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Posted by patrickklepek
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?

Staff
Posted by chaosnovaxz

Totally agree.

Booth babes are objectifying to women, as well as insulting to the male audience for what their existence implies about that audience's maturity.

Posted by AlexW00d

Derp

Posted by chrismafuchris

Who else am I gonna take a picture with?

Edited by Rawson

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

When Destructoid gets to literally go around "chest bumping" booth babes, something's incredibly wrong. Frankly, it makes me embarassed to even like video games when garbage like that is allowed to occur without industry-wide ostracizing.

Also, the glad handing. Yes, you touch on the DMC stripper, but there's also the issue of backstage demos giving out things like food and beer. That's a bribe, plain and simple, and violates basic journalistic ethics.

Posted by big_jon

Fuck I hate booth babes, the amount of neck beards flocking to them at PAX was embarrassing, getting pictures with them while giving the good old hover hand.

Posted by TyCobb

That was a really badly chosen picture of the booth whores. They look utterly scary and look like the ones that work the street downtown.

Posted by yoshisaur

Eh? Is it really that big of a deal?

Posted by bunnymud

Oh jesus...sex sells. As if these girls don't know what they are doing. HEY! What if...follow me on this one...we all stick our pinkeys out when we drink our tea at the next E3? Never go to a car show....you may catch a case of the vapors and faint and thus lose your top hat.

Posted by mobius006

Does this not also go for the "typical TV view" that a lot of the trade show now seems to focus on? The Booth Babes seems focus on them. As well as "industry" people who attend the show and take pictures with them. Its a real shame when I see this happen at e3.

Posted by Sapp

@chrismafuchris: Ryan Davis, duh. But seriously, this whole boothbabe thing is pretty ridiculous. I mean, there's nothing to be said against attractive women, but dehumanizing people for marketing is just sad. And it's even sadder that it's not exclusive to videogames.

Edited by TyCobb

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

.....

Also, the glad handing. Yes, you touch on the DMC stripper, but there's also the issue of backstage demos giving out things like food and beer. That's a bribe, plain and simple, and violates basic journalistic ethics.

It's called perks. Grow up. Just because stuff like that goes on it does not mean it interferes with a journalists integrity. Especially at conventions like these. It's a different story if the company does all this and then tells you to write a review before you leave. Watch some of the quick looks or Jeff's Jar videos -- he sometimes mentions that he goes out of his way to purchase a game for this exact reason.

Posted by Stahlbrand

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

When Destructoid gets to literally go around "chest bumping" booth babes, something's incredibly wrong. Frankly, it makes me embarassed to even like video games when garbage like that is allowed to occur without industry-wide ostracizing.

Holding Destructoid against games press in general is like holding TV frat-jocks against the male gender in general.

Most press I read did a good job at mocking the exploitative practices.

Posted by smcn

2012 rolls on as the most embarrassing year for people who like video games and aren't manchildren.

Posted by JazGalaxy

Wouldn't it be patently ridiculous to make rules regarding booth babes and how they can look or act standing next to lolipop chainsaw? Or Duke Nukem?

The problem isn't with Booth Babes, it's with the entire industry and zeitgeist of the people who play them.

I mean, personally, Booth Babes would be a deterrent to me because I don't like feeling manipulated in any way by anyone ever. If more people were like that, especially journalists, then the exibitors would realize their booth babes were driving away people and that would be the end of it.

Posted by Moncole

I hate booth babes. I would rather a person in regular clothing that knows what they are talking about tell me about the games.

Posted by benjaebe

I understood and stood behind Penny Arcade and PAX when they banned booth babes who were there just to look pretty. I have no problem with anyone holding E3 to the same standard.

Posted by mobius006

@NopeYouAreRetarded: The Auto show, nor CES do this. Other Muti-Billion dollar industry. Ugh your the problem.

Posted by Vorbis

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

Posted by Rawson

@TyCobb said:

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

.....

Also, the glad handing. Yes, you touch on the DMC stripper, but there's also the issue of backstage demos giving out things like food and beer. That's a bribe, plain and simple, and violates basic journalistic ethics.

It's called perks. Grow up. Just because stuff like that goes on it does not mean it interferes with a journalists integrity. Especially at conventions like these. It's a different story if the company does all this and then tells you to write a review before you leave. Watch some of the quick looks or Jeff's Jar videos -- he sometimes mentions that he goes out of his way to purchase a game for this exact reason.

No other (respectable) journalist is allowed to do so. From the Society of Professional Journalists:

"— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity."

Claiming that you're magically incapable of being corrupted is foolish, and ignores basic human nature. Any nice favor like that will color one's reactions.

@Stahlbrand said:

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

When Destructoid gets to literally go around "chest bumping" booth babes, something's incredibly wrong. Frankly, it makes me embarassed to even like video games when garbage like that is allowed to occur without industry-wide ostracizing.

Holding Destructoid against games press in general is like holding TV frat-jocks against the male gender in general.

Most press I read did a good job at mocking the exploitative practices.

They're still in the public light, and will color peoples' reactions to games in general. If someone did anything like that at a car show or a tech show, they'd be kicked out for sexually harassing the talent. Plain and simple.

Posted by heatDrive88
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?).

I'm going to guess the same dumbasses trash-tralking women who use voice communication in Xbox Live, the trolling asshats terrorizing Anita Sarkeesian, and apparently George Broussard.

Posted by Evercaptor

While I agree that it's weird how sexualised our industry is at every turn, and some change needs to happen, this is the same tired argument you hear every year from some publication or another; when sex ceases to sell, they will stop making business decision that include it. At least it generates jobs for those models/ladies that get the gigs and hopefully with the heightened attention to credentials, it's a nicer environment for them to be working in.

With all seriousness, the way to combat the booth babe phenomena, surely is to starve it of the attention it garners rather than to say the booth babes at the Studio booth were Description because you're playing into their hands by saying the product's name.

Sex as it relates to videogames is almost as awful as the violence porn you've just started to notice.

Posted by alibson
Posted by Draxyle

Being at the showroom floor, yea it is getting more than tiring. It saddened me to see Atlus using them too, now that they had a large spot on the main showroom. And people getting photos with them? Really? It's not like they're celebrities or developers, they're females in costume. I can kinda understand people lining up for Jessica Nigri (who was there at the lollipop chainsaw thing of course) but she actually has a passion in what she does (I think). But everyone else was just there to look pretty. It's just unpleasant to see during a trade show. I don't want to be so transparently manipulated like that.

And I do agree with the 3DS tethering stuff. That just made me feel really uncomfortable.

I am glad to see some rebellion against it lately. Videogaming is no longer a male dominated medium. It's very backwards to keep thinking the strip club mentality is still okay (or ever was okay) for E3.

Posted by zeekthegeek

@ck1nd: Fucking yes it is.

Posted by CaLe

As long as women are willing to take the jobs, who are we to say no? The change needs to come at the source. You're going against something bigger than just E3. You're going against women and their lust for money.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Too true, but it will require that gamers grow up and possibly send a message that they won't put up with this shit. I'm certain the discussions we're both aware of are ample proof that that's not gonna happen.

Posted by bko

Don't forget the unbelievably hostile response to Aisha Tyler daring to attend the sacred Electronic Hardcorrr Gamer** Three. That's every bit as embarrassing as anything mentioned above.

At E3, on Youtube and on XBL, gaming's target audience demonstrates repeatedly that it can't handle women. Doesn't know how to approach them, doesn't know how to talk to them, can't understand them, and sure as shit has no idea what to do with one when she talks back or even just makes eye contact. So they hide behind their keyboards and act like savages because that's the closest they can get to feeling like they have some kind of power over a gender that makes them piss their pants when anonymity is stripped away and they have to act like people.

This whole E3 was a showcase for how juvenile this industry and its target audience is, but don't blame the messenger. E3 doesn't need to grow up, because E3 is simply reflecting the audience it serves. When gamers grow some hair on their inverted dicks and stop acting like socially retarded imbeciles whenever they're safely protected by their usernames, then gaming will grow up to keep up with them. I can't wait for it to happen, but fear it's going to take a while. In the meantime, here's a shitshow of third-person shooters that all look the same. Explosions, brah!

**what the fuck is hardcore about sitting on your fat ass for six hours at a time while life passes you by? Right, nothing.

Posted by Sparky245

If you get rid of booth babes, the aspiring models will be out of a job. THINK OF THE JOBS MR. KLEPEK!

Posted by Fungiefips

@bunnymud said:

Oh jesus...sex sells. As if these girls don't know what they are doing. HEY! What if...follow me on this one...we all stick our pinkeys out when we drink our tea at the next E3? Never go to a car show....you may catch a case of the vapors and faint and thus lose your top hat.

You are completely off-base with this. Patrick's not arguing that these women are being exploited against their will, rather that the presence of scantily-clad bimbos who have no knowledge of the products that are being marketed is tasteless and needs to be done away with. And I haven't been to a car show in a few years, but I can't for the life of me remember a major manufacturer having anyone like booth babes at their major showcases. Sure they hire attractive women to be presenters, but they at least have memorized all the talking points and are dressed appropriately for the situation.

Edited by Toxeia

said:

The commonly referred to booth babe (also known as a "woman") is hired solely to wear skimpy clothing ...

Stop right there Patrick. Problem solved. PETTICOATS!

As for Brathwaite saying that it's the policy of E3 and the ESA to have booth babes that's a little misleading, but understood at least. I think the ESA's stance of leaving up to the companies if the best way to handle it for them. If you don't like how a company represents itself your best option is to let them know by letters or by wallet. But for god's sake, no more petitions. If you REALLY want change, mail them envelopes saying "I dislike your use of women as objects to promote your company at press events," and seal them with a single slice of american cheese. Yeah, it's not even GOOD cheese.

Online
Posted by RIDEBIRD

BUT MEN HAVE PROBLEM TOO AND SEXISM GOES BOTH WAYS AND FEMINISM IS BAD

DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR

The issue goes much, much, much deeper then E3. The whole industry is sick with sexism that is promoted and approved by a large majority. I really try not to be ashamed for my hobby but goddamn it games you're making it hard

Posted by CJduke

I had this same issue with MLG. Girls walk up to you in skimpy outfits and try to get you to buy stuff. Does MLG and all these other companies/developers think guys are that stupid? "Oh the pretty girl with big boobs asked me my name and if I wanted to buy a new computer so I said yes!" Seriously? I went to MLG to watch Starcraft, not to be creepy and stare at random girls at a video game tournament. The whole scenario is stupid. I'm sure most of these girls would rather not be doing this but people need jobs and money and its easy to stand there and let people look at you. I'm sure they don't take any pride in saying they work as a "booth babe" for video game conventions, not to mention I'm sure a lot of guys feel insulted by the fact that companies believe if they put these girls in front of you, you will buy their product or sign up for some stupid shit. But I guess sex sells and as long as their are those creepy nerds who like to take pictures with these girls, then things will remain as they are.

Posted by bko

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

When Destructoid gets to literally go around "chest bumping" booth babes, something's incredibly wrong. Frankly, it makes me embarassed to even like video games when garbage like that is allowed to occur without industry-wide ostracizing.

Also, the glad handing. Yes, you touch on the DMC stripper, but there's also the issue of backstage demos giving out things like food and beer. That's a bribe, plain and simple, and violates basic journalistic ethics.

Games press in general is way too chummy with the industry it covers. For all the fanboy conspiracy theory-mongering that goes on in the comments of reviews because one game gets a 9.4 and the other gets a 9.2, I'm surprised people aren't more bothered by this.

Posted by Excast

I personally don't care much either way, but the game developers shouldn't complain about low sales when the vast majority of games are apparently designed and marketed to teenage boys.
 
The average age for a gamer is now 30.  There is a huge market of adults and women out there waiting to be introduced to games.  If the game industry wants to grow and evolve than their outlook needs to as well.  Tone down the cartoonishly inflated breasts.  Make an MMO where the female characters actually wear practical armor instead of stripper costumes.  Have a female heroine or two that actually looks, thinks, and behaves like a woman instead of a coquettish sex slave. 
 
I know it sounds scary, but just make the smallest of attempts to evolve.

Edited by chaosnovaxz

@NopeYouAreRetarded:

I think that's a bit much, but I get where you're coming from.

After all, if it is indeed so sexist (my girlfriend doesn't give a shit about the existence of booth babes, so I have no opposite "thins is what women really think!" perspective to go on), why do so many women line up for the job? It's not like there aren't any other jobs out there.

Note: I'm not writing it off as inoffensive to women just because women partake in it.

Posted by Vinny_Says

@TyCobb said:

That was a really badly chosen picture of the booth whores. They look utterly scary and look like the ones that work the street downtown.

That's harsh....

Saying that an industry is "growing" and "maturing" doesn't really make a difference when it comes to "booth babes". Just go to an F1 race or an auto show and you'll see the exact same thing; cars didn't come out in 1979 either. Yes it's an archaic marketing ploy that objectifies women, but they wouldn't employ it if it didn't work....

Edited by bunnymud

@smcn said:

2012 rolls on as the most embarrassing year for people who like video games and aren't manchildren.

2012 rolls on as the most embarrassing year for people who like video games and aren't hyper PC .

fixt...And how was 2011 different?

Posted by buft

Ignore it and it goes away, thats my advice to booth babes, keep living the dream ladies!

Posted by bko

Also, let's not hold up DickwolvesCon as a paragon for mature attitudes toward women in conventions, okay?

Posted by TehJedicake

I guess I'm the only one who couldn't care less. Maybe my apathy is getting really bad.

Posted by iAmJohn

@NopeYouAreRetarded said:

Are you kidding me? If you're seriously offended by the existence of people more attractive than you, you are utterly retarded. How is this drivel allowed on this website? I've heard this was high-quality news, if they're allowing someone who complains that people sell things with sex, and that having women be attractive is sexist, I'm removing it from my RSS reader.

What a joke you are.

You missed the entire point of the article - that the problem isn't using sex to sell something so much as relying on using cheap "sex sells" tricks at what is ostensibly an event for press to view the games and retail to discuss sales with publishers where it interferes with the point of the show - and yet you're calling Patrick a retard. The irony is not lost on me!

Edited by heatDrive88

@Evercaptor said:

At least it generates jobs for those models/ladies that get the gigs and hopefully with the heightened attention to credentials, it's a nicer environment for them to be working in.

Yes, because if anything, we must think about the women who are simply not capable of getting real jobs. E3 and convention expos - we're all about giving today's beautiful woman jobs, and keeping them off the pole from dancing at strip clubs.

Seriously, think a little harder before making your awful reductionary comments.

Posted by bunnymud

Your 2013 booth babe

Posted by YukoAsho

Hey guys! Remember after E3 2006, when the industry decided it would be better to make a smaller, more business oriented show? Remember how journalists just loved it and no one complained about how soulless it had become?

Yeah. The people at fault are the god damned journalists who protested the loss of their precious fucking spectacle.

Posted by superscott597

I agree. E3's focus has been all over the place, and somehow the people that really care are being left by the wayside in order for companies to sell to a completely different audience than the one that made gaming popular in the first place.

Posted by Dagbiker

I wasnt offended by the "rape" scene in Tomb Raider, mostly because I haven't played it. But the immaturity of that Asus tweet, and E3 in general is kinda embarrassing.

Online
Posted by TyCobb

@Rawson said:

@TyCobb said:

@Rawson said:

Patrick, one of the first parties needed to make E3 "grow up" are game journalists themselves.

.....

Also, the glad handing. Yes, you touch on the DMC stripper, but there's also the issue of backstage demos giving out things like food and beer. That's a bribe, plain and simple, and violates basic journalistic ethics.

It's called perks. Grow up. Just because stuff like that goes on it does not mean it interferes with a journalists integrity. Especially at conventions like these. It's a different story if the company does all this and then tells you to write a review before you leave. Watch some of the quick looks or Jeff's Jar videos -- he sometimes mentions that he goes out of his way to purchase a game for this exact reason.

No other (respectable) journalist is allowed to do so. From the Society of Professional Journalists:

"— Refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment, and shun secondary employment, political involvement, public office and service in community organizations if they compromise journalistic integrity."

Claiming that you're magically incapable of being corrupted is foolish, and ignores basic human nature. Any nice favor like that will color one's reactions.

.......

Don't be sad because you didn't get to hang out with all the girls at E3 because you are too proud. This is a video game site ran by Average Joes which is pretty much EVERY video game site. E3 is a convention for crying out loud. It's there to have fun and see games. Even with all the perks that go on, this site is pretty damn good by keeping things unbiased. Perhaps you don't know the history of Jeff and Gamespot. If that's not proof enough I don't know what is.

Posted by Paul_Str337

It's interesting to me that the topic of sexism has become such a focus recently, both in the content of the games and in their marketing. That some people are missing the point entirely and attacking the people that point out the sexism is even more interesting. It seems the insular mostly male dominated industry that could previously get away with being as blatantly sexist as ever is having a big spotlight shined on it and people are uncomfortable with the results. I'm with Patrick though, the fact that conversations about sexism in games is being had at all is a step forwards.

Posted by Red12b
@bko
Haha, nice