It's a little sad, I think, that my first Cblog after returning from PAX East is not a gushing recap of all the fun times I had, but rather venting commentary on a so-called scandal that was supposedly born from the convention this year. But, I have things that I want to say about all of it, so here it is.
Keith Apicary I had never heard of this bafoon before last weekend. His real name is Nathan Barnatt and Keith is, obviously, a persona that he puts on. Apparently, Keith's shtick is to go to conventions and interrupt panels by dancing with his pants off. Let me make one thing clear: I don't care if you enjoy Mr. Barnatt's brand of comedy. I don't care how long he's been doing the Keith character, nor do I care how many views he has on Youtube - the man deserves to be banned from PAX and I am glad it has happened. Just because it's your "thing" to interrupt other peoples' planned entertainment, you should not be excused. If a person has a reputation for being an asshole, that doesn't mean they should be allowed to be an asshole! I am sorry, that's just how life works. I am extremely disappointed to see people on Destructoid attempting to defend Mr. Barnatt. His character is a nuisance. And I'm sure if he wasn't already Youtube-famous, far less of you would disagree. It doesn't matter how "harmless" his routine is. It's disruptive to the events other people have planned.
If I spent six months writing and preparing a presentation for my fans, or spent 90 minutes standing in line to see a panel from my favorite website or developer I'd been waiting months to see, I would be pissed as all hell to have some jackass run up on stage and "troll" for some cheap laughs by bombing the presentation. Barring Keith Apicary from PAX is not turning a party into "dinner with your in-laws" as Jonathan Holmes attempted to argue, but rather keeping out somebody who's entire goal is to do nothing but annoy and disrupt other people's experiences. If you think a PAX panel without Keith Apicary is boring, what are you doing there in the first place? If you count on a spontaneous party crasher to get some enjoyment out of your afternoon, maybe go somewhere else? Keith and his ilk is not why I go to PAX or any of PAX's panels.
If you've encountered a Keith prank in person or just watched one on Youtube and thought it was hilarious, good for you and good for Keith, but that doesn't excuse his behavior.
To make things even worse: he was granted explicit permission from Robert Khoo to attend this PAX by signing an agreement stating that he would not disrupt any panels. He broke the agreement on the first day! Once again I don't care if you're a fan, that's just shitty behavior that should not be tolerated.
Jessica Nigri Let me first start by saying that I have long been a supporter of PAX's "no booth babes" policy. The idea is two-fold: to try and keep a somewhat "family friendly" atmosphere (the effectiveness of this tactic with violent video games 100 feet away can be debated elsewhere) and also to prevent irrelevant bimbos from luring people to a booth with cheap skin tactics. The games should stand on their own. An office secretary from Ubisoft, therefore, should not be allowed to throw on a skimpy maid outfit to lure people over to play Assassin's Creed 3 just because she works at Ubisoft. NOS Energy Drink cannot use models hired at a generic agency in bikinis to entice you over to a MLG booth simply because NOS is vaguely affiliated with competitive gaming. Random tits and ass should not be advertising Borderlands 2.
However, problems arise when the so-called "booth babes" become actually relevant to the product being shown off, namely when the women are cosplaying as main characters from the game, in particular when said cosplayer has already become fairly widely known for assuming that role. I have no reason to doubt that Jessica is far more knowledgeable about the product she's promoting than a random model hired off the street to flaunt skin in an entirely irrelevant and sleazy manner. Personally, I see a gray area, and I fully acknowledge that this may be due to my love of Suda51 and Lollipop Chainsaw. Those of you who don't care about the game probably have far less sympathy than I do for Jessica Nigri, and that's understandable. But I hope that we can come to an agreement that it is not all that simple. As sad as I was to hear that Jessica Nigri had been hassled about her outfit, I simultaneously felt a huge amount of respect for those in charge sticking to their rule, even when they probably didn't want to, in order to remain consistent.
While Jessica's cosplay wasn't any more revealing that that of many con-goers, men and women alike, some have argued that it's worse because she was being paid to dress that way. I personally don't see how that makes any difference. She wasn't being forced to wear what she did. She did it because she wanted to and was enthusiastic about taking on the role of Juliet Starling and taking photos with fans. And that's another thing about what makes her kind different from the typical "booth babe": she's playing a fictional role to be entertaining and to let fans get their photos taken with a video game character. The same can't be said of a generic model in a revealing jumpsuit who has no idea what the game or product is about, and is only there to attract traffic. Ultimately I think it comes down to the person's purpose for being there and wearing the costume. Sure, part of Jessica's presence was intended to attract attendees. But that's far from all of it and you all know I'm right. I'd venture a guess that most of the people who lined up to play Lollipop Chainsaw were already familiar with the game and maybe even Jessica's Juliet cosplaying on the Internet. She was acting more as a celebrity appearance (just as Suda himself was) than as a characterless set of tits.
Now, as to her being "kicked out": Jonathan Holmes' post does not indicate who it was specifically that asked Jessica to leave, and the last word I've heard is that WB has not commented yet. However, according to Gabe's post today on Penny Arcade "they" (being Penny Arcade) never told her to leave; only stay inside the bus or change. The story I heard Sunday night at the goodbye dinner was that the people who asked Jessica to leave were not affiliated with Penny Arcade, but rather convention center staff. This, to me, sounds extremely plausible, and if it is what indeed happened, I would attribute it to miscommunication. I see no reason to jump to conclusions and cry foul at Penny Arcade. At any rate, Jessica was thankfully allowed to return on Sunday wearing an adorable black t-shirt with the Lollipop Chainsaw logo on it. Even though that's not an in-game costume, she still did a great job with staying in character and remained as approachable and entertaining as the previous two days.
One last thing - in Gabe's post that I linked to above, he mentions last year's Duke Nukem Forever booth and the shit PA got for allowing the school girl cosplayers. This issue goes back to my original point - the no-booth-babes policy becomes tricky to enforce when the costumes are actually relevant to the game. The Duke girls were not immediately removed, and PA caught flack for this. Whereas this year, people didn't want the babe to leave. Is the difference the game? The character? The performer? The fans of either? Or is it just a matter of never being able to please everybody?
In the end, fortunately neither of these incidents (Keith or Jessica) were as criminal as some would like to report. Keith was ejected after repeated warnings, breaking a signed agreement, and causing a disturbance, and Jessica was not actually told to leave, and she remained a good sport while returning the final day in a more modest outfit. Gabe explains that Penny Arcade, Warner Bros, and Jessica are all cool.