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E3 Needs to Grow Up

Despite a growing call for change, the organizers of E3 have no plans to address the booth babe issue at the industry's biggest show.

I'm sure these women are well versed in the talking points for Namco Bandai's upcoming fighting game.

There’s been no shortage of discussion about women and video games this past week.

The conversation’s been driven by the gross response to Anita Sarkeesian’s nearly finished Kickstarter about the unfortunate and exclusionary tropes of female video game characters, and the quickly scrutinized comments from a producer on Tomb Raider about a potential rape scene (a description the studio has walked back) in the new game.

These are all good, uncomfortable conversations to have, but if we're talking about the depiction of women in games at such a serious level, how do we still have E3 booth babes? Other than for easy hits in web galleries, anyway.

The commonly referred to booth babe (also known as a "woman") is hired solely to wear skimpy clothing with a game or company’s logo and take photographs with attendees (who does that, by the way?). Typically, they are not well versed in the product they are hired to represent.

It seemed like a good time to check in with the Entertainment Software Association, who manages E3.

Despite some of the recent heated conversation, there are no plans to shift E3 policies.

"Exhibitors determine for themselves what is the best representation for their companies. Models are welcome if companies would like to have them, but that's an individual exhibitor decision,” said ESA VP of media relations and event management Dan Hewitt in an emailed statement to me yesterday.

Ghost Recon Commander designer Brenda Brathwaite sparked a vocal debate on Twitter over booth babes before she headed to the E3 show floor last Thursday.

“I dread heading off to work at E3 today,” she said. “The show is a constant assault on the female self esteem no matter which direction I look. I am in good shape, yet it is impossible not to compare. I feel uncomfortable. It is as if I walked into a strip club w/o intending to. These are the policies of @e3expo and @RichatESA. I feel uncomfortable in an industry I helped found.”

Her comments found plenty of support, such as Inside Network managing editor AJ Glasser.

@br The worst is when I get so good at seeing right through it that I forget they're actually women underneath the barely-there clothes.

— AJ Glasser (@Joygirl007) June 7, 2012

It’s not a new critique, but it was louder this year, and there seems to be a growing desire for change.

There was also the usual “what’s the big deal?” responses, including 3D Realms co-founder George Broussard.

@br I think you/others take it too seriously. It's not some academic event. It's a glitz show full of spectacle. #serious_business

— George Broussard (@georgeb3dr) June 7, 2012

It’s been a few years, but the ESA policy on booth babes has changed from E3's inception. The last major shift came in 2006, as new penalties, fines and policies were introduced regarding women featured in E3 exhibits.

"What's new in 2006 is an update and clarification of the enforcement policies; as we do from time to time, we have taken steps to ensure that exhibitors are familiar with the policy and how it will be enforced," said E3 show director Mary Dolaher to Reuters at the time.

A violation of the clothing policy would result in, at first, a warning, and then a $5,000 fine. Here’s what the handbook from 2006 said to exhibitors considering booth babes--er, sorry, live models:

"Material, including live models, conduct that is sexually explicit and/or sexually provocative, including but not limited to nudity, partial nudity and bathing suit bottoms, are prohibited on the show floor, all common areas, and at any access points to the show."

Hewitt told me there have been no changes to ESA policy since 2006.

Maybe there should be. Consider this anecdote that didn’t even take place on the show floor itself.

This was one of the first results the search term "Devil May Cry strippers" gave me, sorry.

We arrived to our Capcom appointment, I plunked down with Lost Planet 3, and Alex Navarro was ushered over to play Devil May Cry. In a room of kiosks, there were pole dancers. It’s unclear what that has to do with Devil May Cry. The girl hired to skimpily waltz around was sitting on the floor, looking bored. Everyone in the room is focused on playing the game, and Alex wasn't playing Devil May Cry in a see-through bubble. No one on the show floor could see this room. Can someone explain how this helps anyone do their job?

Elsewhere, I refused to play any 3DS games at Nintendo’s booth because the company didn’t have a table with machines, and instead tethered its lineup to attractive women. I let that gimmick slide when Nintendo pulled the same trick at the original 3DS unveiling, but I’ll just wait until those games are out now, thanks.

Nintendo probably thought it was a cute idea. I doubt (and this is my sincere hope) Nintendo meant to undermine the credibility of women at gaming’s biggest show. It's still ignorance. Many of the issues regarding women and E3 aren’t overtly offensive, and can be easily rationalized by those who don’t see a problem.

That’s okay--we should have a debate about it.

And this is all hardly an issue that’s exclusive to games. The same week as E3, the Computex Summit was happening in Taipei, and computer manufacturer ASUS sent out the following tweet:

That tweet has since been deleted and ASUS released an apology, obviously.

I can gripe all I want, but the most effective solution has to come from the ESA itself. Only the ESA can enforce regulations on exhibitors, and let them know this archaic marketing tool needs to go away. If games are growing up, so does the way we go about advertising them in front of, ostensibly, a bunch of professional. This isn’t 1994.

PAX figured this out years ago, even if there have been incidents along the way (i.e. Lollipop Chainsaw at PAX East).

“Our definition of a ‘booth babe’ has been a model (male or female) that has been hired to stand/sit in skimpy clothing to market the product,” said Penny Arcade president of business development in 2010. “If that person knows the product inside and out then it’s less of an issue. A company representative that can interact with attendees in a way that provides value as opposed to ‘hey stare at my body’ is something that we encourage whether or not that representative is physically attractive or not.”

If E3 is supposed to represent the industry’s best, why can’t it figure out how to respect its own attendees?

Patrick Klepek on Google+
1013 Comments
Edited by BillKiley

I think the "they chose to do it" argument is a bit off target. It seems like the issue is larger than the booth babes themselves, and has more to do with opening up the entire game industry to everybody. I think it would be rad If could take my wife to e3 and not worry about her feeling super uncomfortable the entire time.

Posted by YukoAsho

@Turambar said:

I would be more willing to make comments on this subject if I didn't already know perfectly well this entire issue will be treated like a fad by video game sites at large, and cease speaking about it with such frequency in one months time, only revisiting it if some new controversy sparks up now and then.

Agreed.

It's easier to posture and white-knight about non-issues like this than talk about the real issues of women having hard times getting into development positions. People don't want to look for solutions anymore - they want to reduce complex subjects into fucking soundbites in order to generate money (Sarkeesian) and page hits (Patrick). If anyone cared about this issue, it would have been brought up last year or the year prior, when there wasn't a convenient "controversy" to latch onto.

Edited by ultra2extreme

Good old Americans, cheer a headshot and run from some tits. Land of the free and home of the latent homosexual. At least all us Brits do is queue without complaint

Posted by YukoAsho

@ultra2extreme said:

Good old Americans, cheer a headshot and run from some tits. Land of the free and home of the latent homosexuals. At least all us Brits do is queue without complaint

Ah, good old nationalism! That'll solve the problem!

Posted by ThePhantomStranger

@Manhattan_Project said:

@Azraden said:

I hope this doesn't get lost under a torrent of "ITS NOT A BIG DEAL JEEZ" and "WELL THEY WERENT FORCED TO DO IT", but I really want to thank you for this, Patrick. My fiance is really into gaming as well but she is put off by a lot of sexist bullshit (Miranda's ass CONSTANTLY IN YOUR FACE, rape threats to Catwoman, etc) and she can't even game online for fear of harassment. I'm hoping this is another step forward to getting gamer culture a step forward and hopefully getting gamers to tackle the larger societal issues that cause these sort of things in the first place. So really, I thank you Patrick, and I hope more gaming journalist fall in line with these sorts of progressive ideals.

How is this sexist? WTF do you think a scumbag criminal is going to do? Respect her?

It'd be nice if they feared her, like they do Poison Ivy...

Posted by Shady

Also, why am I on Kotaku?

Posted by TheHumanDove

What about car shows?! They're not allowed sex objects either if we don't get them!

Posted by bennyboy

@Zenaxzd said:

@Dagbiker said:

People saying that woman want to pose for pictures for men, they dont want to do it, its their job. Who here wakes up and says, "Fuck yah, now I get to go to work."

Plenty of people wake up and want to go to work, if you aren't one of them you should find a job you enjoy then.

Regardless, even if these women didn't want to do that (and that's a big if, I refuse to believe every single booth babe at E3 didn't want to be there) a job is a job right? Especially right now when unemployment is as high as it's been in a long time. If we were to get rid of models at car shows, expos, etc. there would be thousands of people losing jobs. Is that what you really want to happen?

This whole article is selfish, people are talking about these women as if they aren't real beings. It's doing exactly what the GB crew was saying they didn't want to do in regards to the Tomb Raider reboot. They are wanting to "protect" these girls who are probably smart and have functioning brains and can make decisions for themselves. I will say again, if they really didn't want to work that job they wouldn't work it.

Pretty much.

Posted by Soviut

While I think booth babes are a pretty pathetic cry for attention, I don't see how they threaten anyone's self-esteem, except the booth babes themselves perhaps. E3 isn't exactly a high-class gig when you're one of the beautiful people.

I'll be the first to admit that hyper-attractive people can sometimes seem intimidating to us average types. But when they're hawking a game in a sweaty convention centre, they're about as threatening to one's self-esteem as a guy in a storm trooper costume at comicon.

Posted by MisterMouse

2012 is turning out to be an interesting year of good conversations in gaming... keep it up!

Posted by Alkaiser

@tourgen said:

@Alkaiser said:

@tourgen said:

oh boy here comes the tide of sniveling white knights screaming at each other about maturity in their hypersensitive PC echo chamber

Fuck, give it a rest. Or starch up your black-n-whites and show up to 2013 E3 in full puritan dress code. Thump on a bible every now and then and glare at people while you tell them how they should be thinking and living their lives.

My problem with it is less of a puritanical "All flesh is the work of devils!" and more of a "Well, you guys are all fucking losers who will never have a woman look at you without screaming and calling the cops, so we paid these girls to stand around in bikinis looking bored and pretending to be interested in you. Its your special day, you fucking slobs!"

Yeah, I understand it from your point as well. Hell, talk to a booth babe sometime - they know what's up. It's pretty much how you laid it out. My feeling though is that people are way too uptight about, well, just about everything. And yes, calling out booth babes at a trade show is hyper-sensitivity and the PC crowd at work. Fuck those guys. They've got their opinion on what's right and wrong and we've all heard it. It's getting old. I don't want a whitewashed world. Those girls are getting paid, game publishers are getting attention and moving product, and sad out of shape slobs get to see a pretty lady. win-win-win.

I'm not out to cast judgments, because E3 is pretty much one big publicity stunt and its been shown time and time again that they'll do anything to get people looking at them. Their freakshow cirque du soleil Microsoft event last year should've proved that.

But on the other hand, it'd be nice if everything was a little bit more equal. I'd like to go to an event and see buff-ass dudes in luchador costumes advertising for say, the next hypothetical Suda 51 game with the tagline "Stay for the post-show, because MANY STRONG MEN AWAIT YOU." Get something for everyone. As MBMBAM would say, just show about an inch and a half of nothing but shaft to let them know you mean business.

Posted by YukoAsho

@LooseChange said:

@Manhattan_Project said:

@Azraden said:

I hope this doesn't get lost under a torrent of "ITS NOT A BIG DEAL JEEZ" and "WELL THEY WERENT FORCED TO DO IT", but I really want to thank you for this, Patrick. My fiance is really into gaming as well but she is put off by a lot of sexist bullshit (Miranda's ass CONSTANTLY IN YOUR FACE, rape threats to Catwoman, etc) and she can't even game online for fear of harassment. I'm hoping this is another step forward to getting gamer culture a step forward and hopefully getting gamers to tackle the larger societal issues that cause these sort of things in the first place. So really, I thank you Patrick, and I hope more gaming journalist fall in line with these sorts of progressive ideals.

How is this sexist? WTF do you think a scumbag criminal is going to do? Respect her?

Yeah, I don't get why people freak out when some PIECE OF SHIT HORRIBLE dude wants to rape Lara Croft. Do you expect him to call up her father and ask for permission? Take her out to brunch and hang out on the beach?

Indeed. You're not supposed to be thinking "awesome, rape!" but rather "oh, I'm gonna fuck this asshole up!" or perhaps "I'm in deep shit now!"

Posted by Zithe

@Vorbis said:

Planetside 2 did it right, although I'm sure someone will still find it offensive.

I'm offended that the Terran Republic soldier is wearing some crappy camo green color rather than the glorious black and red.

Posted by OneManX

@TentPole said:

@Azraden said:

@TentPole: uhhh what? His first part, which this part is replying to comments to straight out calls, in his words, Arkham City super-duper sexist. It is. I still love the game, don't get me wrong, but that doesn't excuse the dialogue. I don't think anyone has ever convinced another side on an internet argument about sexism, racism, classism, etc, so I'm dropping out of this conversation. I will just say that I hope gamers get better at critical thought if they can't see the difference between how racial slurs are used in Gran Torino and American History X and how rape threats are used in Arkham City and Tomb Raider.

The idea that there is a limit to how awful your characters can be is something that is solely relegated to videogames. Films and books have gotten beyond that decades and centuries ago. It is just growing pains we are going through now and your attitude is poison to creative integrity. If Arkham city supports misogyny then that is something worth getting upset about. But having misogynistic characters alone does not mean that the game is reinforcing misogynistic ideas any more than other works with misogynistic characters: The Road, Blood Meridian. And neither of those books focus on misogyny or are intended to explore it beyond having some pretty shitty characters. One is a pulitzer prize winner and the other is often considered one of the greatest american novels by a living author.

But isn't Arkham City just portraying the world that is crafted in the Batman books? Arkham Asylum is full of psychopaths, murders, rapists, just the scum of the Earth. The Joker shot and paralyzed Barbara Gordon and took pictures of her in various stats on undress, he basically sexually assaulted her. But the world the writers created, the artist painted, it makes sense and it dove deeper in proving that Joker is a sick and twisted fuck, but he is probably one of the best comic book characters out there.

If it makes sense int he world the game crafted, is it wrong? Yeah it cycles, but that is the limitations of technology. But at the end of the day, does it makes sense for these people in AC to make sexual threats and passes at Catwoman? I think it does, b/c that is the world the creators crafted in that game.

Edited by PeezMachine

@toymachinesh said:

stop fucking with my E3 and stop making it seem like hot women and FPS games are some sort of gigantic travesty against video games.

The "hot women" in and of themselves aren't the gigantic travesty against video games, but the culture of style over substance that they are a part of most definitely is. It's not just the booth babes to blame here, but also the vapid press conferences and the idea that "reporting" on events like E3 is tantamount to showing trailers and whatever else comes out of a PR department. The fact is that booth babes have nothing to do with the games themselves, and while the act of using sex to sell may or may not be degrading to the consenting adults who get into the modeling industry, it is downright insulting to me as a gamer. I'd rather spend five minutes talking to a passionate developer about their design choices or actually trying a game out to form opinions than ogling a model who thinks that PCI Express is a shipping company.

So while the effect of booth babes is the perpetuation of a toxic atmosphere (usually for females) in the gaming community, that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to distract us from a game's true merits and shortcomings, to move us away from asking a developer "why?" and leave us just saying "wow."

Posted by YukoAsho

@Alkaiser said:

@tourgen said:

I'm not out to cast judgments, because E3 is pretty much one big publicity stunt and its been shown time and time again that they'll do anything to get people looking at them. Their freakshow cirque du soleil Microsoft event last year should've proved that.

But on the other hand, it'd be nice if everything was a little bit more equal. I'd like to go to an event and see buff-ass dudes in luchador costumes advertising for say, the next hypothetical Suda 51 game with the tagline "Stay for the post-show, because MANY STRONG MEN AWAIT YOU." Get something for everyone. As MBMBAM would say, just show about an inch and a half of nothing but shaft to let them know you mean business.

Wasn't the Cirque du Solei thing 2010?

Posted by buzz_killington

@Turambar said:

@buzz_killington said:

The whole notion is ridiculous. It's a free country. The organizers shouldn't have any input as to how people choose to advertize their products, as far as they're staying within legal boundaries. Consumers can choose to eliminate such behaviour, and they won't, because no one cares. This is a non-issue and people need to stop bringing it up.

You realize that is not how the law works. Companies renting a booth in the convention center agrees to the code of conduct set forth by the people that run it. The ESA is well within their legal rights to force companies to dance to their tune at the convention just as a restaurant is well within its legal right to enforce a dress code.

Notice how I said shouldn't instead of couldn't.

Posted by Alkaiser

@YukoAsho said:

@Alkaiser said:

@tourgen said:

I'm not out to cast judgments, because E3 is pretty much one big publicity stunt and its been shown time and time again that they'll do anything to get people looking at them. Their freakshow cirque du soleil Microsoft event last year should've proved that.

But on the other hand, it'd be nice if everything was a little bit more equal. I'd like to go to an event and see buff-ass dudes in luchador costumes advertising for say, the next hypothetical Suda 51 game with the tagline "Stay for the post-show, because MANY STRONG MEN AWAIT YOU." Get something for everyone. As MBMBAM would say, just show about an inch and a half of nothing but shaft to let them know you mean business.

Wasn't the Cirque du Solei thing 2010?

Probably. Either I don't pay enough attention to E3 in general or I've become unstuck in time and it all rolls together in my head.

God, has Kinect been around a couple years already?

Posted by Claude
@bennyboy said:

@Zenaxzd said:

@Dagbiker said:

People saying that woman want to pose for pictures for men, they dont want to do it, its their job. Who here wakes up and says, "Fuck yah, now I get to go to work."

Plenty of people wake up and want to go to work, if you aren't one of them you should find a job you enjoy then.

Regardless, even if these women didn't want to do that (and that's a big if, I refuse to believe every single booth babe at E3 didn't want to be there) a job is a job right? Especially right now when unemployment is as high as it's been in a long time. If we were to get rid of models at car shows, expos, etc. there would be thousands of people losing jobs. Is that what you really want to happen?

This whole article is selfish, people are talking about these women as if they aren't real beings. It's doing exactly what the GB crew was saying they didn't want to do in regards to the Tomb Raider reboot. They are wanting to "protect" these girls who are probably smart and have functioning brains and can make decisions for themselves. I will say again, if they really didn't want to work that job they wouldn't work it.

Pretty much.

This article is rather one sided. Why not contact some models that were used and ask their opinion. Contact their agency or the companies that hired them as well. It feels like a very liberal stance as in, we need to protect these women from themselves. I guess they don't have a mind of their own.
Posted by Anund

Joking aside, I think I would be more upset at this if video game companies went out lassoing random women, stripping them down and tying them to their booths to attract attention.

I think game companies should be free to do what they want, and so should women. If game companies want some sexy women to hang around their booth to perhaps help get some extra attention for their game, and some sexy women want some extra cash to stand around in a bikini for a couple of days, then who the heck is hurt by this? That girl who was upset there were women at E3 more attractive than her? I'm sorry, I can't care about that. How does she feel about going to the beach?

Posted by Tan

This is an issue that doesn't need a wholesale ban, but it's boundaries are often pushed (capcom girl) so I get where the idea comes from.

The argument Braithwaithe put forth is downright stupid though. That's like saying we should ban pretty people from public pools because they're pretty.

The concept of booth babes exists outside of video games, outside of e3. The main problem here isn't what they wear, it's what they know--or rather, don't know. If you're there to represent a game, you should know about the game, simple as that. You want to cosplay? Go for it, that's cool.

That's why I'm totally okay with the lollipop chainsaw stuff, but totally bothered by the ensemble of women in short-shorts and Tekken t-shirt pictured above. Like all things, it should be judged on an individual basis, though I get that's completely impossible when trying to come up with rules for such a huge event.

"Stop subjugating women, Yosuke!"
Posted by artgarcrunkle

@TentPole said:

@Azraden said:

@TentPole: uhhh what? His first part, which this part is replying to comments to straight out calls, in his words, Arkham City super-duper sexist. It is. I still love the game, don't get me wrong, but that doesn't excuse the dialogue. I don't think anyone has ever convinced another side on an internet argument about sexism, racism, classism, etc, so I'm dropping out of this conversation. I will just say that I hope gamers get better at critical thought if they can't see the difference between how racial slurs are used in Gran Torino and American History X and how rape threats are used in Arkham City and Tomb Raider.

The idea that there is a limit to how awful your characters can be is something that is solely relegated to videogames. Films and books have gotten beyond that decades and centuries ago. It is just growing pains we are going through now and your attitude is poison to creative integrity. If Arkham city supports misogyny then that is something worth getting upset about. But having misogynistic characters alone does not mean that the game is reinforcing misogynistic ideas any more than other works with misogynistic characters: The Road, Blood Meridian. And neither of those books focus on misogyny or are intended to explore it beyond having some pretty shitty characters. One is a pulitzer prize winner and the other is often considered one of the greatest american novels by a living author.

Comparing literature to videogames isn't going to win you any arguments. McCarthy is a master of prose and one of the greatest writers history will know, but misogyny works in those novels because he presents it realistically. The characters are detestable, they're well developed and you stay with them long enough that their actions lend insight to their personalities. You expect things from Glanton's raiders. But you don't expect anything from Mook 1 and Mook 2 so when they pop off at the mouth with "Bitch this bitch that," or whatever people are whinging about, it's jarring to sensitive players.

I understand your point but it's a big stretch. Yeah in a way it's growing pains, but because games primarily need to be fun to play I don't think they'll reach the artistic level of literature or film.

Posted by redgonzo

the problem is not the lack of journalistic integrity these are trade journalists and are not held at the same standard mostly because the information that they deal in isn't really that important

Posted by Hailinel

@Anwar said:

How about banning people in cosplay costumes who get in there? Not people at the booths, people who get to E3 to show off their costume or whatever the fuck they do. And I don't understand what the big deal is with booth babes. I think having self esteem issues, because you see booth babes says more about your maturity than E3's. Not checking out games, because they are tethered to women? How about sucking it up and doing your job? Instead boycotting the whole thing and trying to get awareness is a better way to show your problems with booth babes than to not cover games, this seems like a lame thing to do. I thought PAX had a problem with the Juliet lookalike because people complained a lot. They knew how she would look, they should've not let her inside in the first place.

As much as booth babes/attractive female representatives/whatever you want to call the women that engage in these jobs are...uniquely exploited in some cases (the Devil May Cry stripper, for example), there is nothing unique about a video game trade show allowing attractive women to represent the products of vendors. I mean, hell, just as examples:

As far as I know, car shows still feature models that are hired to do little more than look attractive next to automobiles.

Cheerleaders at all levels are notably athletic, but they are also regarded for their attractiveness. In either case though, cheerleaders are superfluous to the nature of a sporting event. A football player doesn't need cheerleaders on the sideline to score a touchdown, nor are they necessary for the spectators to cheer for their team. Hell, teams regularly produce things like calendars for people to buy adorned with the yearly roster of women on the squads.

So really, , E3 isn't a special snowflake of a show. Could it be better? Definitely. But banning booth babes from E3 isn't necessarily the answer. Requiring that such women be required to adhere to certain rules and guidelines (ex: No pole-dancing)? That would be a good step. And so would the encouragement of equal opportunity objectification. (i.e.: male models, etc.)

But this yearly routine of "E3 objectifies women! This should be stopped!" is turning into a sitcom rerun. Is there a problem? In some cases, yes, but not always. And getting pissy because Nintendo chose to secure their 3DS units to women (i.e.: Living beings that are mobile and are thus theoretically more accessible than a stationary kiosk) is the wrong way to go about it.

Further, we don't know how much these ladies actually know about the games they're being hired to promote. They might know absolutely nothing, or they might actually be taught about the games to at the very least a rudimentary degree. You can't just throw up a picture of a group of women in Tekken shirts and suggest, "Derp! These girls don't know nuthin'." That's insulting in its own way.

Online
Posted by Toxin066

Being a member of the "general public", and someone who doesn't have the luxury to go and see E3 , I'm trying hard not to have a "not my problem" sort of attitude towards the issue.

The issue sounds like objectification more than sexism. I'm sure it would be just as sleazy to go out and get a Booth Bro who knows nothing about a game, but looks like Adonis, and have him stand around in front of your booth.

Maybe I'm just misunderstanding the difference between sexism and objectification. If I were one of the folk who got a picture with one of the ladies, I'd want to get a picture because of the tits, not because of the woman.

Again though, it's hard for me to care. I don't go to conventions. These women aren't being harmed. I haven't heard anything about the wages being unfair.

Posted by AssInAss

@Azraden said:

@Manhattan_Project: Good job (intentionally?) missing the point. This article does a really good job of refuting all the points people make. Even if you're not a fan of the Hulk speak, its well worth reading on the problems with the dialogue in that game. http://filmcrithulk.wordpress.com/2011/10/21/hulk-vs-arkham-city-round-2-bitches-be-trippin/

When I first read it as the game was coming out, the article challenged me. This was dampening my excitement to play the game, and I was like, "Is it that big a deal?".

Then I actually played the game, and the more I played the Catwoman sections, I had to agree. The enemy banter is ridiculous and unnecessary, it really is a noticeable blemish on a great game. And the fact that her cleavage is to a level where it's more show than anything practical (let them boobs breath!).

Excellent article.

Posted by FengShuiGod

@PeezMachine said:

@toymachinesh said:

stop fucking with my E3 and stop making it seem like hot women and FPS games are some sort of gigantic travesty against video games.

The "hot women" in and of themselves aren't the gigantic travesty against video games, but the culture of style over substance that they are a part of most definitely is. It's not just the booth babes to blame here, but also the vapid press conferences and the idea that "reporting" on events like E3 is tantamount to showing trailers and whatever else comes out of a PR department. The fact is that booth babes have nothing to do with the games themselves, and while the act of using sex to sell may or may not be degrading to the consenting adults who get into the modeling industry, it is downright insulting to me as a gamer. I'd rather spend five minutes talking to a passionate developer about their design choices or actually trying a game out to form opinions than ogling a model who thinks that PCI Express is a shipping company.

So while the effect of booth babes the perpetuation of a toxic atmosphere (usually for females) in the gaming community, that is not their purpose. Their purpose is to distract us from a game's true merits and shortcomings, to move us away from asking a developer "why?" and leave us just saying "wow."

Then you should probably just get rid of E3 altogether. I'm not against the idea. While developers can get together and talk on something like the Bombcast, I think that is more of an exception to the rule. Mostly E3 is style over substance - mostly games are style over substance- and to get away from this the industry should move away from the nonsensical hype machine that is E3.

Posted by Salarn

@Anund said:

That girl who was upset there were women at E3 more attractive than her? I'm sorry, I can't care about that.

http://www.giantbomb.com/brenda-brathwaite/72-7744/

Please don't refer to one of the top female developers in the game industry as "that girl".

Posted by Lunar_Aura

So much butter

Posted by prencher

While I agree booth babes are an archaic practice that needs to go away, I'm honestly more bothered by the automatic assertion that if you don't 100% agree with the views of those opposed to it, you are sexist.

For example, the Tomb Raider issue - What that producer said, if not just poorly phrased, puts a gross spin on their game. If, however, it was just poorly worded, then I don't see the issue with the game doing what it's doing.

If movies can do it and it not being found demeaning because it fits the narrative, games should be able to do it as well.

That is, again, assuming that Tomb Raider does in fact treat it as a serious subject matter and they want to put you as a player into that situation, not merely navigating a helpless girl from situation to situation so you can rescue her. It worked in Heavy Rain, it can work here too if done right.

Posted by Grondoth

It's always hilarious when people deflect this stuff with "yeah but it's everywhere else," like every other place hasn't come under criticism for using female sexuality as a lure and has also reacted to it in ways that gaming hasn't even bothered thinking about. And not by goddamn puritans, Jesus Christ people. There's legitimate, long running lines of critique and theory about this stuff that doesn't come from anywhere near a place of sexuality being sinful. It's uncomfortable, but most things worth thinking about are. You either look around at your surroundings and apply real thought to them or you spend your life wearing jorts and thinking that there's nothing wrong with an industry that thinks putting a lady and a stripper pole in a private conference room is fucking ok.

Posted by triviaman09

Thank you for this article, Patrick.

A couple of days, ago, Jason Rubin got flak for implying that Saints Row: The Third was embarrassing. Saints Row is not embarrassing. The way some in this industry, like George Broussard and the deluge of internet assholes (including not just a few on GB), take the slightest feminist critique of a game or gaming at large is embarrassing. I'm all for games as an art form and games as a grown-up entertainment medium. But from the way E3 still is, and the way I've seen people react to this stuff over the past few days, we don't deserve it. I love games and I always will, but the last thing I want to be associated with is the degradation and marginalization of women through this medium.

Posted by YukoAsho

@Alkaiser said:

Probably. Either I don't pay enough attention to E3 in general or I've become unstuck in time and it all rolls together in my head.

God, has Kinect been around a couple years already?

Makes you feel old, doesn't it?

@Claude said:

This article is rather one sided. Why not contact some models that were used and ask their opinion. Contact their agency or the companies that hired them as well. It feels like a very liberal stance as in, we need to protect these women from themselves. I guess they don't have a mind of their own.

I wouldn't say it's a blanket liberal position. If anything, there's hints of classical American puritanism in the viewpoint, that women who openly express their sexuality are a blemish on the larger society. One can find both far-left and far-right leanings in this discussion, which is probably why it has such perpetual traction. Whether the view is that men should be protecting women from themselves or rather it's scantily clad women being a travesty/embarrassment/distraction, extreme stupidity can be found all over.

Still, I think this is just blatant page-hit grabbing, just like the FGC issue a couple of months ago was quickly forgotten after Patrick found something else to chew on. If people actually gave a shit about being respectable, E3 would still be what it was in 07 and 08.

Edited by TentPole

@artgarcrunkle said:

@TentPole said:

@Azraden said:

@TentPole: uhhh what? His first part, which this part is replying to comments to straight out calls, in his words, Arkham City super-duper sexist. It is. I still love the game, don't get me wrong, but that doesn't excuse the dialogue. I don't think anyone has ever convinced another side on an internet argument about sexism, racism, classism, etc, so I'm dropping out of this conversation. I will just say that I hope gamers get better at critical thought if they can't see the difference between how racial slurs are used in Gran Torino and American History X and how rape threats are used in Arkham City and Tomb Raider.

The idea that there is a limit to how awful your characters can be is something that is solely relegated to videogames. Films and books have gotten beyond that decades and centuries ago. It is just growing pains we are going through now and your attitude is poison to creative integrity. If Arkham city supports misogyny then that is something worth getting upset about. But having misogynistic characters alone does not mean that the game is reinforcing misogynistic ideas any more than other works with misogynistic characters: The Road, Blood Meridian. And neither of those books focus on misogyny or are intended to explore it beyond having some pretty shitty characters. One is a pulitzer prize winner and the other is often considered one of the greatest american novels by a living author.

Comparing literature to videogames isn't going to win you any arguments. McCarthy is a master of prose and one of the greatest writers history will know, but misogyny works in those novels because he presents it realistically. The characters are detestable, they're well developed and you stay with them long enough that their actions lend insight to their personalities. You expect things from Glanton's raiders. But you don't expect anything from Mook 1 and Mook 2 so when they pop off at the mouth with "Bitch this bitch that," or whatever people are whinging about, it's jarring to sensitive players.

I understand your point but it's a big stretch. Yeah in a way it's growing pains, but because games primarily need to be fun to play I don't think they'll reach the artistic level of literature or film.

But how are videogames ever going to mature to that point if we never let them try? In a world where no one ever let books try and be more serious and well written Cormac never would have written those great books.

Edit: I just ignored your last paragraph because I disagree with it, sorry. But taking the assumption that games will never reach that level then you are right. I however disagree with that premise entirely. Some films are "fun" some are hard to watch and impactful. I find "enjoyment" form them both and believe videogames have the same potential.

Posted by Draxyle

While the objectification of women is one side of this issue, I don't think anyone is really blaming the women themselves for this sort of stuff.

If anything, booth babes are more of an insult to men. These publishers are telling you that they think you can be bought with sex. That's disgraceful on any sensible level. I am not a neanderthal, and I do not want to be treated like one at a trade show.

The journalist side of it all is certainly to blame too. Hopping over to gametrailers.com you'll find a "booth babe montage" with the tag-line of something like "this is what you really wanted to see!". I am reminded that these are the guys who run the videogame awards show, and that they think very little of my intelligence.

Not saying a ban is entirely the way to go, but with enough negative feedback these publishers would be forced to comply. It's already heading in that direction for certain.

Posted by artgarcrunkle

@Salarn said:

@Anund said:

That girl who was upset there were women at E3 more attractive than her? I'm sorry, I can't care about that.

http://www.giantbomb.com/brenda-brathwaite/72-7744/

Please don't refer to one of the top female developers in the game industry as "that girl".

Playboy: The Mansion was my goty 2005.

Edited by Anund

@Salarn said:

@Anund said:

That girl who was upset there were women at E3 more attractive than her? I'm sorry, I can't care about that.

http://www.giantbomb.com/brenda-brathwaite/72-7744/

Please don't refer to one of the top female developers in the game industry as "that girl".

And why is that? What should I call her? I don't know the name, never heard of her before. Stop hyper ventilating, fella.

@artgarcrunkle said:

...

Playboy: The Mansion was my goty 2005.

Haha, no comment...

Posted by Phuturist

GUYS SEXUALITY EXISTS, I KNOW IT'S SCARY BUT IT EXISTS. PEOPLE ARE ATTRACTED TO BODIES AND LIKE TO LOOK AT THEM.

The problem is that there are no female journalists and therefore only female booth models. That should change instead.

Posted by Dagbiker

@Toxin066 said:

Being a member of the "general public", and someone who doesn't have the luxury to go and see E3 , I'm trying hard not to have a "not my problem" sort of attitude towards the issue.

The issue sounds like objectification more than sexism. I'm sure it would be just as sleazy to go out and get a Booth Bro who knows nothing about a game, but looks like Adonis, and have him stand around in front of your booth.

Maybe I'm just misunderstanding the difference between sexism and objectification. If I were one of the folk who got a picture with one of the ladies, I'd want to get a picture because of the tits, not because of the woman.

Again though, it's hard for me to care. I don't go to conventions. These women aren't being harmed. I haven't heard anything about the wages being unfair.

This is my line of thinking too. The people who can change it are ESA, the presenters, and the Journalists, I am none of the above.

Posted by DarkbeatDK

Using attractive people to sell a product is probably never going to go out of fashion, but I think the half-naked chicks are a bit much too.

Posted by TheHumanDove

Leave these poor girls alone! It's not their fault they're pretty! GOD! AND IN THESE HARSH ECONOMIC TIMES! STOP REMOVING JOBS!

Also I lol'd. Also starving kids and genocide and stuff

Posted by Anwar

@Hailinel said:

@Anwar said:

How about banning people in cosplay costumes who get in there? Not people at the booths, people who get to E3 to show off their costume or whatever the fuck they do. And I don't understand what the big deal is with booth babes. I think having self esteem issues, because you see booth babes says more about your maturity than E3's. Not checking out games, because they are tethered to women? How about sucking it up and doing your job? Instead boycotting the whole thing and trying to get awareness is a better way to show your problems with booth babes than to not cover games, this seems like a lame thing to do. I thought PAX had a problem with the Juliet lookalike because people complained a lot. They knew how she would look, they should've not let her inside in the first place.

As much as booth babes/attractive female representatives/whatever you want to call the women that engage in these jobs are...uniquely exploited in some cases (the Devil May Cry stripper, for example), there is nothing unique about a video game trade show allowing attractive women to represent the products of vendors. I mean, hell, just as examples:

As far as I know, car shows still feature models that are hired to do little more than look attractive next to automobiles.

Cheerleaders at all levels are notably athletic, but they are also regarded for their attractiveness. In either case though, cheerleaders are superfluous to the nature of a sporting event. A football player doesn't need cheerleaders on the sideline to score a touchdown, nor are they necessary for the spectators to cheer for their team. Hell, teams regularly produce things like calendars for people to buy adorned with the yearly roster of women on the squads.

So really, , E3 isn't a special snowflake of a show. Could it be better? Definitely. But banning booth babes from E3 isn't necessarily the answer. Requiring that such women be required to adhere to certain rules and guidelines (ex: No pole-dancing)? That would be a good step. And so would the encouragement of equal opportunity objectification. (i.e.: male models, etc.)

But this yearly routine of "E3 objectifies women! This should be stopped!" is turning into a sitcom rerun. Is there a problem? In some cases, yes, but not always. And getting pissy because Nintendo chose to secure their 3DS units to women (i.e.: Living beings that are mobile and are thus theoretically more accessible than a stationary kiosk) is the wrong way to go about it.

Further, we don't know how much these ladies actually know about the games they're being hired to promote. They might know absolutely nothing, or they might actually be taught about the games to at the very least a rudimentary degree. You can't just throw up a picture of a group of women in Tekken shirts and suggest, "Derp! These girls don't know nuthin'." That's insulting in its own way.

I don't really get why you quoted me, but okay. :S

The Lollipop Chainsaw girl who was banned at PAX knows her stuff about video games. She might have not known a lot about that game, because it wasn't out yet and she wasn't really there to inform people about the game, but she cosplays a lot and knows what that character does etc. So mentioning PAX in a good way regarding handling that is kind o odd. Banning booth babes is totally fine, but Jessica Nigri isn't a booth babe per se and why aren't games like that banned then? People who complained at PAX were concerned about their children, which is weird to me, do those people never go the beach?

Posted by patrickklepek

@bennyboy said:

@Zenaxzd said:

@Dagbiker said:

People saying that woman want to pose for pictures for men, they dont want to do it, its their job. Who here wakes up and says, "Fuck yah, now I get to go to work."

Plenty of people wake up and want to go to work, if you aren't one of them you should find a job you enjoy then.

Regardless, even if these women didn't want to do that (and that's a big if, I refuse to believe every single booth babe at E3 didn't want to be there) a job is a job right? Especially right now when unemployment is as high as it's been in a long time. If we were to get rid of models at car shows, expos, etc. there would be thousands of people losing jobs. Is that what you really want to happen?

This whole article is selfish, people are talking about these women as if they aren't real beings. It's doing exactly what the GB crew was saying they didn't want to do in regards to the Tomb Raider reboot. They are wanting to "protect" these girls who are probably smart and have functioning brains and can make decisions for themselves. I will say again, if they really didn't want to work that job they wouldn't work it.

Pretty much.

This has nothing to do with the women themselves. This has everything to do with how it portrays the industry. I don't begrudge the women for taking a job--it's money

Staff
Posted by Doppelgamer

Remember when E3 was about games?

Sexy women are not going earn you a sale, only my disgust at your pathetic tactics.

Posted by MordeaniisChaos

@DarkbeatDK said:

Using attractive people to sell a product is probably never going to go out of fashion, but I think the half-naked chicks are a bit much too.

Especially when most of them are more of the "ceap hooker/stripper" kind of attractive. I.e, not attractive.

Posted by Manatassi

@ultra2extreme said:

Good old Americans, cheer a headshot and run from some tits. Land of the free and home of the latent homosexual. At least all us Brits do is queue without complaint

Uncalled for. Also completely missing the point. How would you feel if you went to work and had extremely good looking buff nearly naked men in your face all day? I for one would find it an unprofessional, degrading and unpleasant environment as would most normal people. so exactly how is this not an issue?

The cheering at that headshot has been brought up and is certainly a real concern but that does not in any way make this issue any less serious. This isn't an embarrassing revelling in virtual violence within the media its real life women being forced into an overly sexualised work environment and made to feel inadequate or simply uncomfortable within their workplace. These aren't women who chose to work in Anne Summers where scantily clad images can be expected. They chose to work in the games Industry and expecting them to work in these environments is wrong. That should stand for the many men who feel uncomfortable with this also. Belittling their feelings and dismissing their feelings is however the biggest issue and I for one think its an embarrassing disgrace.

Posted by Hailinel

@Anwar: I quoted you because we were on the same page.

Online
Posted by YukoAsho

@Dag

This is my line of thinking too. The people who can change it are ESA, the presenters, and the Journalists, I am none of the above.

Not sure I agree with that. If people stopped watching the booth babe montages, the booth babes would probably not be so prominent at the show.

Posted by 20183242

I'll be straight with you guys, I didn't read the article before posting this.

That said, unless the problem is that there is a shortage of babes everywhere else because E3 is bleeding the convention scene dry, I don't really see what the problem is.