E3 might be a wonderful conference to attend if you’re a straight, white, privileged male interested in getting your photo taken by scantily-clad women at video game booths. But the women (and their allies) in and around the game industry are getting fed up with it. This year, a lot of focus of conversation on Twitter is surrounding the fact that you can’t look in any direction on the show floor without running into the cheap marketing method of having barely-clothed women acting as eye candy to entice one particular segment of the video gaming audience. It’s offensive, exhausting, and gamers are starting to get fed up with it.
Brenda Garno Brathwaite, longtime game industry veteran and co-founder at Loot Drop, had the following to say on Twitter:
She’s certainly not alone. Many people have replied to her, newcomers to the industry who say that they no longer feel welcome. Gamers wondering how it got this far, saying it’s a “dinosaur that should be extinct”. Women saying that they’re embarrassed to love video games because of how the industry portrays them. There are many reasons to disagree with the shallow marketing tactic: discomfort about how it makes a woman feel about her own body, disgust at using women’s bodies as sex objects to sell products, making women feel as if they’re not the target demographic for games, and so on. Whatever your personal reason for disagreeing with this antiquated and offensive marketing method, it’s time to speak up. We’re tired of seeing news sites running stories where they ask people to “get their scorecards out” and rate booth babes at E3.
Guest contributor and longtime friend of The Border House, Kate Cox, wrote up an honest article on this subject over at Kotaku.
I’ve been walking through the halls, observing the beckons of a legion of carefully-coiffed young women wearing the same t-shirts or polo shirts as their male peers, but with booty shorts or miniskirts and six-inch heels. (Their male counterparts are generally in baggy jeans and ancient sneakers.) They’re not beckoning to me, of course. I am not their target audience or demographic. And a booth that wants to attract my attention by waving the promise of women at me is, in fact, saying loud and clear that they don’t want my attention at all.
At one demo, I had to fight my way through a mob to get to the booth’s front desk, only to find that actually, there was no line at reception — the throng around me had assembled to snap photos of the two women in ill-fitting, barely-there elf costumes as they posed provocatively by the booth’s entrance.
For all of the vitriol we have thrown at Penny Arcade over the years, at least they have made strides to improve the culture at PAX by instantiating and enforcing a “no booth babes” policy. I don’t want to attend game conventions if it means that it will feel like I’m walking into the misogynistic Spike Video Game Awards. I want women to feel comfortable and part of the industry, both in consuming and creating content for it. It’s crucial that the very industry that cultivates games should not perpetuate what has been an escalating problem.
[Edit: Here is a list of publishers and developers who brought booth babes to E3 this year, thanks to @SimoRoth.]