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Booth Me Baby One More Time
June 15, 2011 5:46 AM   Subscribe

With E3 2011 over and some majestically creepy 'booth babe' galleries cropping up, you'd be forgiven for wondering whether the 2006 ban ever happened. Never a site to shy from cheap titillation, RockPaperShotgun gives us Booth Babe Babes Bonanza. In a similar vein, Comic Con Pervs has its zoom lenses at the ready for San Diego Comic Con this year. NSFW scantily-clad ladies in first links, also a few incidentally featured in latter ones
posted by emmtee (266 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
There's always AdultCon. NSFW.
posted by bwg at 5:58 AM on June 15, 2011


I came in to loudly proclaim my sadness that RPS would go down the cheap pics route, even if it was meant to be ironic, and debated not looking at the link because I don't need that crap up at work.

I'm very glad I decided to click on it. Good on you, RPS!
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:59 AM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Oh man, you beat me by about ten minutes with the big lens action... (but nice added context)

In the myriad galleries of scanty clad cos-players that always come out after comic-con I love spotting the pervy geeks inadvertently caught-out gawping google-eyed at the edge of frame.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 6:00 AM on June 15, 2011


I'm sort of confused by the tone of this post. Are "booth babes" a bad thing? Good thing? Or are we just collectively laughing at geeky guys gawking at scantily clad girls? I've never been to a Con, so maybe I'm missing some important context, or subtext or something.
posted by Godspeed.You!Black.Emperor.Penguin at 6:07 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


You know, I see the "booth girls akimbo" photos on Facebook all the time and I never know who is having less fun in those shots. Is it the dude who knows he is fooling no one w/r/t his masculine prowess or whatnot or the girls who have to put up with being groped all day (NB: I am pretty sure it is the girls.)

It's like those shots of kids with Mickey at Disney World, except the kids in this case know damn well it isn't actually Mickey and that this is as close as they'll ever get anyway. And also Mickey really doesn't want to be there. Moreso, I guess.
posted by griphus at 6:07 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sorry, what exactly makes these creepy?

Whether you agree with the practice of using sex to sell products or not, you have women voluntarily posing in skimpy, sometimes furry-esque, outfits for pay.

Go to any Con, and you'll see much of the same (and worse) from fans not even getting paid to do it.
posted by pla at 6:08 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


ComicCon Pervs is a great idea...but there's nothing there yet.
posted by DU at 6:09 AM on June 15, 2011


Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin' explains.
posted by fatllama at 6:10 AM on June 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


Sorry, what exactly makes these creepy?

Well, for one thing, there's the yearly blog posts/articles/whatever -- getting louder and more frequent, thankfully -- of the miserable treatment of both the booth girls and the fans.
posted by griphus at 6:11 AM on June 15, 2011


Sorry, what exactly makes these creepy?

Whether you agree with the practice of using sex to sell products or not, you have women voluntarily posing in skimpy, sometimes furry-esque, outfits for pay.


Seeing women treated like objects, and frequently like trash, is what makes it creepy. The fact that money changes hands doesn't make it less creepy; the fact that people think that money changing hands makes it all OK in fact makes it much creepier.
posted by mhoye at 6:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [45 favorites]


Who would want to pose for a picture next to trash?
posted by ShutterBun at 6:17 AM on June 15, 2011


If you need someone to explain what makes the whole booth babe thing creepy, I don't even know where to start. It's just exploitative and pathetic for everyone involved and cheapens the whole industry.
posted by empath at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin' explains.

I have no idea what I'm looking at or 75% of the words she was saying (other than "sluuuuuts"), but they are hilarious.
posted by DU at 6:18 AM on June 15, 2011


What exactly makes these creepy

Well the linked text: Let's not beat around the bush; we all enjoy a good booth babe, and here are the fittest ones we could find from E3 2011. gave me food for thought.

And by "food", I actually mean "The reanimated but decaying corpse of a kind of 1930's casual sexism" and by "thought" I really mean "the feeling of a thousand centipedes crawling over my body in the dead of night."
posted by seanyboy at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


Sorry, what exactly makes these creepy?

The use of women as display mannequins, especially in a subculture (and wider culture, at that) with enormous problems treating women as more than objects to be rated and owned. Look at the language used - 'who needs the games?' and so on. The same language parodied in the RPS article. Nothing about hiring a sexy model to promote your product is inherently terrible, but taken in context it's little drops of cultural poison.
posted by emmtee at 6:21 AM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


The creepy, as mentioned in Comic Con Pervs, is guys who walk up to girls and stick their cameras under the girls' skirts for a photo and then walk away, or the guys who spend their day sitting at the foot of the escalator for endless upskirt shots. Come the fuck on, that is creepy as shit.
posted by elizardbits at 6:22 AM on June 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


I've always liked photos that catch the looker in the act of looking. This one isn't bad -- he thinks he's being all surreptitious, but the camera nails him in the act.
posted by Forktine at 6:27 AM on June 15, 2011


Let's hope none of these geeks ever go to a motorcycle show. The booth-babe culture there makes E3 look like...um...something much tamer.

Let's not shame entire cultural groups just because a handful of guys with poor social skills / manners screw up what ought to be a mutually fun vibe for all involved.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:27 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would love for more companies, like Valve and Apple have, to refuse to participate in this whole seedy subculture. Idiot Toys is almost nothing but sexy women holding various pieces of mobile technology, but somehow Apple sell millions of devices without the aid of visible underwear. And Valve manage record sales, daft sales without engaging in this stupid ritual.

emmtee tells me I will eat my words next year, when out from the Valve booth at E3 steps Booth Gabe.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 6:29 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


... the camera nails him in the act.

.... of looking at someone who showed up in a public place wearing just about 20 sq. in. more than naked? Yeah, what a perv.
posted by benito.strauss at 6:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [23 favorites]


So, I'm an adult with a video game hobby and a daughter, and at some point I'm going to have to answer for this personally. I hope that the video game industry collectively grows the hell up before then, but I doubt it.

I already have a tough enough time picking games she can watch, or that we can play together, but as selective as I am at some point I'm going to have answer questions about how I can justify a hobby that routinely treats women the way the great bulk of video game companies do, by degrading them to better cater to the most basic desires of overstimulated man-children.

I can't say I'm looking forward to it. I'm kind of hoping the industry goes the Valve route and grows the hell up by then.
posted by mhoye at 6:32 AM on June 15, 2011 [31 favorites]


Selling by using sexy, paid, models is endemic to many, many areas. It may be problematic, but I wouldn't call it "creepy" because "creepy" to me implies something out of the ordinary, and using scantily clad girls to sell is not out of the ordinary. Not remotely.

Using an extra heavy dose of sexy models to sell to a customer base stereotyped as socially and sexually awkward is evil and cynical, but we just had a marketing discussion, and that's not out of the ordinary either.

The best candidate for creepy is the way the young men react. The (deliberately engineered) reaction of socially and sexually awkward young men to this cynical manipulation is sad, maybe pitiful. If I feel more sorry for them than disgusted, does that make me on thew wrong side?
posted by tyllwin at 6:37 AM on June 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


mhoye : The fact that money changes hands doesn't make it less creepy;

The money doesn't make it okay, but the voluntary part does.

If you offer me $500 to prance through the mall in a tutu singing songs from the Mikado, and I take you up on that offer... Well, okay, that has a certain creepy edge to it, but totally unrelated to the actual act or payment, and it certainly wouldn't in any way exploit me. :)

I see this as no different, except for some reason we've decided to impose our paternalistic views of how "good" girls should make their living, on the CHOICES these women made for themselves. I personally find that far more offensive than acknowledging the simple fact that sex sells.
posted by pla at 6:38 AM on June 15, 2011 [15 favorites]


What's wrong with it, you ask? Well, as a retailer at cons and a woman, I am negatively impacted. I am not taken as seriously at my own table in front of my own books when my husband is sitting with me. The booths with the retailers with booth babes frequently ignore my interest as another woman in favor of the men. At SDCC specifically, I literally can't wear certain, perfectly normal clothes to a con for fear of upskirts or downshirts taken against my wishes. These behaviors are present because the population has been trained that woman at these events are there solely for their pleasure. And it's not particularly fun for the "babes" either. I've been in the bathroom as one of the "babes" broke down crying because she was getting upset with all the touching.

Selective advertizing with a heavy emphasis on sexual availability does not make for an healthy environment for the ones being made "available". It's crazy, I know.
posted by cheap paper at 6:42 AM on June 15, 2011 [133 favorites]


This one isn't bad -- he thinks he's being all surreptitious, but the camera nails him in the act.

She is wearing duct tape. How do you not look at someone wearing duct tape? Even if it's just "holy shit that person is wearing duct tape!" or "who are they photographing... oh er... duct tape!"
posted by vanar sena at 6:42 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


guys who walk up to girls and stick their cameras under the girls' skirts for a photo and then walk away, or the guys who spend their day sitting at the foot of the escalator for endless upskirt shots

pla, do you think the above behavior counts as "creepy"?
posted by mediareport at 6:43 AM on June 15, 2011


Even if the booth babes are there voluntarily, they are still a bad idea. They encourage booth patrons to ignore women as mere decoration.
posted by DU at 6:44 AM on June 15, 2011


pla, more importantly, will you take $250 and do "three little maids from school"?
posted by elizardbits at 6:44 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The money doesn't make it okay, but the voluntary part does.

*Sigh* no it doesn't. This is like saying that sweatshops are hunky-dory, because they aren't slavery. Just because someone fully and actively is a participant in a system of exploitation does not remove the exploitative aspects.
posted by shakespeherian at 6:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


pla, more importantly, will you take $250 and do "three little maids from school"?

I'd be more interested in his comments if he posted some pix. Shake what your momma gave ya, baby.
posted by empath at 6:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Man, those Duke Nukem Forever models are all kinds of creepy now that I've seen what happens to the characters they're dressed as.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:49 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I thought the girl-clown (clownette?) looked creepy.

I don't like clowns.

creepy bastards.
posted by Pendragon at 6:50 AM on June 15, 2011


And having said that, now I'm off to my local bridge.

--Billy Goat Gruff
posted by shakespeherian at 6:50 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Beautiful models are now being compared to sweatshop workers. Here we go.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:51 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


guys who walk up to girls and stick their cameras under the girls' skirts for a photo and then walk away, or the guys who spend their day sitting at the foot of the escalator for endless upskirt shots

Don't really see why they need booth babes around to do that stuff.
posted by smackfu at 6:52 AM on June 15, 2011


I think my main worry about this is that because these women are paid to be "brand ambassadors" or whatever, and because their job is to be friendly and get innumerable pictures taken of them and always smile, they might feel pressure to not complain when guys grope them or cross boundaries. If something does happen, they have to do a mental calculus of "Well, is this just part of the job and I need to put up with it? Is my boss going to be dismissive if I complain? Is it worth maybe losing this job or future jobs for not filling the role I apparently have been hired to fill?"

And then basically what cheap paper said above- if the attendees of these cons learn that they can cross boundaries with these women, that's not exactly going to teach them how to act appropriately with say, a female con-goer wearing a sexy costume (or just normal clothes) who isn't getting paid.
posted by MadamM at 6:52 AM on June 15, 2011 [8 favorites]


guys who walk up to girls and stick their cameras under the girls' skirts for a photo and then walk away, or the guys who spend their day sitting at the foot of the escalator for endless upskirt shots

Don't really see why they need booth babes around to do that stuff.


because if you did that at the mall you'd get beaten up and then arrested.
posted by ennui.bz at 6:53 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


There were a few "booth babes" at VM World for chrissakes. They seemed totally out of place there, though.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 6:54 AM on June 15, 2011


Selling by using sexy, paid, models is endemic to many, many areas. It may be problematic, but I wouldn't call it "creepy" because "creepy" to me implies something out of the ordinary, and using scantily clad girls to sell is not out of the ordinary. Not remotely.

You nailed it.

I personally find the whole thing creepy. That said, this isn't a shocking, surprising or terribly new thing. I'm not outraged.

And if you are outraged, your outrage should run a lot deeper than videogames and electronics shows.
posted by wrok at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


mediareport : pla, do you think the above behavior counts as "creepy"?

Depends on the situational expectations of both sides of the camera. What cheap paper said, I consider entirely unkosher... A general atmosphere of sexuality does not make it okay to engage the non-entertainment attendees, no question about it.

If, however, the "booth-babes" fully expect such behavior, again, I have no problem with it. And as far as I can tell, they dress appropriately for that expectation - I'll admit I didn't scour the links looking for the stray pube, but a quick scan of the galleries shows nothing that you couldn't see on a typical day at the beach.


shakespeherian : This is like saying that sweatshops are hunky-dory, because they aren't slavery.

Comparing a job choice in a thriving urban environment to the "choice" of working for the only employer within 100 miles, who happens to control the local police and food supply? Well, I just don't know what to say to that.
posted by pla at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


they might feel pressure to not complain when guys grope them or cross boundaries

IDK about SDCC in particular but having worked similar events in Europe in the early 00s, yes, you are most absolutely pressured to smile no matter what bullshit is thrown at you.
posted by elizardbits at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The money doesn't make it okay, but the voluntary part does.

If we lived in a world where people had a ton of other options, and could take your money or not as they saw fit I might buy that, but we don't. If you offer somebody money to treat them like a piece of meat and they take it because they don't have a lot of other options and need to make rent, that's not really "voluntary", and definitely not an exchange that makes the world a better place.

Sure, it's hard to tell. But I'd prefer to err on the side of not treating women like property.
posted by mhoye at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Ugh, that is creepy. Speaking of sexism in the gaming industry, I am reminded of how a friend of mine once told me that at his former company (which shall remain nameless), a bunch of socially awkward young (male) employees of aforesaid company were taken by their (male) supervisor to a whorehouse in Tijuana for a "morale boost." My friend seemed to find this amusing, but I was horrified...

I mean, Jesus, if one's going to pick up hookers in SoCal on the company dime, why couldn't they go to legal brothels in Nevada, where one would hope there is a better chance the girls won't be abused and will have recourse to the law? The idea of going down to Tijuana specifically for this just brings up a lot of really unpleasant issues.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2011


guys who walk up to girls and stick their cameras under the girls' skirts for a photo and then walk away, or the guys who spend their day sitting at the foot of the escalator for endless upskirt shots

Don't really see why they need booth babes around to do that stuff.

because if you did that at the mall you'd get beaten up and then arrested.


Seems like that should be happening, perhaps even more, at these events as well.
posted by ndfine at 6:56 AM on June 15, 2011


shows nothing that you couldn't see on a typical day at the beach

And yet, dudes with cameras do not behave in that same creepertastic way at a typical day at the beach. (because they would have their cameras thrown into the sea.)
posted by elizardbits at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2011


The elephant in the room: Not all geeks are heterosexual men.

As a big ole science nerd who loves SF novels and movies, comics, and video games, I would love to feel comfortable at a con. As a woman, the combination of booth babes and the general sexual harassment of women, whether working there, selling their own stuff, or just attending, makes it clear that I am not particularly welcome.
posted by hydropsyche at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2011 [48 favorites]


It is creepy because the guys aren't attractive.
posted by Ad hominem at 6:58 AM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


I am reminded of how a friend of mine once told me that at his former company (which shall remain nameless), a bunch of socially awkward young (male) employees of aforesaid company were taken by their (male) supervisor to a whorehouse in Tijuana for a "morale boost."

3d realms, right?
posted by empath at 7:00 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It is creepy because the guys aren't attractive.

From the Comic Con Pervs link:

the most blatant thing I saw were guys sitting on the floor training video cameras up the steep, steep escalator in the front, undoubtedly zooming in when a girl in a short skirt rode up. There are thousands of people shoulder to shoulder milling about that hall, so there’s plenty of time for someone to train their iphone or digital camera on your ass while you’re facing the other direction.

That's creepy, attractive guys or not.
posted by ndfine at 7:00 AM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


It is creepy because the guys aren't attractive.

ok
posted by device55 at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2011


pla, my issue with it isn't necessarily the dignity of these individual women: as you say, in an ideal situation they're there voluntarily having made an informed choice of career. It's publishers taking a subculture with a very, very visible history of objectifying women, amongst whom harrassment and mockery of women is endemic, and going out of their way to reinforce that. It may or may not be good business (as stated elsewhere, it's notable Apple and Valve don't do this) but it contributes to making those cultural and social areas it influences a slightly worse place.

tyllwin: It may be problematic, but I wouldn't call it "creepy"

Nor did I - it's socially damaging. What's creepy is the 'would, would, would' captions and general attitude from gaming 'journalists' and forum posters toward promo models that they're no more people than action figures.
posted by emmtee at 7:01 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


If anything, it's even more creepy when attractive guys do it, because they do it with an even more intense sense of entitlement.
posted by elizardbits at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


emmtee : It's publishers taking a subculture with a very, very visible history of objectifying women, amongst whom harrassment and mockery of women is endemic, and going out of their way to reinforce that.

Okay, I can agree with that, to a degree.

That said, the publishers do it because it works. And it works because the typical gamer, youngish and male, has an evolutionary short circuit between his wallet and his penis.

Doesn't make it right, but I find it difficult to condemn any particular party in the situation.
posted by pla at 7:06 AM on June 15, 2011


pla, my issue with it isn't necessarily the dignity of these individual women

The atmosphere that this kind of objectification creates makes it very difficult for women who want to get into the games industry to be taken seriously. As reviewers or programmers or designers or managers.
posted by empath at 7:07 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


empath: "The atmosphere that this kind of objectification creates makes it very difficult for women who want to get into the games industry to be taken seriously. As reviewers or programmers or designers or managers."

Case in point.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:08 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Doesn't make it right, but I find it difficult to condemn any particular party in the situation.

I find it easy. You condemn the people writing the checks. The publishers who take the cheap easy way out and the gamers that reward them for it.
posted by empath at 7:08 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


The elephant in the room: Not all geeks are heterosexual men.

A thousand times yes. And, for that, matter, more non-heterosexual men and women would be geeks, or public geeks, if it were not for this kind of thing.

Penny Arcade was praised for having a "no booth babes" policy at their events because it made the experience a more pleasant one for parts of the gaming community who were often not heard from, and who were discouraged from being part of public gaming fandom.

(Which is also why the whole Dickwolves thing got so intense, I think - people were disappointed by Penny Arcade, because it felt like they were the ones who had previously made an effort to reach out a bit. And also with the perception that the booth babes rule was becoming more lax in enforcement in successive PAX events.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:11 AM on June 15, 2011 [22 favorites]


IIRC Nintendo used to be half-decent about this, until their "Oh, fuck it!" moment last year.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:12 AM on June 15, 2011



.... of looking at someone who showed up in a public place wearing just about 20 sq. in. more than naked? Yeah, what a perv.


I don't think I communicated well. I'm not at all criticizing him for looking. I'd be looking, if someone in a duct tape bikini walked by. What I love are the photographs that capture the act of looking. It's a little meta moment, the more so because the focus of the photographer is almost always on the bikini girl also. There's no criticism, just an enjoyment of something being caught on camera unintentionally.

The creepsters taking the upskirt shots, however, deserve to be criticised (and better yet, to be photographed and exposed publicly as creepsters). That's just nasty, and I think that it's a discredit to the convention organizers and attendees that they are allowed to continue doing that unimpeded.
posted by Forktine at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


"If, however, the "booth-babes" fully expect such behavior, again, I have no problem with it. And as far as I can tell, they dress appropriately for that expectation"

Sooo... it's OK if they get groped and dudes take upskirt pictures of them because they are dressed for it? Like they all happened to choose to wear the same short skirts and bikini tops, it's not a uniform they're required to wear? And do you really think any woman, even one working as a "booth babe", really expects that wearing sexy clothes -> getting groped, and they say "Oh well, I guess that's what I signed up for!" when it happens to them?
posted by MadamM at 7:13 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Creepy, the insult that heavily slanted towards men. Yay.
posted by adipocere at 7:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


When I first heard about the Nintendo thing, I was really, really hoping that their "booth babes" were dressed in Samus Aran's power armor.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 7:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I know one thing: if I ever go to E3, I'm wearing a fucking mumu. Every time I'm been in one of these male-focused environments filled with horny blokes and women who are paid to look passive yet sexy I've felt at best uncomfortable and at worst hands on my butt.

adipocere: "Creepy, the insult that heavily slanted towards men. Yay."

Society, the thing that's heavily slanted towards men. Yay?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [30 favorites]


What I can't quite wrap my head around is how much more uncomfortable I am with this than with your average hardcore porn flick or a strip club. It's somehow more gross (to me) to have a woman portrayed as brainless background objects than to have a woman sell herself straight up for my pleasure.

I live in a world where women are my peers and superiors. I'm not used to being in an environment where 90% of the people are men ostensibly there to do business or pursue some hobby, and most of the women in the room (certainly the only ones you *see*) are there just as pretty dumb things that have been taught a few tricks about the product she's advertising. It feels super sleazy and like everyone in the room is being played for a fool.
posted by pjaust at 7:18 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


As long as women continue to agree to be treated like objects, women will continue to be treated like objects.
posted by freakazoid at 7:18 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The (disappointing) True Lives of Booth Babes

(By "disppointing" I guess he means "did not live up to the hetero-male-guilt we're all supposed to feel.)
posted by ShutterBun at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: " The (disappointing) True Lives of Booth Babes "

Women paid to look attractive and get stared at interviewed while getting paid to look attractive and get stared at say they like looking attractive and don't mind getting stared at. News at eleven.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 7:24 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you don't care, you don't care. But then I don't want to see you complaining on any of the threads about how hard it is for geeky guys to get dates and how no women are interested in geeky things. Because we are, but we do not feel welcome in your "community".
posted by hydropsyche at 7:24 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


ArmyOfKittens, if you're getting at the idea that it is okay to take a shot at someone based on their position, up or down, I reject that. I will always reject that. I think it's crap.

I'm tall. I'm big. Me picking a fight with someone smaller is different than someone smaller picking a fight with me. But they are similar in that they are both crappy things to do.
posted by adipocere at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


IMHO, the problem is not whether the women are there voluntarily, whether they're being paid handsomely for strutting around and smiling, but the effect on gaming culture. The problem is that they add something to gaming culture which is not inherent in its format or technology, which is a casual, blokey objectification of women. It's not the direct effect of the booth babes, or the mugs leering at and ogling them in a way they wouldn't do with any other women (i.e., ones who aren't being paid to be there for their entertainment), but the second- and third-order effects, when the idea of video gaming becomes a boys-own treehouse in whose unwritten rules such things are allowed. When women who are into games show up and are subjected to crude, misogynistic banter because, you know, that's gamer culture and you have to respect that. Or when turds like Duke Nukem Forever actually make it through product development because, you know, boys will be boys and it's all in a bit of fun (summary: "lighten up, bitch").
posted by acb at 7:25 AM on June 15, 2011 [33 favorites]


As long as women continue to agree to be treated like objects, women will continue to be treated like objects.

I don't think that makes sense. I think you meant: As long as men insist on treating women like objects, women will be treated like objects.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:27 AM on June 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Sooo... it's OK if they get groped and dudes take upskirt pictures of them because they are dressed for it? Like they all happened to choose to wear the same short skirts and bikini tops, it's not a uniform they're required to wear?

No it isn't ok, people who do that should be banned and possibly prosecuted. But I'm not sure How a ban on attractive women is a good thing in any way. Sure. Ban costumes, or short shorts but you can't ban "booth babes". I know exactly why people think this is creepy, and why nobody gets up in arms about the same thing at car or motorcycle shows, because people think there is something inherently wrong with the way gamers interact with women. It is kinda crazy to me that male gamers take more heat on this issue than bikers.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:32 AM on June 15, 2011


As long as women continue to agree to be treated like objects, women will continue to be treated like objects.

There will always be a supply of women willing to be treated as objects; if you're apolitical, not given to thinking about culture and boring abstract things like that (as most people aren't), standing around being ogled could be a good way to make a buck. Suggesting that the female gender boycotts such demeaning lines of work is as likely to succeed as the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement.

What is needed is a culture shift on the part of game consumers and publishers, agreeing that booth babes in their present form are Not Cool. If gamers decided that leering at young women in bikinis is what pathetic losers do, and companies decided that having booth babes makes them look unsophisticated and out of touch (Apple don't need them; 'nuff said), booth babes, in their present form at least, will go away.
posted by acb at 7:33 AM on June 15, 2011


I know exactly why people think this is creepy, and why nobody gets up in arms about the same thing at car or motorcycle shows

I'm not sure why you think I'm not creeped out by the same thing at car or motorcycle shows.
posted by shakespeherian at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


pla: If, however, the "booth-babes" fully expect such behavior, again, I have no problem with it. And as far as I can tell, they dress appropriately for that expectation - I'll admit I didn't scour the links looking for the stray pube, but a quick scan of the galleries shows nothing that you couldn't see on a typical day at the beach.

Except it's not polite to stare at people on the beach, and really not polite to take pictures of ladies, especially focusing on their "bathing suit areas" (literally.)

And just because you expect something to happen doesn't mean it should happen, or that you (as an outsider, or as a paid employee) should be OK with it.

There's a difference between being eye candy and being groped.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


But then I don't want to see you complaining on any of the threads about how hard it is for geeky guys to get dates

This is why people think this is creepy, look at those guys! Can't event get dates!
posted by Ad hominem at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


women are interested in geeky things

This problem is especially bad in gamer culture. I wouldn't say it's entirely restricted to that subculture, but I didn't see anything like this at Maker Faire, for example.
posted by ryanrs at 7:35 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


^ Uh, didn't quite quote enough of that sentence.
posted by ryanrs at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2011


On creepy, though: this is not a word I'd use to describe all hetero male sexuality. Take a look at the two 'creepy' links in the post - the first is a news post from a mainstream gaming news site with the caption 'would, would, would' under three women. The second is motherfucking Sankaku Complex. Go read the front page of that for five minutes and tell me honestly it isn't creepy. It's fine to not want all straight men to be considered creepy - I agree, they're not - but these are some specific examples of creepy ones.
posted by emmtee at 7:36 AM on June 15, 2011


Question for Car Show enthusiasts: how are the really scantily clad women at some car shows treated, and what is the social expectation (and enforcement) for viewers of the scantily clad "car candy" (I don't even know if that's a term)?

Same issues: stereotypically hetero male dominated culture where babes in bikinis (no subtly in this regard) pose around products.
posted by filthy light thief at 7:39 AM on June 15, 2011


I usually only attend very industry-specific cons, but I'll tell you, what sells is someone who likes people and is an expert on the product they're showcasing. Big, flashy displays with professional spokespersons draw lots of attention, but a tiny booth manned by someone who loves to talk shop can sell a niche product to some big buyers better than the flashiest exhibit.

I will never understand why they don't have engineers, test-drivers, designers or even product managers at car shows, and why they don't have designers, test-players and concept artists on hand at game conventions.

Actually, if you wanted a huge draw, have a few concept artists on hand who will sketch the company's characters on the spot for attendees, like comic artists do at comic conventions. That would blow out the windows.
posted by Slap*Happy at 7:43 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Ban costumes, or short shorts but you can't ban "booth babes"

Well, you can, depending on how you define "booth babes". PAX even found out that it wasn't an unpopular move - survey results here. Although that created a loophole, of sorts - if you put your representatives in character costumes, and those costumes are skimpy, then you have permissible skimpily-clad representatives - at least unless someone calls them out for lack of product knowledge.

Speaking of... Computex in Taipei is a bit more controlled than E3, but it weirds me out that the spokesmodels are often showing off devices with the function of which they must be at least passingly familiar (phones, TVs, tablet computers), but appear to have been instructed to treat like alien objects from an advanced culture. Watching a woman in a cocktail dress holding a phone like it's the first time she's ever held a phone is weird.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:44 AM on June 15, 2011


If the booth babes themselves are happy to be booth babes, I'm happy this is a gig that works for them. However, as a female gamer, I AM NOT HAPPY to walk through a con and see that THIS is how game companies choose to a) represent themselves, and b) interface with the attendees. It is so uncomfortable to be a woman in that crowd. There might as well be a big banner over the door that says: E3: NOT FOR YOU.

Metafilter is not great for girls as it is; how much worse do you think it would be for us and how many if us do you think would actually be here at all if MeFi ran ads with the kinds of "promotion" values game makers endorse at E3?
posted by DarlingBri at 7:47 AM on June 15, 2011 [41 favorites]


I'm not sure why you think I'm not creeped out by the same thing at car or motorcycle shows.

It's one of the classic derails: other people do it too! Other things are worse! Because somehow people are only allowed to be mad about one specific thing at a time.

It is creepy because the guys aren't attractive.
This is why people think this is creepy, look at those guys! Can't event get dates!

Why are you so fixated on this straw man?

Creepy, the insult that heavily slanted towards men. Yay.

People doing creepy things are creepy, whether men or women. Maybe you should stop hanging around lots of creepy guys if you only hear it applied to guys. I've seen plenty of creepy behavior by women.

As long as women continue to agree to be treated like objects, women will continue to be treated like objects.

Fucking hell. *throws keyboard across the room and ragequits the thread*
posted by kmz at 7:47 AM on June 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


The real victims here. Men. Keyboards.
posted by running order squabble fest at 7:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


What is needed is a culture shift in our entire society. I'm not saying women are totally to blame for volunteering to act like objects, men are to blame too. But lets all share the blame for this sort of thing equally.

Not that I actually expect society to change much at all in my lifetime...
posted by freakazoid at 7:49 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pla, it's not the dignity of the individual women, it's the ongoing system that means that my existence is reduced to how titillating women are.

Furthermore it's not that it "works" that excludes someone of condemnation. Child factory workers "work" as far as providing unskilled labour for minimal cost, and in the right location you can find people who forgo their workplace safety for cheap. Or who let your outright murder them for money. Anything is possible with human judgment, greed or need. However just because I can find someone who will really let me shoot them for money doesn't excuse me from condemnation.

One sided, gender'd environments are a red flag that beneath the system is the lost luggage department for gender baggage. It doesn't matter if it's legal, it's actively peeing on my leg as a woman who buys games and avoids cons for precisely this sort of nonsense. And I go to sex parties wearing considerably less than these women- it's not prudery, it's context.

Issue male promoters themed thongs or hire based on body type, then we'll talk. (And as the ludicrous male body types in many games indicate, men are just as moved by beefcake as cheesecake so it's not like fear of teh gay is going to be that bad if you have lots of hulking male model types wearing sexy power armor.) Either gaming is a sexual experience for everyone or you're not being fair.

But as demonstrated, con promoters do not -have- to use booth babes, however they make the choice to feature a large number of women whose defining professional feature is petite genetics and the patience of Buddha. This in turn means that all the other women in the con either deal with the fallout of an audience expecting strippers and the resulting dynamics, and a loud sign saying "we refuse to treat you like you have money we want!"

As long as women continue to agree to be treated like objects, women will continue to be treated like objects.

I share this group with billions of other people who have roughly the same body configuration. This is like sexism in its platonic form- oh, well some women agree to it so it is okay for all women.

FFS! Seriously? How can you decide how I should be treated based on the diverse behaviour of a group that bloody well outnumbers men? I have a million other defining characteristics that are better in my control, but this is the sorting factor you use to decide on if I'm openly only good for spank meat or if I'm a complex human? Because some women choose, in some contexts, to be spank-meat?

Sexist. Pure sexism dripping from your typing fingers. Go wash your filthy paws.
posted by Phalene at 7:52 AM on June 15, 2011 [48 favorites]


Creepiness has a lot to do with social norms. To be properly creepy, there should be a sort of social conditioning that makes the victim feel unable to call attention to actions of the creep. The victim should feel their complaints would be dismissed or disbelieved. Also, the victim should feel embarrassed that this happened to them.

This is why women are rarely seen as creepy. It's also why the booth babe environment encourages men to act like creeps.
posted by ryanrs at 7:54 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


There's some irony in the fact that at least some of these women are dressed to portray the protagonists of the games they're hired to promote. See, e.g., Lara Croft. And while the protagonist characters are strong-willed ass-kicking women, the booth babes portraying them are expected to be essentially subservient to the geek hordes in demand of a titillating picture, and maybe, just maybe, a bit of grabass. If you're going to have a "booth babe" promoting your game as a Lara Croft type character, you should empower her to act that role. Give her a taser and the right to use it on any sufficiently pervy guy who gets too close. You might see the culture start to change after the first few guys end up writhing on the floor.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2011 [16 favorites]


If, however, the "booth-babes" fully expect such behavior, again, I have no problem with it. And as far as I can tell, they dress appropriately for that expectation

Didn't think I'd see echoes of the "...she shouldn't have been wearing such a short skirt" defense here on MetaFilter.

posted by pla

Oh, I see. Never mind.
posted by hermitosis at 7:57 AM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Also, the victim should feel embarrassed that this happened to them.

Embarrassed? Maybe at that moment, but I've seen it used as something more akin to a badge of honor by many victims.

Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."
posted by ShutterBun at 8:01 AM on June 15, 2011


the booth babe environment encourages men to act like creeps

Let me rephrase that. It's more correct to say that the booth babe environment makes it more socially acceptable for men to act like creeps. A "safe space" for being a creep, if you will.
posted by ryanrs at 8:02 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


I only recently learned about "Nerd Shoulder" syndrome -- where trade-show booth babes get a layer of nasty filth across their back shoulder areas from days' worth of sweaty man arms drapped around them for photos. .

I know girls who did the Booth Babe thing. It's boring and tiresome work. I'd really like it to go away or be replaced with something more interesting and less Stand Around In A Bikini Being Cold And Bored.
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 AM on June 15, 2011


Or maybe it's time for an alternative E3 2011 without the booth babes.

Good luck!
posted by freakazoid at 8:06 AM on June 15, 2011


Yes, embarrassed. To be properly super-creepy, the creep should leave the victim feeling ashamed, embarrassed, or even better, blameworthy. That's the social conditioning that allows the creep to get away with being creepy in crowded, public areas. It keeps people from calling them out.
posted by ryanrs at 8:07 AM on June 15, 2011


To understand the power of the embarrassment aspect of being a creep, consider how many more women would yell out if their attacker grabbed their purse rather than their butt.
posted by ryanrs at 8:11 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


The elephant in the room: Not all geeks are heterosexual men.

As a big ole science nerd who loves SF novels and movies, comics, and video games, I would love to feel comfortable at a con. As a woman, the combination of booth babes and the general sexual harassment of women, whether working there, selling their own stuff, or just attending, makes it clear that I am not particularly welcome.
posted by hydropsyche at 9:58 AM on June 15 [9 favorites −] Favorite added! [!]


quoted for mother-flipping truth.

If this were a porn show, scantily clad models would be completely appropriate, whether male or female.

But it's not a porn show - it's a video-games show. Using scantily clad women to advertise video-games is just yet another social message that video games are really just for straight men. (Funny enough, I can't see that many bi or lesbian women liking the booth babe phenonmenon, as attractive as they might be).

There are sexy video games - but there are a hell of a lot of games there that have nothing to do with sex. What's next, the King of the Cosmos in a thong? Probably after breast augmentation as well.
posted by jb at 8:11 AM on June 15, 2011


It is creepy because the guys aren't attractive.

Some people do find some kinds of behaviour more creepy if they find the person exhibiting that behaviour less sexually attractive, yes. That's not what's being discussed here. What's happening here falls way off the spectrum for what is appropriate behaviour for people to exhibit towards strangers.

If you're having trouble parsing this, maybe replace all usages of the word creepy with an alternative like "threatening".
posted by seanyboy at 8:12 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aside from the issue of whether or not the 'booth babes' should be there at all, I'm surprised that there is no mention of bouncers present to immediately put a stop to and eject a person who behaves in a manner that makes these women feel unsafe or physically 'handled'.

It seems there is little recourse for the women at that moment other than to smile and bear it. That is not good at all. Maybe there is some security people somewhere, but there should be some muscle within ear/eyeshot so that if there is any problem, one look or wave, and the offending person is 'removed' from the area. Almost all bars and clubs have them, watching out for those who don't know or can't respect the rules, and are dealt with immediately.

Every booth that has promotional women working there should be required to have at least one or two no-bullshit bouncers to make sure no perv-minded person crosses the line. That line is decided by the woman herself, no question about it. These women were hired to attract attention, smile, promote the product and be friendly. That's it. Some dork gets out of line, he should get (at the least) the living shit scared out of him and ejected from the venue by someone who can kick his ass six ways to Sunday, and learn the rules of proper behavior and manners.

I'm not trying to be a 'white knight' here. All sorts of businesses, from music venues to bars to strip clubs all are obligated to have trained people who look out for the staff, and intervene when someone gets out of line, whether by having too much to drink, or in this case, a lack of social skills and manners. I was a bouncer at a bar and music venue for several years myself. The waitresses and staff knew if anybody made them unconformable or acted inappropriately, they could call on us in a moment, and the matter would be resolved. This allowed them to feel much more comfortable going out into the crowd of people of varying levels of drunkenness and feel safe. In a crowd of 1200 people, you have about 12 that are going to be a problem. Most of them you could predict would be a problem when they come in, and watch them from the start. The rest would have to get too much booze first, and then their inner perv/idiot would come out.

If these booth operators can't provide security to look out for these people, then they shouldn't be allowed to have them present. Maybe they don't think the geeks/nerds/gamers could pose any real problem for the booth babes. They are wrong.
posted by chambers at 8:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."

When you start to think that's what the prevailing attitude is, should also be the exact moment you realize you have no idea what you're talking about. Jeebus.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:15 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


hydropsyche nails my feelings about this. I'm a bi woman geek - and going to cons is becoming more and more uncomfortable as it becomes more and more obvious that a segment of the geek culture has no idea how to treat women as anything other than objects. And it is becoming a bigger problem as the "geek" culture becomes larger and more popular among those who normally wouldn't self identify as geeks.

Honestly, how I dress, walk, or if I have boobs or not should have nothing to do with how you relate to me as a human being. There is NOTHING socially acceptable about violating a person's physical boundaries (groping) or sexual being (upskirting), and no degree of dress or undress should make those things permissable in any circumstances. Now, if I walk up to a girl, and ask if I can touch her, and she says yes? Fine, so long as shes fairly sober and not under any social pressure to agree to my touch. But nothing makes it ok for me to touch her or take a picture of her in a sexually revealing way without her direct, complicit and fully cognizant permission. The same completely holds for men as well.

And if these companies continue to promote this sort of idea that these women are objects to be sexually assaulted with no boundary, implicitly or explicitly, they are just as guilty as the person who takes the upskirt photo or cops a feel. These companies need to make sure these women have the ability to report, react, and respond to these behaviors, and that they have the ability to stop any unwanted behavior. And you know what: no person - man or woman or otherwise - should feel afraid to tell their employer that some asshole touched them in a way they aren't comfortable with, or feel pressured into being touched in ANY way they are uncomfortable with.
posted by strixus at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


The King of the Cosmos wearing a thong would be far more in keeping with the original games' sensibilities (read: none, of any stripe) than most of these.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 8:16 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."

Oh really? Have any cites to back that up?
posted by kmz at 8:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


If these booth operators can't provide security to look out for these people

I think probably the booth operators themselves are not contractually allowed to do so (what happens if one booth's security starts fighting with another booth's?), but it would be awesome if the venue would provide security for exactly this purpose.
posted by elizardbits at 8:18 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Ok, I think strixus says it a billion times better than I can.

Thanks!
posted by freakazoid at 8:24 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun:
Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."


There comments within this very thread to contradict that notion:

DarlingBri: If the booth babes themselves are happy to be booth babes, I'm happy this is a gig that works for them. However, as a female gamer, I AM NOT HAPPY to walk through a con and see that THIS is how game companies choose to a) represent themselves, and b) interface with the attendees.

And a reminder:

hydropsyche: Not all geeks are heterosexual men.

Nor are the women gamers all heterosexual, either. Generally, leering dudes make no one feel comfortable, except the leering dudes. Just because the booth babes are smiling doesn't mean they're enjoying themselves.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:25 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."

Are you seriously saying that victims of harassment are, like, literally and vocally asking for it?
posted by shakespeherian at 8:26 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


Oh really? Have any cites to back that up?

Can I use anecdotal ones, like so many articles on this topic?
posted by ShutterBun at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2011


what happens if one booth's security starts fighting with another booth's?

It's not like you're not hiring out some members of the Hell's Angels with 'roid rage. We're guys doing a job. It's not glamorous, but we at least know how to act like a professional. Acting like that will get us fired immediately, and a reputation from something like that gets around quick, and you're probably not going to be working around there anymore.
posted by chambers at 8:27 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you seriously saying that victims of harassment are, like, literally and vocally asking for it?

Nope. I'm saying that, far from being "embarrassed," (as one writer suggested) it often comes up in conversations as sort of a "Comic Con war story," of sorts. (I'm surrounded by hardcore female cosplayers on a more or less constant basis, so this may be a localized phenomenon)
posted by ShutterBun at 8:30 AM on June 15, 2011


Holy cow.. Let's rename this place FeministFilter.

Men have been ogling women for thousands of years, and I'd dare say it's biological. Men are the target audience of E3.

We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you, so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.
posted by eas98 at 8:30 AM on June 15, 2011


At my con, I'll allow Booth Babes. But I'll have a requirement for every Booth Babe, there's a Booth Hunk. And anyone getting a picture with one will have to get a picture with the other.

In the exact same pose.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


It's not like you're not hiring

"It's not like you're hiring" I mean.
posted by chambers at 8:31 AM on June 15, 2011


robocop is bleeding: "At my con, I'll allow Booth Babes. But I'll have a requirement for every Booth Babe, there's a Booth Hunk."

I read Booth Hulk. And I was so up for that. Purple trousers everywhere!
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:32 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


Obvious troll is obvious.
posted by cheap paper at 8:32 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Booth Hunks would be built like Hulks so yes.
posted by The Whelk at 8:33 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dude, now I wish I wrote Booth Hulk.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 8:33 AM on June 15, 2011


Nerds can be "creepy", film at 11.
posted by Sphinx at 8:35 AM on June 15, 2011


I'm not sure why you think I'm not creeped out by the same thing at car or motorcycle shows.

I'm sure you are creeped out by it. But we have a "geeks are creepy" thread every year, let's have a "bikers are creepy" thread once in a while for change of pace.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:35 AM on June 15, 2011


Holy cow.. Let's rename this place FeministFilter.

I am proud to describe myself as a feminist. I even have a teeshirt. I wish you wouldn't use a word as pejorative that is descriptive of the desire for human equality.
posted by shakespeherian at 8:37 AM on June 15, 2011 [63 favorites]


Men are the target audience of E3

This is not the way it has to be, nor the way it should be. Women like games and electronics just as much as men do.

They do not like booth babes, however.
posted by empath at 8:37 AM on June 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


I'm sure you are creeped out by it. But we have a "geeks are creepy" thread every year, let's have a "bikers are creepy" thread once in a while for change of pace.

Or hey, you know geeks could stop being creepy.
posted by empath at 8:38 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Men have been ogling women for thousands of years, and I'd dare say it's biological. Men are the target audience of E3.

So you're claiming that video games are just for men, the way that women's fashions are mainly for women (and some men with excellent taste)?

And I say - bollocks. Video games are not, and should not, be aimed at men or even primarily at men. They are an art form that should be open to all people. And frankly, this should just be economic sense: why alienate 50% of your potential market?

Sure, there will be video games with one market or another; I don't think anyone would care if a strip poker game had a scantily clad model, male or female. But why sell the other 99% of your games with sex, and sex aimed at just hetero men at that? You're shooting yourself in the foot, and losing sales to companies who don't do that crap.
posted by jb at 8:39 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you, so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.

Your enjoyment of video games depends on the existence of scantily clad women at conferences? You could play video games you like and then also go to a strip club and get both without turning cons into BOYS ONLY paradises.
posted by jeather at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's not like you're not hiring out some members of the Hell's Angels with 'roid rage. We're guys doing a job.

No, I get that. But with idek how many booths per con, who is going to be in charge of checking out each booth's individual security to make sure that everyone really IS a professional dude doing a professional job and not just some random roid rage nephew-in-law they hired who's more concerned with looking at chicks and picking fights?

Again, I think this should be the venue's responsibility, and they should take it seriously.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2011


empath: "Women like games and electronics just as much as men do."

I think it's absolutely incredible that 42% of gamers are women considering, well, the video game industry. I wonder how many women would play games if the industry wasn't actively hostile towards us?
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 8:41 AM on June 15, 2011 [21 favorites]


eas98: Men are the target audience of E3.

Actually, the target audience of E3 is people in the gaming industry and games journalists. Fans aren't even really targeted, although getting to go is a bit a fan holy grail. The fact that these groups are disproportionately male is a bug, not a feature, and it's a bug that booth babes perpetuate.

Nor are the women gamers all heterosexual, either. Generally, leering dudes make no one feel comfortable, except the leering dudes.

Basically heterosexual dude here: I will take photographs of people at events, male and female. I won't generally take pictures of "booth babes", because they aren't relevant to the product I'm interested in, and because it feels weird and creepy because they can't get out of the way, and because they will think I am making a deposit to my spank account. I'll take pictures of crowd scenes without asking for permission, without using zoom. If I want to take a picture of a specific cosplayer, I'll ask, and if they say yes I will let them adopt a pose and take the photo. That may be selfish of me, but it's what I do to feel like not a sex case. Leering dudes make other heterosexual men uncomfortable, as well. For one thing, it makes it much harder to start conversations with women if they assume you are probably a sex case, because you are a man talking to them at a convention. Misogyny hurts men as well!

(One exception at the last thing I went to - I both zoomed in on and photographed without prior consent a woman dressed as a packet of Pocky, who was leaving the hall. But she was _cosplaying Pocky_. It was not a sexy costume. Just an awesome one.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 8:42 AM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Well, you can, depending on how you define "booth babes". PAX even found out that it wasn't an unpopular move

I meant it might be a legal issue to ban women from booths based on appearance, the only thing that makes sense is to require booth denizens to wear "professional" attire, no shorts, no bikini tops, no halters, this would apply to men and women. Pretty much require a polo abd khakis for everyone. I could get behind that.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:43 AM on June 15, 2011


The biggest creeps here are the booth owners, who think all of their customers are socially retarded, 40 year old virgins who'll flock to their booth because there's a real, live girl in a bikini who will be nice to them. And I want to, but I don't know how much I can fault the people who are socially retarded and take things too far, since they're presumably taking cues from the environment set up by the people who hire the booth babes. Now, if all of the booth babes were cosplayers, even, especially cosplaying all of the male parts. With clothing. That'd be kind of cool.
posted by stavrogin at 8:45 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you, so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.

You might want to look into what it is that makes you enjoy video games, because I have found it very possible to be a) male, b) one who enjoys video games, and c) completely uncomfortable with the whole "booth babe" phenomena and related creeper-gamer culture (not to mention the fucked up beauty standards that come from the fashion industry you alluded to).
posted by ndfine at 8:46 AM on June 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


(One exception at the last thing I went to - I both zoomed in on and photographed without prior consent a woman dressed as a packet of Pocky, who was leaving the hall. But she was _cosplaying Pocky_. It was not a sexy costume. Just an awesome one.)
posted by running order squabble fest at 11:42 AM on June 15 [+] [!]


That does sound like an awesome costume.
posted by jb at 8:47 AM on June 15, 2011


I am proud to describe myself as a feminist. I even have a teeshirt. I wish you wouldn't use a word as pejorative that is descriptive of the desire for human equality.

Considering the rest of his comment, it's probably just as well. The fact that he used "feminist" pejoratively was like a shining beacon: misogynistic bullshit follows!
posted by kmz at 8:48 AM on June 15, 2011 [10 favorites]


Whenever I hear of "booth babes", I'm reminded of this clip from The Simpsons.

You cannot fault the women who take these jobs. As mentioned above, it's a quick and (relatively) easy way to make some money. You cannot fault the men at the shows who look at the scantily clad women. How can you not look at them?

The fault lies with the companies who continue to use this tactic to get people to the convention. It's the same thing with Hooters (discussed recently here). It's a tactic to get a certain audience in the door. Once, they're there, you have their ear (or their money, in the case of a restaurant). If Hooters stopped having the hot-pants wearing women serving you food, they would lose an awful lot of their patronage. I think if Rockstar or whoever stopped using bikini-clad women to promote their new game, they would sell just as many copies, and probably get just as many people to show up to their booth. Without the women, they'd probably even get a wider audience (as mentioned by some of the women gamers above).

So, in some sense, they're really just sabotaging their own product even though they think they're promoting it.
posted by King Bee at 8:49 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]



Or hey, you know geeks could stop being creepy


Oh yeah, we are all creepy, forgot about that.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:53 AM on June 15, 2011


What really frustrates me about the booth babe phenomenon, as a queer woman who works in the video game industry, is the false illusion of diversity. If you were down at E3 this year, you saw plenty of women! Women who hand out coupons for strip clubs, who who yell loudly for you to come dance with them to get an energy drink, women who you can stop at any time and get your picture taken with. It's women who are up on the platform demonstrating Kinect dancing. It's women who are the brought-in workers who can parrot a publisher's talking points but have no clue about the game they're standing next to.

In an industry where only 4 percent of game designers are women, where there are next to no female executives and all prominent women are treated as anomalies, the continued use of booth babes makes women the other within the industry. Next year, I'd really like to not have awkward interviews about how "remarkable" it is that I am a woman who leads a large group of mostly men. I'd like to not have the IGN contact who I e-mail regularly be incredulous when they see me in person. And I'd certainly like to see more than 10 percent of an audience at a press conference or VIP event be women.

And frankly, acknowledging how fucked up hauling in "beautiful women" to a trade show is should the first step.
posted by Hot Like Your 12V Wire at 8:53 AM on June 15, 2011 [46 favorites]


Beautiful models are now being compared to sweatshop workers. [...] "did not live up to the hetero-male-guilt we're all supposed to feel. [...] Can I use anecdotal ones, like so many articles on this topic?

Shutterbun: if you could elaborate exactly what you stand for here and why you think that it's a justifiable way to behave instead of dancing around the topic being chippy, this thread would probably take a turn for the you-sounding-a-bit-less-like-a-jerk.
posted by mhoye at 8:56 AM on June 15, 2011


Holy cow.. Let's rename this place FeministFilter.
Yay!!! And we can name the metafilter subsites after specific feminists according to how shouty the feminist is and how shouty the subsite is.
e.g. metatalk = AndreaDworkin

Men have been ogling women for thousands of years, and I'd dare say it's biological. Men are the target audience of E3.
Nope. Target audience is game players.

We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you,
I do complain actually. Not loudly or anything, because that would involve work, but I'm not alone in worrying about how women are used to sell product to women. Not that this point makes any sense in context, but thought I'd mention just in case people mistakenly think you're actually representing the views of all men.

so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.
I'm the same. Went shopping yesterday for a new pair of shoes. A MAN sold them to me. An UGLY MAN at that. Anyway - as a consequence, these shoes are really fucking uncomfortable. That stupid shoe shop has completely fucked up my enjoyment of wearing shoes.

Also - LOL. I really hope that was deliberate trolling.
posted by seanyboy at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


This whole argument about Booth Babes is a proxy for the general argument of 'are women being objectified.' I really don't think it matters that it's E3, a con, a commercial for a car, music video.. you're all talking about the larger topic without actually broaching that topic.

Is the music video by a female pop star that has her shaking her booty in the camera exploitive to women? Why are all the women in video games buxon hotties? For that matter, why are all the men (well, the 'good guys' at least) always built jocks?

Why do women wear short skirts? Why can't men?

What about the new Miller Lite commercial with the Miller Light Lifeguards? How about most alcohol advertisements?

If you folks are trying to say this is an endemic problem within the gaming industry, you need to broaden your scope a bit. It's a sociatal thing, and you're dancing around the issue you really want to discuss. Although, now, if you are against scantily clad women, are you also against hajibs?

This is one of those onion conversations.
posted by rich at 8:59 AM on June 15, 2011


emmtee tells me I will eat my words next year, when out from the Valve booth at E3 steps Booth Gabe.

Let me give you a preemptive warning about the goggles...

They will do nothing.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:00 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


My main point was: "Let's not shame entire cultural groups just because a handful of guys with poor social skills / manners screw up what ought to be a mutually fun vibe for all involved."

Everything else I've posted was simply in reaction/response to the ongoing discussion.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:00 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


freakazoid: What is needed is a culture shift in our entire society.

Ain't that the fucking truth.

I'm not saying women are totally to blame for volunteering to act like objects, men are to blame too. But lets all share the blame for this sort of thing equally.

Sure. I'll get right on that right after we give women equal pay, equal economic power, equal employment access, equal educational opportunities, an equal burden of beauty standards, and hell while we're at it, an equal share of housework in hetero domestic relationships.
posted by DarlingBri at 9:01 AM on June 15, 2011 [12 favorites]


Metafilter is not great for girls as it is; how much worse do you think it would be for us and how many if us do you think would actually be here at all if MeFi ran ads with the kinds of "promotion" values game makers endorse at E3?

First of all, I think Metafilter is GREAT for women. This site does more to make sure that women's voices are heard, as are their male advocates, than any other online forum I could name. Two of the mods are women (one full-time and one part-time), and I have never heard matthowie, pb, cortex or vacapinta utter or endorse any form of sexism against women, period.

About Booth Babes--a lot of gamers are men, true, and a lot of men like attractive women. Of course, there's gaming women, like me, and gay gamers of both sexes, but the people selling stuff are appealing to their biggest demographic, and there's nothing unusual in that. Fans dress up as game characters, too, including women, and I have no problem with that, either. So I am not against Booth Babes per se.

What I do oppose is the fact that the women in the convention, whether fan or Booth Babe or vendor, are not being respected, and the venue and vendors are doing nothing to police people who are clearly over the line. That speaks poorly for the industry, and I'm glad Rock, Paper Scissors turned the tables on the the people, for example, filming up some woman's dress.

I'd like to see the industry step up and have Bouncer Babes, at least one for each booth and some just walking around the venue, to call attention to jerkish behavior and forcibly eject anyone who physically accosts a woman by groping her or takes upskirt pics. In my mind, these Bouncer Babes are simply, without question, the authority in these matters, whose final word is Law. I use the term 'Bouncer Babes' a bit tongue-in-cheek, but I do feel that if the majority of the room is male, and women are made to feel uncomfortable or unwelcome becaus no action is taken when a man acts unacceptably toward a woman, the answer is to empower some women to help balance it out and make cons a safe place for women.

So, yeah, we need some female bouncers to throw the offenders out on their ears.
posted by misha at 9:05 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


If you folks are trying to say this is an endemic problem within the gaming industry, you need to broaden your scope a bit. It's a sociatal thing, and you're dancing around the issue you really want to discuss. Although, now, if you are against scantily clad women, are you also against hajibs?

This is one of those onion conversations.


Exactly! Because no conversation about particular problem issues can be begun until all participants agree on the philosophical solution to the existence of evil. Get right down to the roots or go the fuck home! Specific topics are for pansies.
posted by FatherDagon at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2011 [11 favorites]


Many have already contributed points of view that reflect mine as a female gamer, geek, and someone who has a foothold into the media side of industry and would like to continue moving upward in covering and being a part of the games that I so love and am passionate about.

I don't have an issue with hiring models to dress up as a character, for example. What is pretty creepy, to use the word tossed around in here are costumes that feature stuff like "Tweet me @gamecompanyx" across the woman's breasts. While the presence of the models is supposed to titillate already, that kind of stuff is just encouraging sexual harassment and worse that goes on at these cons and shows.

This FPP I made two years ago about how EA decided to promote their Dante's Inferno game also goes to show not much has changed.

You'd think that the news that the average gamer is 37 and that women make up 42% of the gaming audience would be something the industry pays attention to. The funny thing is, just like with the movies, women are considered a niche audience. Women make up over half of the moviegoing population, and over half of ticket purchasers. We make up 42% of gamers.

Yet the industry, and many gamers themselves, dismiss all that, saying women aren't "real" gamers, and the industry follows suit thinking to focus on the "core" gamers. Mistakenly overlooking us female core gamers in the process. The booth babe issue is one of directly giving the message that "this isn't for you" if you're a heterosexual woman, non heterosexual man, and often, extending to people of color also. It seems that most,if not all, of the women in those photos were white, and those who aren't white were mostly Asian. This kind of thing also plays into stereotypes.

The problem also just plain extends to who is making the games. There are a lot of females in game marketing and PR, but far, far fewer at studios. That isn't to say that having more women would automatically make games more inclusive (or ad campaigns), but it couldn't hurt.

But creating a welcoming, professional environment at E3, car shows, and other events should be a goal of the organizers, and I think elizardbits' notion of hiring security to keep things professional and protect the women who are working in this objectified job safe. A zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment and forbidding touching the models, where the offender is thrown out of the con/show, would also be welcomed.
posted by cmgonzalez at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


Let me give you a preemptive warning about the goggles...

hahaha it's cuz he's fat right?
posted by Ad hominem at 9:06 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh yeah, we are all creepy, forgot about that.

Who's said anything even remotely like that? Hell, I'm a geek, and most of my friends are geeks, and I don't think any of us are creepy. But we do find the booth babe phenomenon creepy. (And the female Clex fan giving Michael Rosenbaum a sex toy and the female Jensen Ackles fan tackling him at a con are creepy too.) For fucks sake, this year there was a goddamned bouncy castle there that invited attendees to bounce with barely clad women. What the fuck does that have to do with gaming?!
posted by kmz at 9:07 AM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


What is needed is a culture shift in our entire society.

Do they have booth babes in more egalitarian societies like Denmark and Sweden?
posted by acb at 9:07 AM on June 15, 2011


the female Jensen Ackles fan tackling him at a con are creepy too

Wasn't she wearing a wedding dress, too? *shudder*
posted by elizardbits at 9:09 AM on June 15, 2011


Ok I am now mad at everyone, time to go smoke a
cigarette and lay off.
posted by Ad hominem at 9:11 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Although, now, if you are against scantily clad women, are you also against hajibs?


Why would we be against a class of high-ranking administrators in Islamic Spain?

You odd little fellow.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:13 AM on June 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


For fucks sake, this year there was a goddamned bouncy castle there that invited attendees to bounce with barely clad women. What the fuck does that have to do with gaming?!

I'm sorry, what the fuck?

We're beyond parody now.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 9:14 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I often wonder if somebody's run the numbers on this sort of thing. Do booth babes actually result in materially better sales? Are there enough people out there who've thought, I wasn't going to buy Duke Nukem, but now that I've seen that booth babe, I will buy Duke Nukem?

I strongly suspect the answer is no, this is just how they've always done things. It brings more people to the booth, and that's what they measure, not actual sales. I suppose some of those people are game journalists, though, so given how corrupt and mendacious a profession video game journalism is, I suppose it's possible.

My main point was: "Let's not shame entire cultural groups just because a handful of guys with poor social skills / manners screw up what ought to be a mutually fun vibe for all involved."

So that's not a bad position, and I'm tempted to agree with it in the general case. But video games shows like E3, like cons, are very much an edge case. The fact that some people, overwhelmingly women, are treated very poorly and made very uncomfortable at Cons by, again overwhelmingly, men is materially, unambiguously true. It is a fact.

And a big part of the problem is that behavior that would (and should) get you kicked out, ostracized and occasionally beaten up in day to day society is not only tolerated but accepted as typical, and therefore excusable, at Cons. So consequently, the (overwhelmingly male) people who engage in that behavior will tend to engage in it at cons. This is, again, demonstrably true.

And my problem here is that the position video game companies have taken by trotting out booth babes is that that's totally ok, that this attitude is good and profitable and they should foster an environment that encourages it.

It's really shitty behavior, and while I agree that these things ought to be a "mutually fun vibe for all involved", it's important to recognize the role in those companies participating in video game shows or cons in, for a certain group of (overwhelmingly women) people, making it not a fun vibe at all.
posted by mhoye at 9:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I think Metafilter is GREAT for women

I think so too, but the main reason it's as good as it is is because people stood up and shouted. I remember the boyzone wars of 2008. I guess this is what needs to happen at places like E3 too.
posted by seanyboy at 9:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The E3 Bouncy Castle. Ungh. Seriously?
posted by robocop is bleeding at 9:17 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I often wonder if somebody's run the numbers on this sort of thing. Do booth babes actually result in materially better sales?

I had a whole thing typed out about this before, but then I was like eh, am I posting too much in a thread I started? So it got deleted. But the gist was, I would love to see some kind of analysis of this if one were possible. There were minimal booth babes at E3s 2006-07ish (if I remember rightly) and I seriously doubt it coincided with a downturn in game sales or community excitement for new releases. Like a lot of marketing I suspect it of being a sort of imitatory cargo cult.

On a gaming-related but otherwise tangential note, how the bollocks did Mikami and Suda's collaboration being released next week sneak up on me like this? OMGOMGOMG.
posted by emmtee at 9:26 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The bouncy castle appears to have been a gimmicky way for Nival's "Prime World" to promote yet another gimmcik (a raffle) and now what's the one thing everyone remembers from E3?

Stupid and lame? Probably. Memorable? Yup.
posted by ShutterBun at 9:31 AM on June 15, 2011


If what people walk away remembering is the gimmick rather than the product, that's not actually good advertising. (Even leaving aside all the issues with this particular style of marketing that lots of people above have already addressed.)
posted by EvaDestruction at 9:46 AM on June 15, 2011


This sort of came up in the thread about minorities in love scenes in movies. In essence, some people are drawing a line between actively groping someone and simply attending E3 and its boys will be boys atmosphere. The first is definitely NOT OK, the second is either not ok, but something that just has to be put up with, or not that big a deal.

Here's the thing: your tacit acceptance or lack of response broadcasts a value judgement to everyone else. Yes, yours. If E3 or the video game industry's attitudes towards women bugs you, why do you continue to patronize or work for them? If you don't feel welcome there, why do you go? All these guys really want is your cash and attention, and if you continue to pay them both when they continue to propagate crap about you or people like you - why should they change? They got what they wanted either way.

Yeah, there's a difference between having a handful of someone else's butt or actually putting on a hood and attending a cross burning vs. simply attending E3 or playing video games or never thinking about a person not from central casting as your lover or CEO - but both the active and passive feed each other. All that passive acceptance over a lot of people ultimately adds up to some pretty obvious structural and institutional sexism/racism.

None of it stops until you actively resist what's being broadcast. Why give away the leverage you have?
posted by NoRelationToLea at 9:46 AM on June 15, 2011


misha: First of all, I think Metafilter is GREAT for women. This site does more to make sure that women's voices are heard, as are their male advocates, than any other online forum I could name. Two of the mods are women (one full-time and one part-time), and I have never heard matthowie, pb, cortex or vacapinta utter or endorse any form of sexism against women, period.

I really don't want to derail this thread but I want to be 100% clear that I have absolutely no issue with MeFi's valiant moderators, and I do not want anyone to think I'm saying anything else.

Beyond that, you and I appear to have very different functional definitions of "great" and very different experiences of online communities, including this one. There are, even though you can't name them, other forums where the comments that are regularly deleted here never get made in the first place. Really!
posted by DarlingBri at 9:52 AM on June 15, 2011


Men have been ogling women for thousands of years, and I'd dare say it's biological.

Men have also for thousands of years followed a host of other biological urges, from simple assault to farting loudly in public, that society has since deemed sufficiently unacceptable that most of us now refrain.
posted by Gelatin at 10:00 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


If E3 or the video game industry's attitudes towards women bugs you, why do you continue to patronize or work for them?

Because I'm a gamer. I've been doing this since I was about three years old. Gaming is one of my big passions, and why not have it as a part of my professional life and maybe hope to stir some dialogue and bring across some points others may not. To actually be there as a woman instead of turning my back and washing my hands on the matter and in essence, giving up instead of fighting back.

I choose to not be passive.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:03 AM on June 15, 2011 [20 favorites]


Ick. If I was ever in a position to staff a con booth, it would be with Fish Speakers in grim jumpsuits. And there would be a guild navigator in a big tank.

I am never asked to staff booths anywhere.
posted by everichon at 10:05 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


kmz : Oh really? Have any cites to back that up?

I honestly didn't think I would find anything to substantiate that (people don't tend to bother saying things that go without saying), but much to my surprise, "At Ikkicon 3, which was pretty much my horror con in general, I went as Byakuya Kuchiki. Nobody said hi to me, nobody took my picture."

People (of both genders) don't dress in those silly and uncomfortable outfits because they like the chafing.
posted by pla at 10:20 AM on June 15, 2011


FatherDagon- that cracked me up. Seriously. That was funny.

If the conversation is "Why booth babes? That's bad!" then the answer is;

Because every other convention, whether for cars, guns, comic books or finance have booth babes. And every marketing group in the world uses sex to sell their warez. From weather reports on the news (oh, overseas stripping weatherwomen!) to the Dos Equis mystery man.

Everyone says it doesn't work, but everyone keeps doing it. Why oh why? Because if your booth is way cool and doesn't have booth babes, the fear is you won't get any traffic because the two booths on either side have half-naked women washing cars that have nothing to do with your product, but everyone goes there instead of to you. And captured traffic by way of scanning exhibit hall barcodes is what you're judged on.

Who's the brave soul that's going to risk their job trying to one-up BoothBabeMentality by going socially conscious because It's The Right Thing To Do? And we're talking MARKETING professionals here.
posted by rich at 10:23 AM on June 15, 2011


I design booth lighting every year for E3 and I feel pretty strongly about this. Last year the COO of the company I design for demanded booth babes. It was dehumanizing enough that our mascot was a virtual robo-girl but the live girls we brought in were instructed to act in a robotic "anything to please you" sort of way. It came from the top and trickled down. It's bad enough that I can't do my job at E3 without being commented on (and then expected to come up with a suitably sweet reply or else I'm the jerk- see the "hi whatcha reading thread") but the day the babes arrived was the effing worst. You'd think it would take the pressure off (as I'm not a babe) but I felt like I had a target on my back all day. It made the company look sleazy and it was a miserable environment to work in. Enter the new COO this year- an all around good guy who loves gaming. No booth babes. Just the most personable members of the development team in cool t-shirts selling the stuff they made. It was about a thousand times better and the booth was packed. Being a nerd myself, I think nerds want other nerds, much more so than they want babes.
posted by Thin Lizzy at 10:24 AM on June 15, 2011 [40 favorites]


I honestly didn't think I would find anything to substantiate that (people don't tend to bother saying things that go without saying), but much to my surprise

Literally, the next phrase that person wrote is, "But that wasn't the horror part. I spent HOURS carving a full tang katana out of wood, and I was really proud of how it came out. And then at the con somebody ran into it, snapped it in half, and didn't apologize. Not one of my best con moments."

How do you misread that?
posted by gladly at 10:26 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


robocop is bleeding writes "At my con, I'll allow Booth Babes. But I'll have a requirement for every Booth Babe, there's a Booth Hunk. And anyone getting a picture with one will have to get a picture with the other.

"In the exact same pose."


Is this supposed to be a disincentive?
posted by Mitheral at 10:28 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


cmgonzalez - you see your actions as an active fight. How do the people you're fighting see it? I think they could be very fairly characterized as seeing you choosing to want to be in their club, even when they treat you or people like you badly.

Maybe some of them will perceive what you're doing in the way you want ("Wow. This must really be important to this person. I should stop being such a dick") - but I doubt it. Unfortunately, you don't get to control how your actions are perceived.

Here's the test: are things better than they used to be? We get a version of this post every year for at least the last 3 years - I say no.

BTW: I say this as someone who used to play quite a few games. Now I've got a kid, and frankly, I don't like the messaging my kid was seeing from most games or media in general, so I quit both video games and cable television and spend my money/time in other ways now. You might see that as giving up or washing my hands of the whole thing - that's your right - but at the end of the day my money and time are going to places that are broadcasting messages I prefer to pass on myself. Some things are worth the fight, and I don't have a problem saying video games and video game culture (whatever that is) are far, far down on my list.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 10:30 AM on June 15, 2011


eas98: Holy cow.. Let's rename this place FeministFilter.

I like MetaFilter. It has a better ring to it. And there's nothing feminist in most of the posts on the front page, so it'd be a rather confusing title for the site.

Men have been ogling women for thousands of years, and I'd dare say it's biological. Men are the target audience of E3.

And how has that ogling been working out for men? Cat calls totally get the ladies hot, and staring really lets them know your intentions.

We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you, so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.

Shit, I know. I was pissed that Nintendo took out the Hot Coffee feature in the latest Zelda game. I play video games to get it on with virtual characters, Nintendo should know this by now.


Anyway, I think that E3 just needs a few roaming Techno Vikings. E3 isn't just for dudes who like to ogle ladies.
posted by filthy light thief at 10:31 AM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


People (of both genders) don't dress in those silly and uncomfortable outfits because they like the chafing.

They appreciate that their work, as a fan, is acknowledged. That's not proving your point.

There's often a ton of work going into cosplay. Some people make their costumes over months. It's not like they put in all that work for a simple cheap "Look at me!". I've known cosplayers and a little bit of attention as to the detail and other aspects of the costume are generally more welcome than ogling.

While there are more revealing cosplay costumes, that doesn't equate to wanting to be stared at, objectified, or harassed.
posted by cmgonzalez at 10:38 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I often wonder if somebody's run the numbers on this sort of thing. Do booth babes actually result in materially better sales?

One thought that occurred to me: Every photo of a booth babe holding a product/wearing branded clothing that gets featured on various blogs/news sites might be considered free advertising for the company/product.

Perhaps the companies see it as increased brand/product awareness even though it may not be directly translated to increased sales of the specific product.
posted by Fleebnork at 10:45 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


That said, the publishers do it because it works. And it works because the typical gamer, youngish and male, has an evolutionary short circuit between his wallet and his penis.

Stereotype much?

The average age of a gamer is 37 years old.
posted by Justinian at 10:50 AM on June 15, 2011


When I saw the FPP I was all like "What? Rock, Paper, Shotgun? No, they wouldn't... would they?". And then I clicked and I was all, "Yeaaaah, RPS!".
posted by Justinian at 10:51 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."

This (nearly always faulty) perception is one of the major reasons that some women stay silent about sexual harassment. They know that certain people see it as bragging or something, and they'll get those who tell them they should stop being silly ladies and just be grateful for the attention.

But this isn't good attention. It's not flattering or complimentary. It's pure, stupid dominance, and it happens to women no matter what they look like, what they're wearing, or what they're doing. It happens in grocery stores, on streets, in the workplace, and at cons; and when it happens, it's a chilling reminder that there are a whole lot of people out there who believe that women exist primarily for the amusement of men. It's based on the strongly held belief that no matter what we're doing at the time, some random asshole's opinions about our appearance are more important.

Catcalls, ass grabs, and skeevy unsolicited sexual commentary from random dudes are no more flattering than getting leg-humped by a dog, and they're both motivated by exactly the same impulse: The desire to control and dominate.
posted by ernielundquist at 10:52 AM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


Jesus. I found a few of the responses in the minorities in sci-fi thread a few doors down depressing until I came to this thread. Now some of the comments in that thread seem like they come from the very wellspring of empathy, understanding and enlightenment in comparison. Jesus.
posted by lord_wolf at 11:01 AM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Some things are worth the fight, and I don't have a problem saying video games and video game culture (whatever that is) are far, far down on my list.

You're missing the big picture. These things don't merely apply to gamer culture or in video games alone. This is bigger than that. I'm a gamer and a writer and I know my own little space in that world, I know the lingo, the major players, and what it's like. I can use those things I know, and my own abilities to be a part of the aspects of culture that I know well.

Were I a filmmaker, perhaps I would be concentrating on another aspect of media - film. other representations of women in media, for instance, but I haven't been shooting movies since childhood. I did practically grow up with a controller in hand though, so this is the person I've grown up to be.

Using what we know and where we know it is a way of putting our strength into being active in some way on these issues that are symptoms of the overall larger one. Just by being there, it makes even a small difference.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:04 AM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


Correction "Other representations of women in media, for instance, matter to me"
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2011


My husband is a technical writer at a gaming company. The vast majority of their customers are women 35 and older. In what universe are gamers mostly young men?

Or is it the case that "video games" is being defined ever more narrowly as "games women don't play?"
posted by KathrynT at 11:39 AM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


The issue, KathrynT, is that a lot of gamers and even industry professionals are quick to dismiss many older and female gamers as not "real" gamers because some of them may play or not play specific titles. There's an internal bias among the community whereas someone primary playing The Sims is seen as less than someone playing say, first-person shooters.

And as the number of gamers and the demographics have shifted, the backlash and willingness to marginalize an entire large segment of the population as if we were a monolithic niche, is a large part of the problem.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:44 AM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


The issue, KathrynT, is that a lot of gamers and even industry professionals are quick to dismiss many older and female gamers as not "real" gamers because some of them may play or not play specific titles.

So yeah, that's my second point. WoW players, LOTRO players, Rock Band players, Sims players -- these are all people who play video games who somehow are not "gamers." FPS games are more and more likely to be women these days, so then that category even gets restricted, until the only people who count as "gamers" are people who play demonstrably female-hostile games like Duke Nukem.
posted by KathrynT at 11:51 AM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


That's because the word "gamer" has generally had a specific meaning in the subculture. For example, somebody who plays a lot of monopoly is not a "gamer". Maybe it is time to expand the definition to someone who just plays the Sims, maybe not. But it isn't unusual to expect pushback when trying to change the terminology and norms of a subculture.
posted by Justinian at 11:59 AM on June 15, 2011


Internecine fighting in the gamer community is pretty much par for the course. "Casual" gamers aren't real gamers, single-player gamers aren't real gamers, kids' and infotainment gamers aren't real gamers, etc. These definitions are usually made brute-force by the vocal minority of "hardcore" gamers. To some degree, then, yes, "real games" are "games women don't play", at least in terms of demographics and the arbitrary definitions produced by the sorts of people you stay off of XBox Live to avoid.

People are asking above why we're upset about booth babes at video game conventions, but not, say, at car shows or other trade events. My answer is pretty simple: I'm not a car or other trade enthusiast. So while those things do bother me on a more academic level, the presence of sex marketing at those events is not defining and shaping the culture and community to which I belong. E3, on the other hand, is a flagship event for a culture I care very much about, and I choose to be active in the dialogue of that culture.
posted by Errant at 12:02 PM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


What exactly makes these creepy

Mysoginystic creeps like ShutterBun:

What exactly makes these creepy

I like a scantily-clad attractive woman as much as the next person, but booth babes are catering to the mindset above.

What I can't quite wrap my head around is how much more uncomfortable I am with this than with your average hardcore porn flick or a strip club. It's somehow more gross (to me) to have a woman portrayed as brainless background objects than to have a woman sell herself straight up for my pleasure.

Porn is porn. No-one goes looking for porn except people looking for porn. It's contextually appropriate. What have scantily clad hotties got to do with Halo or Eve: Online?

We don't complain about the stick thin models showing off the latest fashions for you, so please don't try to fuck up our enjoyment of video games.

As a man, my enjoyment of video games is predeicated on fun video games, not leering at women at trade expos. If that makes me a feminist, yay for me.
posted by rodgerd at 12:18 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


Pushback, sure. But that comes full circle in terms of explaining it those who have questioned the reasons for discussing all of this and the need to speak up and to encourage more diversity at each level. Because eventually, norms can shift and people learn.
posted by cmgonzalez at 12:39 PM on June 15, 2011


"But then I don't want to see you complaining on any of the threads about how hard it is for geeky guys to get dates"

"Metafilter is not great for girls as it is"

dudes stop creepin around, we're some of us tryin to get laid here

i creeps it real
posted by Eideteker at 12:41 PM on June 15, 2011


I remember being thrown out of Brendan Byrne arena when I was younger because a kid on our team pinched a cheerleader on the butt. We had been invited to play another basketball team during the halftime break of a Nets game. We went out there, played our asses off in front of whoever wasn't up taking a piss or getting a beer, and it was awesome. But we got kicked out and knew we'd never be invited back because as we were leaving the court and going... what's the sports equivalent of "backstage?"... one of the kids saw a Nets cheerleader leaned up against a payphone, talking to someone, and thought, "Hey, I know what will make me look cool!" We were, what 11? There was nothing sexual about it, not really. It wasn't even about the cheerleader. It was about doing something that would make him look cool in front of the other guys on the team. Only it didn't. To the credit of the team/organization, they made it pretty clear that this was Not Okay (they actually had the cheerleader's back, yay). We didn't get to stay to watch the rest of the game (Nets lost anyway). But this is the exact sort of "culture" we're trying to combat here.
posted by Eideteker at 12:49 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I used to date a booth babe. She liked it and was well-paid. The whole point is to get your picture taken and attract attention (so that some of it might spill over onto your product), and it works out fine for all parties concerned.

Perhaps if we forced women into burkhas rather than letting them dress and work as they please, the mefi feminist police would be sated.

I'll also point out that there was no shortage of female librarians willing to get their picture taken with the snake-carrying booth babe at ALA a few years back (Chicago, I believe it was). Can't believe those misogynists!
posted by coolguymichael at 12:56 PM on June 15, 2011


Everyone! Coolguymichal's anecdote proves there's no problem, so any woman (or man) who doesn't like booth babes is being ridiculous. Sexism works for" everyone involved!"
posted by agregoli at 1:05 PM on June 15, 2011 [7 favorites]


I used to date a booth babe. She liked it and was well-paid.

You paid her to go out with you?
posted by neroli at 1:07 PM on June 15, 2011 [14 favorites]


Perhaps if we forced women into burkhas rather than letting them dress and work as they please, the mefi feminist police would be sated.

Yes, not wanting our trade convention to be saturated with scantily-clad women == forcing women into burkhas and denying them free will. Yes, women in burkhas is the ultimate aim of feminism. In the words of a wise onion, U TROLLIN: GOOD

But, on the off chance you're not trolling: it doesn't work out fine for all parties concerned, because many of the concerned parties are here, in this thread, saying that it's not working out for them. I'm sure it works out fine for the employer and the employee, but they're not the only parties involved in these public demonstrations. But you knew that, because you're not an idiot.
posted by Errant at 1:08 PM on June 15, 2011


It's also creepy and problematic when you are a woman working at a con in an industry capacity (i.e. the game designer there to field interviews and interact with fans). When 90% of the women at the show are there just for eye candy, the rest get ignored or also treated like eye candy. It's disappointing when a journalist or gamer plays your game and then asks how much you're paid to wear a tshirt.

It's very, very tiring being invisible. I don't think booth babes are the problem, but rather they are a symptom of a bigger problem. The group of people who patronize E3 in general accept sexist marketing and booth babes as par for course and many journalists relish in it. These attitudes are less acceptable at, say, PAX, and even less so at GDC. It doesn't take a genius to figure out how women who attend these separate conventions are treated in comparison to one another.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:17 PM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


Yes, not wanting our trade convention to be saturated with scantily-clad women

In an atmosphere where casual groping of said women is tolerated if not condoned, no less.
posted by Gelatin at 1:18 PM on June 15, 2011


From CVG: "Would, would, would."

*Unsubscribes*
posted by hnnrs at 1:25 PM on June 15, 2011


rodgerd : As a man, my enjoyment of video games is predeicated on fun video games, not leering at women at trade expos.

Ah! I think you've just brought up an important point that may dampen the flames in here just a tad...

I would agree with you entirely. I play games for their fun-ness, not to leer at booth-babes. I go to conventions (albeit rarely) for swag, not to leer at booth-babes. However, the fact that I get to see Bayonetta rather than balding pot-bellied Larry-from-Sales (in either context), I consider a perk... Not necessary, but certainly not unwelcome.
posted by pla at 1:32 PM on June 15, 2011


Gross.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:33 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


However, the fact that I get to see Bayonetta rather than balding pot-bellied Larry-from-Sales (in either context), I consider a perk... Not necessary, but certainly not unwelcome.

Sure, it's a perk if you're into that sort of thing. I guess the question then becomes: should one group of people be made as uncomfortable as they are clearly made so that another group of people can enjoy a "not necessary" perk? Is that a reasonable or fair trade-off?
posted by Errant at 1:35 PM on June 15, 2011 [5 favorites]


I have never been to a gaming expo and probably never will unless I make a radical change in the branch of journalism I practice, but if I did, I'd be much happier to talk to the people who actually make the games than to ogle women who've been hired to stand around wearing skimpy clothes. I'm a straight guy, so of course I enjoy looking at half-naked women in a vacuum (and even more when I'm not suffocating. Zing!), but even without the weighty objectification-related baggage of said women being hired to stand around as eye candy, I'd be at the expo for games, not ogling. Chatting up developers fits a hell of a lot better with the point of the thing.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 1:40 PM on June 15, 2011


I would love to see some kind of analysis of this if one were possible. There were minimal booth babes at E3s 2006-07ish (if I remember rightly) and I seriously doubt it coincided with a downturn in game sales or community excitement for new releases

Having worked at an internationally recognized video game company around that time, everything I heard around the office was after that year (or two) they were going to go back to booth babes because it did draw more attention overall. Including fans who blog, video, and snap pictures of what they saw. Now whether that was just a feeling every single big wig had or whether that's statistically provable by headcount, I don't know. I am sure it had nothing to do with overall sales though.

Also, said company never really stood on higher moral grounds on that subject, they often rather toe the line of safety and put out booth babes in bland clothes rather than skimpy outfits.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:52 PM on June 15, 2011


However, the fact that I get to see Bayonetta rather than balding pot-bellied Larry-from-Sales (in either context), I consider a perk... Not necessary, but certainly not unwelcome.

Actually, I think something like Bayonetta is way less problematic. I want to see the various characters or mascots of games. Cosplay - whether it's a hot booth babe or Larry-from-sales dressing as a sailor moon - has a really rich tradition among gamers.

The problem is when you hire women in bikinis to wash cars, or use miniskirts and cleavage to advertise an energy drink, or stage press events in strip clubs.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 1:57 PM on June 15, 2011


Hey, I found a photo of the booth babe at MetaFilter's stand from ForumConFest 2011*! I seriously don't understand why people were so upset about this. I mean, MeFi makes money promoting the site and bringing in new members, right? That means they have to compete with all the other booths at ForumConFest. Plus MeFi is like 58% male, and that's a key demographic you can really only appeal to this way. That's just how marketing at cons works, people.

And it's not like she's naked; it's like, a bike suit, and Mathowie wears those all the time. Plus she has glasses to show the the women of MeFi are really smart. I seriously don't see the problem. I had an awesome time and can't wait to go back next year!

*Not a real thing. Also not a real photo.
posted by DarlingBri at 2:09 PM on June 15, 2011 [9 favorites]


That means they have to compete with all the other booths at ForumConFest. Plus MeFi is like 58% male, and that's a key demographic you can really only appeal to this way. That's just how marketing at cons works, people.

I get the jokey sarcasm, but unfortunately you're almost dead on the mark with your comment. If you had a bang up idea that worked better at those events, I'm sure you'd get every promoters ear in a hot second.
posted by P.o.B. at 2:19 PM on June 15, 2011


I used to date a booth babe. She liked it and was well-paid.
--
You paid her to go out with you?


Hey, she was paid well to pretend she liked going out with him!
posted by FatherDagon at 2:46 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I LIKE GEORGE BOOTH'S CAT DRAWINGS
posted by everichon at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2011


Pla: I honestly didn't think I would find anything to substantiate that (people don't tend to bother saying things that go without saying), but much to my surprise, "At Ikkicon 3, which was pretty much my horror con in general, I went as Byakuya Kuchiki. Nobody said hi to me, nobody took my picture."

People (of both genders) don't dress in those silly and uncomfortable outfits because they like the chafing.


Dude, that's the worst plargument I've seen yet.

1) What kmz asked for a cite for was:

Sometimes the prevailing attitude among female con-goers reads an awful lot like "the only thing worse than being harassed at a convention is not being harassed at a convention."

There is no mention of harassment there. People complimenting you on your outfit or asking to take a picture is an accepted form of interaction between people at cons. Cosplayers generally enjoy having their effort recognized. She didn't say "nobody grabbed my ass, nobody shouted 'nice tits'. It was a nightmare."

2) Byakuya Kuchiki is a male character. Take a look at this picture of the person you think wanted to be harassed, in costume:

Slutty, slutty harassment magnet.

3) As mentioned, you leave off the statement "But that wasn't the horror part" after the very sentence you quote.

4) On the very same page, right below your quote:

However, a good friend of mine has a creeper problem. Like a seriously huge creeper problem. No matter what cosplay she's in there is always one or two creepers. It got so bad at SJ :3 she went and changed into her plain clothes (a black dress) and got creeped on even wearing that.
posted by running order squabble fest at 2:56 PM on June 15, 2011 [13 favorites]


I'm a geek, and I'm creepy. But I'm trying to be less creepy, and threads like this help me be more mindful. I'm probably taking my camera to a geek convention this weekend (Supanova) and I'll keep this stuff in mind.
Gaming absolutely has a problem with sexism. The RPS page sounds just like a Kotaku story. I love Bayonetta, but the fact that a character who basically strips as she uses her powers is okay/mainstream is a bit messed. Booth babes are a big contributor to how creepy and messes up the culture is as well as being an obvious indicator.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:43 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


I get the jokey sarcasm, but unfortunately you're almost dead on the mark with your comment. If you had a bang up idea that worked better at those events, I'm sure you'd get every promoters ear in a hot second.

Say you had two booths, one with half naked girls who didn't care about the game and another with Gabe Newell in a thong, or strategically placed strawberry poptarts, or, even pants, and the rest of the Portal and Half-Life team with him. Both booths are going to answer questions to the best of their ability for the whole day. Which booth would get the bigger crowd at a nerd convention, even if Valve wasn't demoing a new game?
posted by stavrogin at 3:44 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


For people who really do care about the effect of the straight male gaze on people who are not straight males, I think the easiest trick is to just mentally swap genders when you see sexualized images.

And this isn't just for straight men, because we all get acclimated to the notion that a scantily clad woman is sex personified.

So the next time you're at a con, imagine that the booth babes are scantily clad, nubile young men. Ask yourself honestly how comfortable you would be in an environment like that. Are you likely to hang around, or to come back? Would you be offended, disgusted, angry? Or would you just play along like a good sport?

Because that's really the expectation for women. Those who complain are labeled prudes, buzzkills, and even F-words, and there can be very real social and even professional consequences to those labels, so we put up with it, even get used to it to the point that we barely notice it anymore.

Maybe some braver souls than me could someday stand up and speak out, "No thanks! I prefer the cock!"
posted by ernielundquist at 4:13 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Would. Would. Would."

Would what? Has "I'[ woul]d hit it" become too long to say/type in its entirety? I think it's more likely that they just don't know. If they had five minutes to talk to these women, they wouldn't know how to turn it into dinner. If they had a dinner, they wouldn't be able to turn it into a date. If they had a date, they wouldn't be able to turn it into sex. And if it was sex, they wouldn't know how to turn it into a relationship (a relationship is only "Game Over" if you don't realize that it means MORE SEX).

You wouldn't even know how to talk to these girls. Instead, enjoy your lifetime of forever alone.
posted by Eideteker at 4:42 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


Would what? Has "I'[ woul]d hit it" become too long to say/type in its entirety? I think it's more likely that they just don't know. If they had five minutes to talk to these women, they wouldn't know how to turn it into dinner. If they had a dinner, they wouldn't be able to turn it into a date. If they had a date, they wouldn't be able to turn it into sex. And if it was sex, they wouldn't know how to turn it into a relationship (a relationship is only "Game Over" if you don't realize that it means MORE SEX).

I honestly don't know any of these things either. But I still won't post 'would, would, would' under random booth babe photos.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 4:43 PM on June 15, 2011


Which booth would get the bigger crowd at a nerd convention, even if Valve wasn't demoing a new game?

I couldn't answer that for you stavrogin, but if that's you're idea of a fix then yeah that would be great. Insofar as that somewhat idealizes the execution and the level of the playfield.
Let me ask you a couple of questions:
- Which one is cheaper? Highly paid professionals or models who want to make a cheap buck?
- Which one is easier to draw a crowd with? Will a crap game or even a halfway decent product still draw as big of a crowd with the talking heads?
- Can you get everyone on board with the program?
Keep in mind that we are talking about all day long booth demos and all that entails and not just presentation speeches or one hour long talks.
posted by P.o.B. at 4:46 PM on June 15, 2011


If you're marketing a shitty game and your developers can't make time for a convention like E3, maybe you have bigger problems than sexism and should just go ahead and hire a bunch of booth babes.
posted by stavrogin at 4:57 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


A cool way to get around the "sitting at bottom of escalators taking photos of knickers" would be to install a life-sized Robocop mannequin at the bottom, pointing his gun at you, with a speech bubble that says "Don't be a creep!" Hard to get a photograph around a big obstruction like that, and if there's anybody a sleazebag nerd will listen to, it's Robo! Robocop is a post-op asexual by the way.
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:09 PM on June 15, 2011 [6 favorites]


News at eleven.

This news programme is too long! Nobody is staying up that late for news!
posted by tumid dahlia at 5:12 PM on June 15, 2011


> Robocop is a post-op asexual by the way.

This is apocryphal! We don't know if OCS repaired Robocop's junk or not.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 5:19 PM on June 15, 2011


maybe you have bigger problems than sexism and should just go ahead and hire a bunch of booth babes.

Or some companies have fantastic games with developers that have nothing better to do (than what you seem to think is a good user of their time) and will still get booth babes because it really is the easiest way to draw crowds.

The problem is systemic and setting up ideal hypotheticals solve nothing.
posted by P.o.B. at 5:20 PM on June 15, 2011


This is apocryphal! We don't know if OCS repaired Robocop's junk or not.

Dunno if the sequels are canon, but in Robocop 2 they talk about how some of the candidates couldn't deal with the loss of sexual function because they were so body-proud.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 5:27 PM on June 15, 2011


In what universe are gamers mostly young men?

The universe that ignores Freecell, Solitaire and other "free" games, which are more or less solely responsible for the emergence of middle-aged women as the dominant PC Game-player demographic. (World of Warcraft being another)

When one looks at "who is BUYING video games," the demographics shift predictably back to young-ish men.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:35 PM on June 15, 2011


ernielundquist : So the next time you're at a con, imagine that the booth babes are scantily clad, nubile young men. Ask yourself honestly how comfortable you would be in an environment like that. Are you likely to hang around, or to come back? Would you be offended, disgusted, angry? Or would you just play along like a good sport?

Or, would I simply not have any interest in attending that event? Don't forget, the audience here counts as voluntary, for the most part, as well. And not just voluntary, they actually pay to go to these things!

Though honestly, what you describe wouldn't bother me. I've "gone clubbin' " in my younger days, and you've pretty much just described my experience of that whole scene. Scantily clad teens and twenty-somethings (of both genders) grinding against each other and every inanimate object in sight. Woo-hoo. Not my thing, but no big deal to ignore.



Eideteker : Would what? Has "I'[ woul]d hit it" become too long to say/type in its entirety?

No, but even tactless ol' pla caught on pretty damned quickly that that counts as one of the "everyone else says it so why can't we" phrases that will get you smacked into next Tuesday by the MefiMods. So we end up with what amounts to a minced oath that only makes sense in this once niche context.
posted by pla at 6:41 PM on June 15, 2011


Or, would I simply not have any interest in attending that event?

You're making a political argument.

The rest of us are gamers who want to making 'the gaming community' more welcoming to women.

Companies have the right to be sexist, and the rest of us have the right to disapprove of it, yes?
posted by empath at 6:51 PM on June 15, 2011



Or some companies have fantastic games with developers that have nothing better to do (than what you seem to think is a good user of their time) and will still get booth babes because it really is the easiest way to draw crowds.

The problem is systemic and setting up ideal hypotheticals solve nothing.


Did you mean something better to do? Something better to do than go to E3 and talk to professionals within the gaming industry about their game. Do boothbabes really bring in a much larger crowd here, or do interesting games and people? This is one of the few places where pasty, fat guys who sit in front of computers all day are rockstars, yet you think the biggest draw are girls in bikinis.

Compare it to a book convention, where you could meet famous authors. Would booth babes draw a bigger crowd at the simon and schuster table? Would it matter? What's the point, to get more people to ogle your booth babe or to get more people talking about your product?

I'm not talking about ideal hypotheticals. I'm talking about what really matters when you bring a product to an industry convention.
posted by stavrogin at 6:57 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


oh, I misread your first sentence and babbled that stuff about something better to do, but that's not really my point, anyway.
posted by stavrogin at 6:59 PM on June 15, 2011


Which booth would get the bigger crowd at a nerd convention, even if Valve wasn't demoing a new game?

If you're marketing a shitty game and your developers can't make time for a convention like E3, maybe you have bigger problems than sexism and should just go ahead and hire a bunch of booth babes.

Developers ALWAYS go to conventions, especially E3. The creative director and/or CEO is standard as public face for the game, along with others - a producer or lead designer are pretty common. Unless they are famous - like Gabe Newell - or infamous - like Cliff Bleizinski - or pretty - like Jade Raymond, who was harassed for it - then they are not going to draw any kind of crowd by themselves.

For every Valve and Blizzard, there's a hundred other companies trying to get heard without breaking the bank regardless of the quality of their games or number of developers they have in attendance. The easiest solution is booth babes, so long as they are considered an acceptable marketing ploy.
posted by subject_verb_remainder at 7:05 PM on June 15, 2011


I saw this post at work and waited until I got home to take a look. I didn't think the booth babes would really be all that bad but WOW. Being totally naked would actually be more tasteful.
posted by Foam Pants at 7:06 PM on June 15, 2011


So the next time you're at a con, imagine that the booth babes are scantily clad, nubile young men. Ask yourself honestly how comfortable you would be in an environment like that. Are you likely to hang around, or to come back? Would you be offended, disgusted, angry? Or would you just play along like a good sport?
posted by ernielundquist at 4:13 PM on June 15 [1 favorite +] [!]


I can't really get that to work for me. Men everywhere? Eh, no big deal.

Instead, I use a different method. I hope I don't upset anyone by talking about it - all I'm saying is that this is the technique I use when I think about gender equality.

When you consider something like this that happens to women (or men, whatever) the test I use is to say, what if it was a racial thing instead of a gender thing? What if the only people at the con who were black were at all the booths wearing, i donno, fig leaves and bones? What if everyone else there was white? What then of the argument that "The main demographic is white, and this is the only way to attract white people to our booths?"

This works for other things too. Marriage laws? "What if black people couldn't marry each other?" Clothing industry? "What if black people had to pay more for clothes?" politeness? "What if black people always had to open the door for a white person?"

The thing that really gets me down is when I try to use that as an analogy and the answer comes back to me "Well, they do go to jail more, earn less, have worse jobs, etc." :(

Not to derail or anything! It's just how I think about inequality, and I hope it helps other people become more equality minded!
posted by rebent at 7:18 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


empath : Companies have the right to be sexist, and the rest of us have the right to disapprove of it, yes?

Absolutely yes! I would defend your right to disapprove to my death, and I don't say that entirely rhetorically (I might not literally die defending your right to say so, but I would certainly suffer some serious inconvenience for you).

That doesn't, however, mean I have to agree. Sorry, but a group of people all acting consensually, not under the least bit of duress, I just cannot accept as creepy or exploitive or sexIST. SexUAL in nature, yes, but the fact that straight guys drool over hot women just doesn't cross the line by itself (some guys going too far and thinking they have "rights" to get touchy, yeah, good idea to have bouncers around to break their fingers). But the situation at face value, nope.


You're making a political argument.

Curious... I would actually suggest that I count as one of the minority in this discussion not making a political argument - I haven't used these overtly-borderline-strippers as a proxy for my real issues (nor do I mean to suggest you personally have, but quite a few comments in this thread clearly have nothing to do with "booth babes" as a concrete phenomenon). I've discussed the topic at hand, as it related to the specific situation described in the FP writeup, and I haven't focused my words to appeal to any particular "base" to win support; anyone agreeing with me does so for no reason other than that they simply agree with me.
posted by pla at 7:41 PM on June 15, 2011


I can't really get that to work for me. Men everywhere? Eh, no big deal.

What about men in pink banana hammocks and sparkly shoulder "armor"? Flexing muscles and posing with their ass to you while looking coyly over their shoulders?

I mean, if you're going to imagine it, do it right.

Here, maybe this will help.
posted by emjaybee at 7:59 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


. I haven't used these overtly-borderline-strippers as a proxy for my real issues

Sure you have. You making a purely libertarian argument that free people can make any kind of economic arrangement they want.

And that's fine, but I and others believe that it's not in the companies' or the industry's long term best-interest to do this, and more than that, it creates a business environment that economically and socially disadvantages women who aren't interested in selling themselves as sex objects.
posted by empath at 8:06 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm talking about what really matters when you bring a product to an industry convention.

The booth babe phenom extends past strictly industry conventions, but I honestly couldn't tell you about book conventions and I don't think it's an apt comparison because of the attending audience.
Again, I don't think overall sales are remotely affected by models demoing a product. 99.9% of the people who buy it will never have gone to the con or seen the models. What we're purely talking about is, what draws a crowd? What gets people taking pics? And hopefully what gets people in front of a product to look at and talk about? The easiest answer is, and probably will remain beautiful models unless there is some kind of top down change to how they start presenting these things. The only thing I can say from what I heard and seen while I worked in the industry during the time they didn't use models was that attendance was down. So, there's some anecdotal evidence for you but keep in mind there is a reason they're back.
posted by P.o.B. at 8:19 PM on June 15, 2011


When one looks at "who is BUYING video games," the demographics shift predictably back to young-ish men.


"Of the most frequent game purchasers, 52% are male and 48% are female" - results of the latest ESA survey.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:42 PM on June 15, 2011 [4 favorites]


We shouldn't let facts get in the way of stereotypes.
posted by empath at 8:45 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


For people who really do care about the effect of the straight male gaze on people who are not straight males, I think the easiest trick is to just mentally swap genders when you see sexualized images.

Or just read that Rock Paper Shotgun article, which does a hilarious job of satirizing how creepy and idiotic and off-topic all the booth babe pictorials are at the other gaming sites.
posted by straight at 8:56 PM on June 15, 2011


Gamers Are Embarrassing calls out this sort of thing all the time.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 8:58 PM on June 15, 2011


If you're marketing a shitty game and your developers can't make time for a convention like E3, maybe you have bigger problems than sexism and should just go ahead and hire a bunch of booth babes.

<3 stav. That's the best rebuttal to all that bullshit about how we just need to exploit women else nobody will pay attention.

To me (hardcore female gamer working in the industry), booth babes are less an offense than a reliable barometer something isn't worth my time and money. When a company has enough faith in its product to let it speak for itself without trying to shove tits or brodude attitude all up in my grill, I take notice and get out the credit card.

I suspect that's a big part of the cross-demographic marketing success of Valve, WoW, Dragon Age, even friggin Farmville, and why only your shittiest 12-year-old cousin plays Tomb Raider anymore.
posted by Freyja at 9:06 PM on June 15, 2011 [2 favorites]


That's the best rebuttal to all that bullshit about how we just need to exploit women else nobody will pay attention.

I'm not sure if that was so much a nod in my direction but I haven't been making that argument at all.
posted by P.o.B. at 10:14 PM on June 15, 2011


Many years ago, I worked briefly for a computer magazine. They sent me down to E3. I went there to solidify my contacts. I had spoken to some of the people before on the phone as professionals. People who helped me get information on forthcoming game titles, strategies, and leads to people who could outline the technical specs for the games. (This assisted me greatly for the few stories I wrote for the magazine.) Of course, I encountered the Booth Babes. But what I hadn't counted on was that one of the people I talked with numerous times on the phone, who worked for a company doing then innovative development, was there on the floor dressed in nearly nothing at all. I asked if she was okay or if I could come back when she didn't have to dress like this. Because I wanted to talk with her like a human being and I felt fucking ashamed that she had to dress like this. (And, no, I'm not going to name her or the company. Because I don't want there to be repercussions if she's still in the industry.)

She obviously couldn't say much, because she had to wear that damn plastic smile that you can see in droves in the above linked photo galleries and be a team player. But she later told me privately that I was the only person to ask to meet her in regular business attire and she thanked me for treating her with respect. It pissed me off. I suggested to a few editors that they needed to investigate this issue of sexist and demeaning expectations from women, but was told that I was a "hippie liberal" and disparaged in the office -- despite the fact that a few women worked there. The magazine needed to appeal to the crass demands of its audience (or what the magazine dictated its demands to be; it was often this more than the former) rather than challenge the audience.

If you can't treat and view professionals with dignity, then you're not a serious business. And if the gaming industry (which I'm no longer a part of, thank goodness) still wishes to disparage anyone who criticizes present policies or approaches, then it doesn't seem especially interested in evolution.
posted by ed at 10:26 PM on June 15, 2011 [17 favorites]


I suspect that's a big part of the cross-demographic marketing success of Valve, WoW, Dragon Age, even friggin Farmville

Most seem to think that the social aspects of those games, as well as the reward systems within them, are the secret to their cross-demographic success.
posted by ShutterBun at 10:27 PM on June 15, 2011


Most seem to think that the social aspects of those games, as well as the reward systems within them, are the secret to their cross-demographic success.

Who is "most"?

WoW is a game with social aspects, yes, and so is Farmville (too much so, in my opinion). But how are you lumping in Valve? And Dragon Age is one in a line of BioWare RPGs that focus on storyline and play in a semi familiar way. But BioWare has been doing this for a long time, even the romance options, so this isn't new.

A lot of games have social aspects and reward systems. Reward systems like achievements are appealing to a lot of people in general. So if you're implying that games have become more appealing to those outside the young male demographic you seem to be unable to shake, then the truth is, a lot of these things aren't exactly new. MMORPGs have been around for a good 15 years now, and achievements appeal to a certain cross-section of human beings.

But whatever the case is, gamer demographics have shifted. The language may need to catch up. The reasons for that are many, and trying to dilute them into "social features" and "achievements" is relatively shortsighted. Social features will bring out those who enjoy those features. Achievements will bring out those who enjoy those. Great story will bring out the lore lovers. And so on...

That's once again, a big part of the issue. How apparently everything is supposed to appeal to the (white) male gamer by default but buzzwords like "social features" and a few slim categories are supposed to describe the supposed niche offemale gaming interest.
posted by cmgonzalez at 11:39 PM on June 15, 2011 [3 favorites]


When one looks at "who is BUYING video games," the demographics shift predictably back to young-ish men.

Sources?
posted by KathrynT at 11:52 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


I knew the word "buying" was gonna cause trouble there. Should have corrected it to something more like "causing money to be spent in the consumption of" or somesuch.

From the ESA: "-The average gamer is 37 years old, while the average game buyer is 41 years old."
Right off the bat this is telling: some people are buying games for other people. Likely scenario? Their kids.

Some good info here along with spelling out of some (in my opinion) important distinctions between PC Gaming and Console Gaming.

A relevant quote: "There are two main purchasers, men purchasing for themselves or their children, and women purchasing for their children."

It's clear that video games are increasingly appealing to women, and that publishers would be foolhardy to ignore that market. But let's not kid ourselves into believing that 17 million people playing Solitaire are somehow an underrepresented driving force in the industry.

(and yes, cmgonzales, my argument about "reward systems" and "social aspects" was strictly in reference to WOW and Farmville)
posted by ShutterBun at 12:52 AM on June 16, 2011


From the ESA: "-The average gamer is 37 years old, while the average game buyer is 41 years old."
Right off the bat this is telling: some people are buying games for other people. Likely scenario? Their kids.


The Atari 2600 was released in the United States in October of 1977, almost 34 years ago. For reference, Star Wars opened in May of the same year. It would not surprise you to discover that Star Wars enthusiasts skew into the 30- to 40-year-old range. Why do you reject so easily the notion that video game enthusiasts skew similarly?
posted by Errant at 1:16 AM on June 16, 2011 [3 favorites]


I would have no problem with the age demographics skewing older for those reasons, were this actually the case. I'm 40, grew up on a steady diet of Atari and Star Wars, and play plenty of video games. Unfortunately, I don't suppose I have as much free time as a younger person might. Enthusiastic? Sure. Able to spend as much time and money as a dependent? Probably not.
posted by ShutterBun at 1:39 AM on June 16, 2011


The quote you pulled about "men purchasing for themselves of their children..." is from the CMO of a company, Goozex, and thus only applies to sales from his company. And how exactly does the marketing guy know who is buying what game for who?

Nice try.

Yes, some men are buying for their kids and some women are buying for their kids. But the numbers are nebulous, so why assume?
posted by cmgonzalez at 6:49 AM on June 16, 2011


I would have no problem with the age demographics skewing older for those reasons, were this actually the case.

That chart does no gender comparison, the age comparison is based on play time not money spent, and completely leaves out the handheld, PC, and mobile markets. It is near useless for making any sort of business decision from a game industry standpoint. If anything, that some marketer might bother with a chart like that only supports the assertion that marketers are terrible at statistics ergo booth babes.
posted by Zalzidrax at 7:45 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Your argument is that dependents have more money to spend on leisure activities than independents? Do you know what "dependent" means?

Anyway, I'm done with this. The demographic data is out there and is widely accepted throughout the industry, so convincing you is not high on my list of priorities. Further, you seem to want to insist on your own made-up data in order to support your thesis that gaming culture must be puerile due to its exclusive habitation by adolescent males. One trip to PAX will cure you of this culturally-inculcated stereotype, if only your eyes are trustworthy evidence, but you'll have to pay for your own education. Being over the age of 17, obviously I'm broke.
posted by Errant at 8:31 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm really baffled here. Are people making the argument that the compelling force behind games sales is parents of 17 year old males who can't afford to buy games for themselves, but can somehow afford $500 for a floor pass and airfare and hotels to attend E3 in LA? And that this is the demographic that should therefore be catered to in a self-described professional trade event that is not even open to the general public?

Because I think that's a delusional doublethink argument that is bullshit for "I like booth babes but don't want to deal with the discomfort that causes me, so let me pile on some bogus, non-compiling arguments to spare my precious self-image at the expense of other people."

It's so kind of the status quo apologists to take the time to explain to the rest of us how their the world really works. Thanks guys!
posted by DarlingBri at 8:51 AM on June 16, 2011 [10 favorites]


why only your shittiest 12-year-old cousin plays Tomb Raider anymore

Hey, now. The two most recent entries in the series (Underworld and Lara Croft Guardian of Light) are very good games, arguably better than any of the previous ones, and while the character design is still has too much Barbie doll, the way the games treat Lara as a character is much better than the treatment of women in a lot of games.

The games are focused more on her skills, intelligence, and actions than her looks or sexuality. Her story doesn't revolve around romancing a guy. She's not getting rescued by guys or using her sex appeal to get what she wants or peppering her dialogue with "sexy" innuendo. You don't have cutscenes focused on her T&A like in Mass Effect or Bayonetta or that new Batman trailer. She wears pants and a coat when it's cold. They're not perfect, but definitely not on the short list of games that get my feminist rage going.

(The previous two Crystal Dynamics games are also very good, but have more of the ogling Lara in skimpy outfits than the two most recent ones. And what I've seen of the torture porn in the upcoming game looks even worse.)
posted by straight at 9:27 AM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


Are people making the argument that the compelling force behind games sales is parents of 17 year old males who can't afford to buy games for themselves, but can somehow afford $500 for a floor pass and airfare and hotels to attend E3 in LA?

I think not quite. You're right that E3 just isn't attended by gamers, by and large - or rather it is attended by gamers who are able to parlay that into some sort of peripheral-or-better status in relation to the games industry.

However, there is a significant secondary audience in the people who read the games blogs produced by people who do go to E3. And if you're promoting Techno Kitten Adventure or Spank Energy Drink, rather than Mass Effect 3, your best bet of getting onto the high-traffic games blogs is in a gallery of booth babes. Where the 17-year old will see you, associate your product with sexual arousal and then pay for or persuade their parents to pay for the product.

Part of the problem is the difficulty of quantifying the return on advertising or marketing. Whether investments in the spank bank translate into real-world cash is a near-impossible question to answer. But it's certainly the way to get into those galleries.
posted by running order squabble fest at 9:47 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun, I'm having a hard time parsing your comments as anything other than "Gamers aren't women, because women aren't gamers." Only dedicated gamers are gamers. Only console gamers are gamers. Only FPS gamers are gamers. How about, people who play games are gamers? I'm looking at the exhibitor list for e3, and I see no evidence that the event is micro-targeted to the specific handful of titles or styles that are still dominated by men.
posted by KathrynT at 9:51 AM on June 16, 2011 [5 favorites]


I would suggest that Peggle players are more pure gamers than the folks playing FFXIII, LA Noire and Heavy Rain.
posted by empath at 10:08 AM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I would suggest that Peggle players are more pure gamers than the folks playing FFXIII, LA Noire and Heavy Rain.

Heh. Only because FFXIII was such a snore.
posted by MissySedai at 1:09 PM on June 16, 2011


If I recall correctly, empath is a pure-game-mechanics kind of guy and believes that narratives are grafted, usually poorly but always unnecessarily, onto games, and that the exposition of narrative removes the player agency which is the basic point of playing games. I do not entirely agree with him, but it's a valid argument. Peggle, for instance, can't be a "snore", because there's no interdicting element such as cutscenes between the player and the game being played, so it is all interaction.
posted by Errant at 1:42 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's fairly unusual for a discussion to start at scantily-clad women and end at narratology versus ludology. I feel this trend should be encouraged.
posted by running order squabble fest at 1:55 PM on June 16, 2011 [1 favorite]


I like having scantily clad meeples with which I can take over the universe a city.
posted by jb at 3:43 PM on June 16, 2011


I'm on Empath's side. I had Peggle on an old phone and at times it's more fun than LA Noire (which I've stopped playing in favor of more game-like games). This does tie into booth babes though. Bayonetta is amazing mechanically but because of it's aesthetics I feel like a creep when I praise it.
posted by Lovecraft In Brooklyn at 3:52 PM on June 16, 2011


I think the joke was that Peggle can be played by a two year old.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 4:38 PM on June 16, 2011


So can FF13, from what I understand.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 4:47 PM on June 16, 2011


I was actually trying to say that games which are associated with women and are often seen as not being 'real games' are actually more pure games than heavily narrative based games like FFXII that are seen as more hardcore games.
posted by empath at 5:00 PM on June 16, 2011 [2 favorites]


ShutterBun, I'm having a hard time parsing your comments as anything other than "Gamers aren't women, because women aren't gamers." Only dedicated gamers are gamers. Only console gamers are gamers. Only FPS gamers are gamers. How about, people who play games are gamers? I'm looking at the exhibitor list for e3, and I see no evidence that the event is micro-targeted to the specific handful of titles or styles that are still dominated by men

Here's a parsed version:

1. Console games generate about 60% of the video game market in the U.S., with PC games accounting for about 16% (mobile devices, handhelds, etc. make up the other 25%) source (The ESA report makes the difference even more extreme, putting console games about about an 8-to-1 ratio to PC games, in terms of dollars spent)

2. Console gaming use is heavily dominated by males (74% vs. 24%) source

3. Among that group, the vast majority of time spent playing is done by those under 34 years old. source (a couple of years old)

4. Heavy Gamers buy more games than so-called "casual gamers." source (I had a better link here somewhere, but can't seem to find it at the moment)

The market's definitely changing, but it's pretty understandable why most game companies are still courting the male 18-34 group as a driving force in the market. (a group I'm not a member of, I should reiterate) Booth Babes still draw crowds to the booths, and get the company's picture on the major gaming websites, and the world still turns. I can understand why some people lament this fact, and decry the use of eye-candy to appeal to the prurient interests, rather than simply let the games stand on their own merits. But the powers that be seem to think it works, or at least that it doesn't NOT work.

(and please, folks, let's not kid ourselves into believing that E3 is "for industry people only." Getting a press pass usually requires little more than telling them "I have a blog."

posted by ShutterBun at 7:02 PM on June 16, 2011


Dangit, first source got messed up. Here it is.
posted by ShutterBun at 8:52 PM on June 16, 2011


A more recent report is here Shutterbug. Suffice to say that the dominance of console gaming is over-rated once digital distribution is taken into account.

The same report also claims that heavy spenders are almost 50/50 male/female.
posted by pharm at 4:11 PM on June 18, 2011 [1 favorite]


Shutterbun: "(and please, folks, let's not kid ourselves into believing that E3 is "for industry people only." Getting a press pass usually requires little more than telling them "I have a blog.")


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Have you TRIED to get an E3 pass? Trust me, it is MUCH harder than that. I've been trying for years to get access. A buddy of mine who works for a large but fairly new gaming site hasn't been able to get a pass for the last 3 years, even when they've been getting press passes to PAX and other big cons for that long.

Once again, go please talk about something you know something about. Not this.
posted by strixus at 10:30 AM on June 20, 2011


I watched an episode of Mad Men recently that reminded me of this thread.

One of the characters discovers that one of the products he's been put in charge of has flat sales except for among black people where it is growing. He suggests to the company that makes the product that they could improve sales by marketing to black people more specifically and to save money by having integrated ads. He gets brushed off and reprimanded for daring to suggest it in the first place.

Its not a perfectly analogous situation but its pretty darn close.
posted by Green With You at 11:14 AM on June 20, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you TRIED to get an E3 pass?

Not that I'm saying you're incorrect strixus, but there are scads of videos showing a heck of lot of people that, afaict, are not industry people. Here's Freddie Wong hanging out at E3.
posted by P.o.B. at 3:15 PM on June 20, 2011


Don't vendors get a certain number of passes to hand around? If this is the Freddie Wong of which you speak then it is possible he got his pass through back channels. My wife works in radio and she's constantly getting access to events through work which means I have access to all sorts of events even though I have nothing to do with promotions, radio or music. Many of the people you don't recognize are probably accountants, administrators and other support staff for game companies.
posted by Mitheral at 7:34 PM on June 20, 2011


Even if the sheer amount of people that end up at E3 with nothing to do except play games for free is made up entirely of "extra" passes, that still means it really isn't strictly 46,000+ "industry professionals".
posted by P.o.B. at 12:49 AM on June 21, 2011 [1 favorite]


Have you TRIED to get an E3 pass?

I've been once, but turned down offers from friends twice. So no, I haven't "tried." I've either gotten one, or not. (And I fully admit I am in NO WAY "qualified" to attend)
posted by ShutterBun at 6:31 AM on June 24, 2011


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