"Wouldn't with yours, mate"

Why asking readers to score E3 booth babes is a disservice to the industry

Another day, another Twitter outrage, this time as Future news site CVG posts a gallery of E3 booth babes and invites readers to "get their scorecards out." Bored of reading actual facts about the biggest games event of the year? Why not stop by and post a mean comment about a girl you've never met?

I've worked in games for seven years, and there have only been a handful of times I've ever felt like I've been looked down on because I'm female. And even then, like when a big name developer thought perhaps a girl might not be qualified to see their action adventure game, my employers at the time (Future, coincidentally) came out in my defence. It's an industry with amazing people, male and female, and one that, for all its nuns in fetish gear, is pretty equal opportunities behind the scenes.

"If your readers want to look at nicely distributed flesh they've got Nuts, Zoo or every possible inch of skin in glorious HD video just a click away"

And that's exactly why things like CVG's recent booth babes gallery and its grimy intro is so disappointing. Because the industry isn't like that and CVG is doing it a disservice to present it that way, nevermind a disservice to its readers by telling them that it's an acceptable way to discuss women. The CVG writers wouldn't walk up to a girl at E3 and shout 'would,' (and I know some of the writers, they're better than that) so why let your readers think it's OK to do it in the comments box?

If your readers want to look at nicely distributed flesh they've got Nuts and Zoo. Hell, it's the internet, they've got every possible inch of skin in glorious HD video just a click away. They're not coming to you because they want to see girls scored, they're only looking at it because, even with everything that happened at E3 and the great work your writers are doing in LA, you've decided that some breasts deserve a prime spot on your front page.

Yes, the women are paid to be there, and yes you're encouraged to photograph them by publishers hungry for exposure, but that doesn't mean you have to post the photos with the words "not with yours, mate." It's not just about principles or sexism or big Guardian style debates, it's about manners, and letting your female readers (or what's left of them after this) know that you like having them around, and you're not going to score their arses while they're trying to tell you what they think of Beyond.

And yes, it gets hits. Do you know what else gets hits? Porn. Kittens. GIFs of people falling over. The Daily freakin' Mail. The trick is deciding which of those things you think are worthwhile. The entire advertising budget for a games news site doesn't hang on one photo gallery, but its reputation just might.

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Latest comments (62)

Why not rate he people serving the industry, the executives are no worth the effort!
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Matthew Hill Head of Recruitment, Specialmove6 years ago
How utterly depressing :-(

If only a F2P company had an E3 booth packed with cute kittens - maybe that would get more hits...
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Tom Clarke Senior Content Director [EN], Softonic6 years ago
Completely agree: it was silly, rude and lazy.

But don't worry about causing a big Guardian-style debate... that drives traffic too! ;-)
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Show all comments (62)
Is there not more worthy news articles and debate to trudge up instead of old chestnuts to stir the fire? cmon lets talk good game design. outrageous DLCs. how games like Lolipop chainsaw even exist and potentially sell. Do people still enjoy point and click adventures. Can you really make a game that is free to play, with no paid DLC, and survive purely on the milk of human kindness, who may volutarily pay for what its worth.

There are many many worthy topics to discuss.
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Dan Pearson Business Development, Purewal Consulting6 years ago
Chee, this is clearly a subject worthy of discussion. We're alienating a huge portion of our potential audience, not to mention so much female talent.

It's not going away on its own.
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Bernard Parker Studying game design, Full Sail University6 years ago
This is like cracking down on the nickle bag hustlers and ignoring the cartel! Jump down on publishers for putting the girls out there in the fist place and your problem is solved.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bernard Parker on 7th June 2012 5:32pm

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Kaye L Elling Studying Lecturer in Computer Games, University of Bradford6 years ago
The reason why this debate hasn't gone away after so many years is that the issue hasn't gone away. I was at E3 2006 as a developer, which was the "E3 without booth babes" (allegedly) and felt fairly uncomfortable as a woman in that space. In my 13 years as a game developer, it was the only time I felt that as a woman in the games industry, I wasn't there on the same terms as the men.

It's not the reason I left game development, but this kind of thing really doesn't help anybody.
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It's worth discussing because it makes us all look pathetic. Maybe if games were as diverse and nuanced as film, then the sleazy end of the market could be culturally separated from the rest, just as the grotty skinflicks can rub shoulders with the arthouse at Cannes yet nobody assumes the new Haneke film is about bimbos being mauled to death by mutant sharks.

As it is, the notion that we're all ultimately just here to service the needs of masturbatory boys is pervasive and embarassing. Dismissive and defeatist attitudes to the problem - and it is a problem - are as unhealthy as the neanderthal attitudes being pandered to in the first place.
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Thomas Eidson Senior System Designer, Heatwave Interactive, Inc.6 years ago
Marketing for video game companies depends on their target audience for hardcore video games. Historically, men make up the largest percentage of sales for those games. If that were to shift dramatically, then attitudes might change.

I have no idea what the booth babe breakdown is of extreme violence and graphic content versus games that are not "hardcore". I would posit that the percentage is much lower than hardcore games (in the US - have to say that, because...hey...the Japanese game market is crazy).
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Feargus Carroll Producer 6 years ago
What Rachel said.

How about, and here's a batshit crazy idea, we raise the audience to our level, rather than stooping down to the gutter? If our audience wants to leer, fine, let them fill their boots. But we don't need to supply the material.

And Dr Chee - you're a misogynistic idiot.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Feargus Carroll on 7th June 2012 5:53pm

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Mike Wells Writer 6 years ago
If you build it ... they will come (pun intended). I don't see how what CVG has done can be a "disservice to the industry" when it is that same industry that has paid those women to dress like that - that same industry that knows 'sex sells' and uses this to its advantage whenever it thinks it can get away with it. Some women (and indeed some men) will find the CVG gallery objectionable - perfectly understandable - and some will not. But that isn't the root of the problem and blaming CVG isn't going to solve it.
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Taylan Kay Game Designer / Programmer / Marketer 6 years ago
As a man, I have an issue with the comments that say "oh well, the market is dominantly male, that's why". Such cheap tactics alienate me more and more each time. I'm tired of my manhood being insulted again and again, like I'm a mindless caveman-boob-zombie or something. There is more to me as a member of the male audience than my sex drive.

I would also remind everyone that the relationship between marketing and audience is not one-directional. Just as audience influences the message, the message shapes the audience as well. It is essentially a feedback loop that will not be broken until somebody realizes that the greater video game market is not solely comprised of teenage boys.

This marketing problem is not unique to video games. There are many examples where false assumptions of industry incumbents are proven wrong by upstarts, often through great success stories that push the boundaries of their respective markets to new frontiers. Doesn't seem to have happened with hardcore AAA yet but I'm hopeful.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Taylan Kay on 7th June 2012 6:04pm

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Booth babes come and go with the financial temperature of the industry. When the industry is doing well, you see more booth babes. When the industry's doing poorly, there's no money for booth babes.

Personally, I see this as a bit of harmless idiocy. No game publisher has ever sold an extra copy of anything by having a booth babe, yet the heads of the publishers secretly think they're hot, and thus want a few at the booth. And yes, in this as well as any other industry, there will be males who act like misogynist 14 year olds in their presence and online.

If it makes you feel any better, this idiocy is self correcting. Using sex to sell games CAN work, but it can also easily have exactly the opposite effect -- knock you out of your T rating, and make sure that no women buy your game.
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Thomas Eidson Senior System Designer, Heatwave Interactive, Inc.6 years ago
@Mike: My issue is asking "what is the root of the problem?" Cheerleaders at football games? Women who compete in the marketplace for such a highly sought after job? Sites that have reviews of those cheerleaders and how pretty they are?

It's human nature to judge others. It's human nature to gravitate towards attractive people (instinctive in babies, who trust attractive people and cry loudly if someone ugly enters their field of view).

I haven't even been to CVG nor read the comments, but I bet that any trolling and hateful comments are directly linked to the seemingly anonymity of the internet. It's more of an argument for internet driving licenses (wish we had those...). The internet has very little accountability for participation.

If the post of pictures and reviews were respectful, polite, and constructive, would we be having this discussion?
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"does drive traffic abit"
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Reza Ghavami Marketing Analyst, NVIDIA6 years ago
I love that photo of the boy glaring at the woman in the foreground. Hilarious! Where was that taken?
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Alison Cressey consultant 6 years ago
I am delighted that this has brought about debate about women and the games industry . As an advisor to Women in Games Jobs - a network that supports women in the games industry , it is once again disappointing to see the industry view of women. However good to see many comments and views being raised .

Maybe next time we get booth boys ........ and see how the boys like being marked out of 10 .....

Come on people this is 2012 !
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Jane Ng Sr Artist, Double Fine Productions6 years ago
I actually have no problems with booth babes who are let's say, cosplaying relevant character for a game or what not. At least there is legitimate PR value in having a character in a well crafted costume. As a female game developer, I do appreciate seeing the art of various cosplayers in a well presented gallery. Having random sales people dressed in bikinis and what not just...well, let's say, severely limit your demographics in an age where it seems pretty evident that broadening your audience is the key to actual growth in sales.

Presentation is the key too, setting any women up to be voted on in a cheap porny way is just stupid and juvenile. I'd think if someone is looking to see some real ass they'd just go see some actual porn. I for one would probably not continue to visit gaming sites that obviously pretends I do not exist as a consumer.

Also, i find it ridiculous that Chee complains about how this topic is not "worthy". Well guess what it is pretty present topic for women in the industry and some of us like talking about it because we exist.
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Steve Peterson Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
I use the presence of booth babes as an indicator of the quality of the products in the booth. If a company is depending on scantily clad salespeople, it seems like they either aren't confident in the quality of their software or their executive team is not something to be proud of. Some cosplay can be good advertising for an IP; using girls in spandex to get attention is sophomoric at best. CVG is projecting a pretty bad image for their site with this article.
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Tasteful cosplay relevant to a products IP (men and women) makes for an ideal solution for booth people . If people have a issue with CVG it is only proper and polite to make a direct complaint there
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Thomas Eidson Senior System Designer, Heatwave Interactive, Inc.6 years ago
@Steve: Marketing is not determined by the programmers, designers, and artists that develop the game. The quality of the game is detached from those who market the game in large companies, typically.

The best indicator of the quality of a game is research into the game itself. I rarely dismiss a book, based on its cover.

Marketing with attractive people (women and men) is very common across the board on a huge percentage of products (not just games). I find Levis jeans a very good product, even though they use models to advertise their product. I believe marketing in video game companies find it natural to want to follow this trend.

Having someone attractive in front of a product probably has a lot of research and reports into its effectiveness, as well.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
@Barrie Tingle Just letting sexism happen hasn't exactly worked so far. That it's the status quo isn't exactly a good point in its defence when it's harming, alienating and degrading billions of women worldwide.

Why not get rid of endemic sexism and let women buy and play the games without the constant "I like it and I am a privileged objectifying scumwad who doesn't want it to change in case I have to feel bad for treating women like subhumans my entire life."

Now quick, tell me it's just words and I should get a sense of humour, then make a disparaging comment about feminists.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 7th June 2012 7:29pm

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Sebastian Moss Editor -in- Chief, PlayStation LifeStyle6 years ago
Yeah it's very sad. What's worse tho is that reputations aren't ruined by this, people just complain and then continue to visit.
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Feargus Carroll Producer 6 years ago
@ Dr Chee

Incredible. That's twice you've posted utter nonsense. First you patronise every single woman in the industry by saying 'Come along now, don't be silly, can't you find something important to talk about?' - you might as well have given them $50 to 'go buy a nice frock, that will make you feel better' while you were at it.

And now, if we have an issue with some aspect of our industry, we should only raise it directly with the company concerned?

So what would be debate here on DLC? Go to the publisher. Second hand sales? - go to Game website. Patronising idiots with nothing sensible to say? - Go to Dr Chee Ming Wong's Facebook page?
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DeShaun Zollicoffer Editorial Director, Geek Revolt6 years ago
While at E3 this year I ignored most of the booth babes. Actually, I don't like calling them "babes". Seems disrespectful, and maybe the industry should get some booth hunks to even things out. All of it seemed really immature, but what can you do? It's not going to stop any time soon, and even Nintendo's booth was filled with models in short skirts.
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At the last Gamescom, there was a good mix of booth folks and a nice selection of cos play eg. to promote the old republic, they had a variety of folks in various star wars outfits to fit the theme well. For Mass Effect, they had a germanic Male sheppard. For other booths, they err had various models dressed in a variety of garments. :)

So perhaps it varies from trade event to event. Short of tackling objectification across the various industry en masse, this I suspect will be a ongoing issue for various trade events
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Bret Mogilefsky Director, Developer Services and Support Group, Sony Computer Entertainment America6 years ago
I really love the idea of an E3 where all booth babes are replaced with booth kittens, including tiny game-themed costumes.
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Pier Castonguay Programmer 6 years ago
Booth babes and female working in the industry are two completely separate things and I don't understand comments here mixing them up. I for one am still a man in the twenties and I love the babes. Hey, they signed up knowing they were there to be models, they know what to expect. There are female models presenting stuff in every domains out there, it's simply human nature.

Edited 2 times. Last edit by Pier Castonguay on 7th June 2012 10:15pm

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David Canela Game & Audio Designer 6 years ago
that kitten-E3 would be awesome. think of all the poor puns it would probably produce. If I ever have my own game at E3 or any such event, I'm totally going to do that.
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Thomas Eidson Senior System Designer, Heatwave Interactive, Inc.6 years ago
@Pier: Actually, it goes beyond just actresses that "signed up". Those women were there to be acting and get recognition, because Hollywood is just around the corner. You never know how good networking will work for you at E3. It would be a huge coup for them, if someone wanted their agent's information for another job in the entertainment industry.
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Paige Meekison Producer, Slant Six Games6 years ago
Marketing execs or studio leads decide on who goes to E3 to represent their products and their studios. The studios and publishers need to bring their female staff as presenters and as business partners and not just stack their booths with guys presenting alongside female models. It shows a power dynamic to the industry that is not accurate and discourages women from joining because they are put off by such one-sided displays.

To address Pier's comment:
Booth babes and female working in the industry are two completely separate things and I don't understand comments here mixing them up.
E3 might be for marketing products, but it also is a major showcase of the industry to the outside world, and a place to recruit new talent. Why alienate so many by representing your products and your studios with a speaking male power-figure surrounded by non-speaking female eye-candy? Is that what potential female employees can expect from working at those places?

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Paige Meekison on 7th June 2012 11:22pm

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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
@Pier Castonguay: The question is, how comfortable do women feel working in an environment where pornography is the go-to sales technique? How comfortable do women feel playing games when every female character is depicted as though the sole function of women is to provide men with viewable tits? Why does everything in games have to be sexualized to appeal to males? Why can't porn and gaming be separate?

70% of women pretend to be men online so they can be left alone. We play games with public channels closed so we can skip over the constant misogyny and objectification - rape jokes (because "rape culture don't real"), hilarious cracks about domestic battery, "tits or GTFO." I know a lot of female gamers who quit a game in the first week because the community is so deeply unpleasant to women (and every other minority too), and even more who simply refuse to play anything multiplayer for the same reason.

Selling games by saying "Here are boobies, they are near our game" isn't doing anything to address that problem. You're basically closing out half your potential market because you can't be bothered to look at porn on your own time. And journalists saying "Here are boobies, mark them out of ten" isn't any better - it's just perpetuating a massive societal problem. "Pay no attention to the human being in the body you're grading like a piece of meat according to its appeal to your penis."

And 50% of humans are women and it's NOT our nature. You see what you did there? You just subconsciously assumed that women aren't part of humanity. Women don't count.

I disagree with the article's author that it's not in our industry, it's everywhere and just because a straight, white cis-gendered male doesn't think it's a problem, doesn't mean it's not a problem. It just means it's not a problem for him. (Referring there to the men who commonly gaslight women's reactions to these problems, not the author, there.)

Edited 4 times. Last edit by Bonnie Patterson on 7th June 2012 11:33pm

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Jamie Knight International Editor in Chief, Playnation6 years ago
I whole heartedly agree!

Now, enough of the gossip people pass me a kleenex and furnish me with a link

( I thank you )
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Liam Farrell6 years ago
Thank you for reminding me why I haven't read CVG in over a decade and never will.
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
This is the best publicity CVG have had for years. The more people spout their political correctness the more traffic CVG will get. This is just like Molyneux announcing a £50K IAP. Be outrageous and get noticed. Social media makes this even more effective.

Then there is the obvious truth that CVG were only reporting events. The booth babes were there. Admittedly the reporting was a bit tacky, but CVG must know their demographic and it isn't 50 year old spinster Guardian readers.

The real criticism must be for the companies that had the booth babes. But the girls were there for a reason and that reason is that sex sells. It always has done and it always will do, just open any magazine or newspaper. Or even go to the Daily Mail website:

Also I think there is a big cultural difference between America and the UK when it comes to political correctness. Basically they don't really do it in the Guardian manner and we do far too much of it. So there is a big difference in the whole attitude towards booth babes.

At Codemasters we once staffed our E3 booth with Hooters girls. Tastefully. This worked very well but it was before the explosion in social media gave the man in the street the platform to be conspicuously morally outraged.

And finally there are the girls. They are perfectly happy to strut their stuff for money. When we all know that they would be better spending their time working as neurosurgeons or astrophysicists. But the choice is theirs. Ultimately it is they who are letting down their feminist sisters.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Bruce Everiss on 8th June 2012 9:21am

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Dave Herod Senior Programmer, Codemasters6 years ago
It all seems a bit "prisoner's dilemma" to me. If no one used booth babes, the industry would arguably be better off in some sense. But for any one company, they might think they don't want to use booth babes but if they don't, they're somehow losing out to other companies that they know will, so they don't see any other option but to use them. If anyone could solve this, it would have to be the event organisers to establish a stricter dress code. Don't blame the women, they're doing it because they get paid which is a lot more immediate benefit to them than long term respect for women as a whole. Don't blame the companies that use them, because they know if they don't, while everyone else is doing it, they lose out. CVG know who their audience currently is, and what that audience likes, so they pander to it. No individual company can solve the problem by itself, as long as they're watching their competitors, it has to be all done in one go, and the only way I can see that is if E3's organisers put down some firm rules. But presumably they won't, because they make money out of it too.
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@ Bruce - did you mean a cultural difference between US and Europe/ UK perhaps mate?
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
@Dr. Chee Ming Wong

Thanks for that. Fixed now.
I blame creeping senility. :-)
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@ Bruce - well heres hoping we all live long enough where everything is all one, connected, online with free energy to boot one day! :)
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Anthony Gowland Director, Ant Workshop6 years ago
At Codemasters we once staffed our E3 booth with Hooters girls. Tastefully.
The problem summed up in one oxymoron. The middle aged men who fill out management positions in the industry don't see it.
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Greg Wilcox Creator, Destroy All Fanboys! 6 years ago
A few things:

Why not solicit (no pun intended) an article from a woman that's been or currently has been a "booth babe" just to have perspective on a few things. You can't claim to speak for someone who actually has a voice, and if you're of the mind that ALL these ladies are stupid, have been coerced into the gig or whatever else would be considered stereotyping under certain other circumstances, you may just have your mind expanded a tiny bit.

I tend to ignore these gals, but if i get a wave and a smile, i wave and smile back. If I get handed a freebie, I take it. I'm at a press event to see GAMES, so anything or anyone keeping me from a controller gets a cursory glance at best (unless I'm smiling. waving back or taking a freebie).

I do recall at least ONE half-dressed Conan at a press event, but then again, he did have something like two equally half-dressed ladies around him. Ah well.

Oh, last time I checked, E3 wasn't CES' Adult Entertainment section, so I think tossing around words such as "pornography" is a bit... weird. Then again, I'm old, so perhaps I've learned to respect women too much to drop off into Fantasyland when I happen to see some at a games show.
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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games6 years ago
Bonnie and Paige have expressed this much better than I ever could. Having female-only eye candy (except for Conan!), while the consumers, journalists and developers are predominantly male says: this is a boys club. This is what women at E3 do, and this is what men at E3 do.

Personally, I would like to see staff manning booths with product knowledge and passion. I'd like to see the money spent on Hooters girls spent instead on actual themed costuming (like Conan!), or developers bringing over more of their own staff to represent their products and their company, to mingle and promote their work among industry and consumers, as opposed to lazily and unimaginatively opting for the standard fleet of models in hot pants and "Video Game 2" t-shirts.

So which developers and publishers are brave enough to surprise us all and break away from the trend?
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Emily

Perhaps Meagan Marie (who is, according to her Tumblr, "acting Community & Communication Manager for Crystal Dynamics") would be the one to contact in the first instance? Given her Tumblr is a mixture of talk about video-games, and photos of her cosplaying, I'm sure she'd have some excellent input on this subject. :)
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
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James Butterworth SuperGeek - IT Hardware & Software 6 years ago
I am against sexism in any way, whether in sport, games, employment, anything. Women are equal to men in my eyes, I respect them as human beings, which at the end of the day we all are. I've been to Japanese touring car events where my girlfriend is a race queen (pit girl), and all the kotaku (fans) are all so humane and sensitive to the girls, who are there professionally to liven up the event and advertise.

I've played against ladies in football and rugby having grown up with mixed sex teams in school, and find they're just as good if not better than my own sex. But you never see them in the Premiership, because from gossip I've heard many times, apparently "girls can't play football". So, sooo wrong!

It's about time objectivism of women was stopped everywhere, and they start being respected, rather than making them out to be pieces of meat.

Girls play sport, they fly and drive big machinery, they play video games, they run businesses, just like guys do, and we all do a damn good job together. If everyone thought like me maybe the world may be a much better place for all of us.

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Emily Knox Associate Designer, CCP Games6 years ago
I've got my fingers crossed Andreas! :)

@Morville I was thinking about her, too. She's engaging with the community, and embracing the brand (come to think of it I'm pretty sure her Crystal Dynamics' newsletters are the only ones I read). I'm also fond of Alison Carroll as Lara Croft, it was so refreshing to see a real-life representation you could believe in. I also liked Ami Nakajima as a Feisar pilot, who you may have seen at the PS Vita launch - again - great cosplay and fan interaction, two things that I believe would go down well with all E3 attendees (and it would be nice to see some men doing it, too!)
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Robert Swan Designer/Artist/Producer, Double Ace Game Studios6 years ago
I'm not going to pretend be some white knight here - simple fact is, I like to look at attractive women. I'm not deliberately attempting to be provocative or misogynistic with that comment, I'm a guy, it's in my genetics to be drawn towards members of the opposite gender. (Obviously not speaking for everyone, that's just my orientation.)

But the simplest question remains: in terms of trade shows in our (or ANY) industry, why not let your products do the talking? If your stuff is good enough to draw attention, it'll do the job just fine on its own. If you feel the need to pull the crowds in with scantily-clads of either sex, you're obviously not cutting the mustard (either that, or your marketing guy really is a bit of a sexist twat).

In our line of work in particular, it's no wonder that the stereotype of all gamers being 14-year-old boys still persists (but then again, given the substantial number of crap games being churned out, some publishers will continue to scrape the barrel to get peoples' attention). Oh, and if anyone is interested in hiring me as a 'booth babe' at future events, my fee is a bottle of Jack and a box of ham and pickle Brannigans.
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Emma-Jane Corsan Games Journalist/Web Series Producer 6 years ago
Well said, Rachel!
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@Kaye - agree with you, the 'lads' attitude has shaped the consumer games trade, and excluded women and minorities in equal amounts. More women and minorities play the games than work in executive positions. And as the closures and redundancies start to bite, the 'lads' are circling their wagons!
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
@Bruce Everiss - The objection, at least on my part, is not that CVG has pictures of "booth babes" (It gets a contemptuous eyeroll, sure, but that's not what sent me to "battle stations".).

It was this line, which has since been removed from the piece: "Get your pencils out and get ready to rate them."

(For those who don't see it straight away, pencil is slang for penis and "rate" sounds a bit like "rape.")

I do not argue that sexualization sells products... to men. But it tends to turn women away in droves and these days, men are not the only available audience for games. The only reason more women aren't playing certain kinds of games is because they're shut out, both by the community and the marketing of the product.

With regard to the community, the moment anything sexual is mentioned in an open channel, you have at most 15 minutes before the fusillade of rape jokes and approbations of violence against women. While I'm sure every single person making these comments thinks they're joking, firstly, such jokes just aren't funny to anyone who has been through such things; secondly, the way those jokers turn on anyone who expresses hurt at such jokes suggests that no, they aren't joking and thirdly, studies have shown that communities that make such jokes nurture members who do such things (check out the works of David Lisak, Susan Roth, Emilie Buchwald, AA Boswell and many others if you want to know more), which is very frightening.

And what does the industry offer to palliate this? Harassment policies that aren't enforced, sexualized female character models with no option to get a breast reduction and put on a coat, and booth babes. It's not a good set of signals to send, be it to potential female players or potential female employees.

By constantly presenting women in a context of nothing more than how appealing they are to the male organs, a disregard is created for their needs and feelings, especially as it doesn't help someone to fantasize over a woman if he has to consider that her needs might not actually involve being fapped over by a teenage boy. And then, having just spent all that effort ignoring the human persona of one woman, they just don't bother switching on again when they run into other women, ones that aren't being paid to pretend to like it.

You can take that dehumanization even further if you reduce her from a mindless body to a number. "She's an HB 8 - complete bone-worthy."

That's why the article is worse than the usual examples of this kind of tosh. "Get your pencils out and get ready to 'rate' them."

As to the practice of booth babery itself, maybe sex sells. But it's not sex if it's only sex for men. Men aren't the only audience for video games any more; if your player base is primarily male, it is because you make it that way.

A game is supposed to be an escape, a fantasy. My fantasies don't have anything to do with staring at a bikini-clad woman in a games convention; it doesn't make me want to buy your product, it doesn't make me feel like a valued customer. It makes me feel, at best, like I will be used by the company: They will take my money and then shout "Hey look, a woman is playing our game! Play it and you might get to shag her." And that's exactly how the most annoyingly vocal online gamers act, as if you'd said that.

And I very much doubt that every one of those "babes" is an exhibitionist that finds it sexual either.

Sex takes two: if it's only sexual for one party, there are words for that. Some of the kinder ones are "exploitation" and "objectification."

If it's really just about driving press traffic and getting publicity for your booth, why not staff it with a man in assless chaps? It's not that women want to see men being equally sexualized; that's why there isn't a website called Our sexualities, by and large, don't operate that way. It's just that there would be a huge furore - it would be different to everyone else, gay male gamers would feel they were finally being embraced as demographic, homophobes and the religious would make a huge amount of noise and you'd get far more press than for boobies.

If it's just about press, that's the way to go, but let's face it, no-one goes that way because every games company has an employee who has worked out that you're giving him a budget and paying him to stand around with nearly-naked chicks!
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Feargus Carroll Producer 6 years ago
The forum here seems to have migrated somewhat from what I perceived the article to be about, to the issue of booth babes in general. Many industries use attractive hired models to promote their products. That is not just an E3 thing.

However, the author's initial point was a games review website turning this practice into some form of online 'Marks out of 10' competition for said models. Essentially objectifying them. *That* is cheap, puerile, nothing to do with reviewing games or commentating on the industry and wholly unnecessary.
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Bonnie Patterson Narrative Designer, Writer 6 years ago
@Bruce Everiss - Regarding Feminist Frequency, I bet every woman who has posted on this thread could show you an inbox with more of the same, plus a number of free penis pictures and a lot of "I am going to find your real address and rape you."

Take a look here as well: It's a wry look at a collection of messages received by Xbox gamers with female names, avatars or voices.

Here's the video from's PAX Prime panel. The comments section is... well, you'll see what I mean. is another brilliant one. Here's a link to the BBC's interview with Jenny:
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^This :D
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Bruce Everiss Marketing Consultant 6 years ago
@Andrew Ihegbu

Very nicely done.
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Robin Clarke Producer, AppyNation Ltd6 years ago
@Andrew Ihegbu

Wow, you're really making the "but men are objectified too!" argument?

That's not how it works. If the 'objectification' was causing men to be further discouraged from science and engineering careers where they were already face a disadvantage, you might have a point.

But hey, at least your anecdotal evidence proves that sexism and verbal abuse aren't a problem for anyone online!
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
@ Andrew Ihegbu

Over and above everything else you've said (arguments against some of which have already been pre-emptively made), this needs a response:
I've been playing online games for 4 years and have heard a rape joke once, about 15 seconds before the guy was verbally attacked by everyone in fleet (Eve:Online). It may be different for XBL, I don't really play with randoms.

Bonnie already linked to it, but apparently you didn't look at it.

Go there. Read it. Burn this site into your mind. This is the attitude that women (on XBL, which is second only to the PC online community in terms of size if you exclude MMORPGs) are treated to.

The fact that you judge the online community's attiutude to gender equality on your experience of one game (which also happens to be one of the most serious online games out there), doesn't mean that sexism doesn't exist.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 11th June 2012 2:01pm

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Jeremy Meyer VIP Services Host 6 years ago
I am guilty myself of writing about the booth babes at E3 but my column/story was more about the girls speaking about the experience of working the show. I got a lot of good responses from it and hope the community will enjoy it as well.
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The amount of 'oh that's just how it is, jeez ladies stop complaining' going on in this comments thread is giving me a headache. Every woman commenting here has said that this sort of thing is a problem, it makes us uncomfortable and alienated by our own industry. Maybe the guys handwaving should actually listen?

I'm surprised some women find it uncomfortable or feel that they aren't there on the same level as men as that seems to indicate that they think men can't differenciate between a booth babe (promotional model) and a developer or a journalist.

In my experience, a scary amount of men really don't differentiate between women at all. I had my photo posted on my company's recruitment page recently and it garnered a variety of really great comments rating my attractiveness. Because at the end of the day, my worth is down to how much any given gamer wants to fuck me rather than the quality of my work, right?

Anyone who says this sort of thing isn't an issue should get their head out of the sand and actually pay some attention.
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I'm not stupid enough to judge all men by the vocal minority. I know there are plenty of guys out there who would never make such sexist and offensive comments and there were some of them in those comments calling out the idiots. That's great. I wish they didn't have anyone to call out, though.

There are shitty people in the world, men and women, and that sucks, but what sucks even more is when shitty behaviour is normalised and encouraged by objectivising marketing and journalism. So, if 'there's nothing wrong with booth babes or guys' was your point then I'm going to disagree with you right there. 'Booth babes' as opposed to professional cosplayers or mascots are a problem, they turn lots of people off the games they're supposed to be promoting and continue to reinforce both the sexist views of women as eyecandy for men, and also the 'gamers are all horny teenage boys' stereotype that our industry still struggles with in the mainstream.

The reason 'booth guys' are so very rare(I can't think of a single game that didn't already feature largely-naked men that was marketed with booth guys, but please prove me wrong!) and rarely criticised in the same way is because there is no pervasive, subconscious view in society of men as sex objects as there is with women. That's the problem, because that's exactly what the use of booth babes reinforces.
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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
Perfect Male Stereotype does not equal sexism. I'm sorry, but just because women find a certain body-type attractive, does not mean that men are objectified as sex-objects.
Booth babes aren't harming anyone and even if they are reinforcing a stereotype it's a stereotypes that society already has and will continue to have
Again, I would say you're confusing stereotype with something else. There's the stereotype that blonde women are dumb, but, seperate and concurrent to that, there's the objectification of Marilyn Monroe as a sex-symbol. Do you see how these two things differ? As you say yourself
Men don't like hot girls because of booth babes, they like booth babes because they're hot girls.
Hot girls are objectified, ergo, women are objectified as sex-objects, and it's fairly obvious that society and the games-industry objectifies women more than men.
Advertisers use attractive people to promote their products as well as star in the movies, TV, music etc etc.
But we're not debating the use of attractive people, it's the use of attractive people who do nothing to add to the franchise. Cos-players would be fine; they add to the franchise; they add to the character. But having models simply stand there and entice people with their cleavage? That seems... pointless.


Surely, when a woman in the industry turns around and says she feels uncomfortable with how her gender is portrayed, people should ask her why, and what can be done to make it more equal? Rather than simply stamping their feet and saying she's being too sensitive, and there's no problem here for us guys. She, after all, is in more of a position to commentate on how she feels her gender is represented than any of the men here.

Edited 3 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th June 2012 6:43pm

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Morville O'Driscoll Blogger & Critic 6 years ago
I didn't say women prefering the perfect male stereotype was sexist. I said that it's a sign that there's "pervasive subconscious view in society of men as sex objects" i.e. to attract a partner you have to live up to this physical standard rather than be judged based on other qualities.
I... Really don't see this. I can see that people of both genders like attractiveness, but I've never seen a "pervasive subconscious view in society of men as sex objects", due to the stereotyped image. I view it more as a Darwinian trait: That women find muscular men subconsciously more appropriate for offspring. But that's different to being seen as a sex-object, even subconsciously, what with sex and childbirth being related, but different.

Also, it's fairly obvious that it's not true, I would say. The number of relationships - and one-night-stands - that I've seen don't bare out your theory. Though, as I'm wont to point out, anecdotal evidence is no evidence at all, so... :)
But I later went on to say that argument is irrelevent anyway because a booth babe isn't there because she's a sex object, she's there because she's an attractive promotional model.
So, why do publishers just have models, and not cosplayers? If attractiveness is the only requirement, they could go to anime, comics and video-games cons and hire some breathtaking cosplayers (both in terms of design of their costumes, and attractiveness). Why stop short? If it related to games, then hiring cosplayers would make perfect sense. But it doesn't relate entirely to gaming; it plays on the objectification of women. Or maybe it's just gross stupidity and laziness?

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Morville O'Driscoll on 12th June 2012 7:41pm

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As I said the battle for equality was won


Also I'm having trouble figuring out what most of the rest of that comment actually meant, so I'll just reiterate that anyone who thinks sexism is over is dead wrong.

Edited 1 times. Last edit by Jessica Hyland on 12th June 2012 9:08pm

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