make sure I was comfortable with the character, the type of character she was, ect., but they had the final say over everything. Diana's gone through a few changes, but in the end, how she is currently is a smart way to go. After all, this is pretty much my first time at the VO rodeo, and it makes sense to keep Diana in the realm of the familiar. It's much easier to put on my "reporter voice," then suddenly try and adjust into some type of military expert.
GZ: Tell us more about your character and what she brings into the bigger picture of Mass Effect. How exactly does she help Shepard?
JC: My character is a news reporter/anchor by the name of Diana Allers. I can't say she really helps Shepard all that much. In my view, her reasons for being around Shepard are more selfish and analytical. She's there to get the story and, like all good "His Girl Friday" reporter types, possibly gain praise and further her own career and agenda.
GZ: Does she have any known rivalries with characters in the game? Like, are you and Miranda cat-fighting or something?
JC: It's been so long since I did the VO that I honestly can't remember if there were any lines that were specifically cat-fighty in tone. Diana does have a bit of a sassy mouth on her at times and can rub people the wrong way, but I'm pretty sure nothing escalated into brawl territory.
GZ: Some folks may wonder why you didn't say anything about being in the game when you were talking Kinect features on G4 a while ago. Was BioWare trying to keep it hush-hush at that time?
JC: I didn't mention it during the Kinect demo because my character had absolutely nothing to do with that particular piece. I was there to make a video about Kinect voice integration with ME3 team commands — not a video about myself.
GZ: So what's your weapon of choice? Or do you have one?
JC: Although it puts you at a slight disadvantage because you're more exposed and have to be closer to the enemy, I am currently a big fan of the shotgun. I'm not going to lie to you, I quite enjoy the ability to scream out, "BOOMSTICK" (via the Kinect) to arm my LadyShep.
GZ: Are you prepared for all the "I'm gonna seduce Chobot like crazy" banter players will be planning as they play this? And for that matter, is your hubby Blair Herter prepared?
JC: When I signed on to voice Diana, I knew I'd get the "seduce Chobot" lines, so none of that shocks me. Overall, I feel the response to my character has been pretty positive. Of course, you get those folks that think, "Oh, here we go, BioWare is pandering to the virginal nerdy guys and making her a romanceable character."
Ha! Little do they know that when BioWare approached me about Diana, the VERY FIRST THING I requested was that she be romanceable for both the boys and the girls. I mean, C'MON?! What person in their right mind who has a chance to be in Mass Effect would not want to be a romanceable character? Pshaw!
As for Blair, he's perfectly fine with it. After all, he married me and now goes home to the real thing.
GZ: How'd the voiceover sessions go? Was it hard work at all, or did you have a blast doing it? Did you get to meet any fellow voiceover actors, like Seth Green or Freddie Prinze?
JC: No joke, the very first thing I said after the initial day of VO was, "I have a totally new level of respect for voice actors." Voice acting is very tough work. Physically, you're exhausted. Your throat is sore, you're stressed out trying to come up with different tones for the same sentence over and over, and you're racing against the clock, all day, every day.
My VO sessions were solo. I didn't have the chance to meet the rest of the cast. My day consisted of being shut up in a sound booth and either reading the lines and talking out into nothing, or trying to respond to a previously recorded character. All in all, I had it very easy compared to the work load the rest of the cast had.
GZ: Is there anything you'd like to change about your character, or do you think she's perfect the way she is?
JC: I'm pretty damn pleased with Diana, especially her name. I REALLY like her name (for obvious reasons, *wink*). If I had to pick one thing I'd change, then I would say she needs a gun — maybe even a BOOMSTICK.
GZ: Do you think with the evolution of gaming that the storylines in video games could get repetitive or boring?
JC: Having boring storylines in video games is just as strong of a possibility as it is for boring game play. It all depends on the type of creative team you have working on a title. I suppose, as games become more involved and complex, storylines get stretched to accommodate more expansive worlds and greater character development and as options for interaction between the player and the game increase, that you may run the risk of alienating the player from the original goal of the game, thereby possibly leading to boredom. But that is a risk that I hope (and assume) developers are willing to take in order to push the boundaries of story within games.
On the flip-side of that philosophical answer, if you’re asking me if I think that it’s too easy to crank out sequel after sequel revolving around roughly the same story line every time and, in turn, do I find that annoying and boring? Then my answer is, “Yes.”
GZ: Back to your character. Does Diana travel with the Normandy group. How does she fit in?
JC: Last I had heard, the player has the option of bringing Diana onto the Normandy and keeping her there or getting fed up with her and kicking her off of it. It would be my assumption, based on the previous two games, that if you choose to invite Diana on, she will have her own spot on the ship that where you will always be able to locate her. She will not be a part of any NPC team you might choose to assemble for on-world exploration or battle.
GZ: On a personal note, how are things going at G4 and IGN?
JC: Things are fantastic! As far as I'm aware, I'm the first on-camera personality that's been able to keep an on-going relationship between the two, and for that I'm very thankful.
G4 is keeping me super busy! In fact, I'm heading into the office in a few to wrap up some VO for a segment we did called, RAD JOBS. Then it's off to Virginia to do a segment on the new Camaro (I get to race it around their test track. So stoked for that).
As for IGN, I've started hosting a new show through IGN's Youtube channel, START, called "Mix'd Reviews." I'm also still shooting "The Weekly 'Wood" on IGN.com and "IGN Strategize" on IGN.com and Xbox Live.
GZ: Finally, if you did get the chance to be in another game, what game do you think you'd like to appear in? Maybe an insane driver in Need For Speed? Or perhaps something even more off the wall?
JC: Hmm...I can't think of one off the top of my head, but the crazier the better! I'd love to have a character that can destroy everything. Maybe knows some martial arts. An assassin wouldn't suck either. That's the great thing about games, THE SKY'S THE LIMIT!
As of right now, however, I have no plans to voice anymore characters. That's not to say that If I got an offer to do another character, I wouldn't jump at the chance. I've been fortunate enough to land a job that I thoroughly enjoy in an industry that I am head-over-heels in love with! It's given me a lot of opportunities to try out different things. I'm always down for taking risks and having a new experience, so all I can say is, bring it on!
Check out Mass Effect 3 — and try to get Diana Allers on your side — March 6th.