4 mins read
Is this acceptable as a booth babe costume? Let us know your thoughts!

Penny Arcade has produced a rather interested editorial in which the author, Ben Kuchera, makes the claim that ‘banning E3 booth babes isn’t good manners, it’s good business.’ It’s a good read – I recommend everyone check it out. It’s also something he contradicts in his own editorial.

The issue I’m contending is here: buried a little too deeply in the editorial is some choice quotes by one of the few PR/ marketing professionals that Kuchera interviewed for the piece, one Stephanie Schopp. While the general article takes the line that marketers should spend more time and energy promoting the brand and not sex (and that’s a line I think we can all agree with), Schopp’s quotes are twisted to try and fit into an argument they don’t belong in:

“If you had, for example, an Assassin’s Creed character in your booth, I think he’d get as much attention, or photographs, as females,” and “it should be related to your brand.” This is all true, and I certainly agree that women randomly dressed in hot shorts and body-hugging shirts don’t add any value to the product being sold, but Schopp is quite clearly not dismissing the existence or marketing value of booth babes.

In Schopp’s hypothetical example, the man dressed as an Assassin’s Creed character is a “booth babe.” If the idea of a male model is a stretch of the imagination, let’s extend the example. It stands to reason that if Schopp believes an Assassin’s Creed cosplay would draw (effective and inoffensive) media and public attention, then over at Tecmo Koei’s booth the girl dressed as Kasumi from Dead or Alive would be just as tolerable. But wait – that’s a skimpy costume, yes? And am I right in assuming that next year were all the promotional people over at Square Enix were dressed as Lara Croft, that would be a fair way to compete with Ubisoft’s Assassin Creed guy?

So, the argument here isn’t against really against booth babes. It’s an argument against random booth babes. Selling sex for the sake of selling sex is a stupid idea and it startles me that it still happens. It’s cheap, and yes, it’s offensive. But that’s a problem in the execution, not the theory. In other words: “booth babes” are not the problem, it’s the way the publishers/ developers use them that’s the problem.

If we’re to accept that games can be an art form, then we should also accept that games can (and should) be able to use sexual themes and characters as part of the meta-discourse. There’s no reason to assume that a character who is sexualised is a weak submission to the male power fantasy. I’m playing through Lollipop Chainsaw right now and the character of Juliet is an empowered Buffy-style character – the sexualisation is Goichi Suda’s not-so-subtle sense of self-referential humour, i.e. it’s a deconstruction of the genre and theme.

So, according to Penny Arcade’s own piece, not only would a woman dressed as Juliet be acceptable at E3, but it would be a clever marketing strategy.

Or the alternative is that the only booth babes that are allowed are men or “decently-dressed” women, and that is a dangerous self-censorship path to head down.

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  • You know, the question I've always had when I hear the "Half of the demographic for playing video games is female!" retort is "How many of those female participants are looking for complex experiences in their video games?" I mean, those women may just be playing Farmville or Windows Solitaire because they're easily accessible and they waste several minutes. While I don't like how video game marketing is almost exclusively trying to sell itself on male power fantasies/male sexual appeal, I see no reason for the market to actively attempt to sell itself exclusively to women in any form. I mean, would a game like Tera, an action-MMO, sell to more women to make enough of a sales difference if the female characters weren't shamefully shown to wear very skimpy (and useless) armor? I honestly think the answer to that question would be a solid "No".

  • good!

    the Kuchera guy is 100% right.
    Why would I go to Tecmo's Ninja Gaiden booth and to expect someone dressed as a badass Ryu, but instead I find a big tit woman!? doesn't make sense.

    people should take pictures of/with someone dressed as video game character not of some woman dressed in fancy clothing.
    i would rather take a picture of myself with video game dress up character than taking it with a random woman at E3 as booth babes. People who do that just do it for sense of achievement to show "yea, I took a pic with a hot chick" :/

    that is why you are at gaming convention to indulge in gaming world. If you want woman go to a dating site or hoe house.

    I still don't see the point to date why they use beautiful women to attract gamers to their games.

  • female gamers has actually increased over the past years. Many are on Xbox Live and others playing PC games- Left4dead, counter strike, MMO.

    it is time for the industry to reform the gaming conventions and stop using sexy women to lure male gamers to their booth.

    the question is do women attend gaming conventions? of course.

    dress up booths should be for video game character. only.
    If people expect females to dress sexy, they can look at ugly/near perfect cosplayers.

    i remember the Nintendo Tour for the 3DS London I attended, when I entered, all assistant were beautiful women. wtf!? I didn't see the point, it's like a way of distraction.
    You went there to test out 3DS, do you either chat to the assistant throughout your playthrough or focus on what you came to do which is gaming?

    they need to stop this outdated ways of luring and selling to gamers.
    Industry needs to change and be reformed.

  • I didn't say I support shameless booth babes; in fact, I would rather just see them disappear entirely. That was what I was trying to get across when I said "While I don't like how video game marketing is almost exclusively trying
    to sell itself on male power fantasies/male sexual appeal". However, the problem is that right now I just don't see a purpose as to why the industry should specifically focus on trying to get a more female demographic. The industry should try to get the demographic of everyone, not just a specific gender.

    As for Penny Arcade, I'm not a huge fan of them. They always seem to be sensible until a serious issue comes along, at which point they end up exploiting/never dropping it. They responded to the D***-Wolves controversy by continuing to push it to the point where they just ended up looking like childish bullies. It's really sad too, as they seem to be genuinely smart and interesting people.

  • Good to see you around again, Xino, and thanks for the input!

    I think you've misread some of this article, though. None of us are suggesting that pointless booth babes should remain a part of E3.

    However, by your own admission, you'd be quite happy for the marketers to exploit men to sell their products. Men dressing up as aspirational fantasy character is still exploitation, it's just the politically correct version.

    It would be sheer hypocrisy to suggest that it's fair play to dress male models up as game characters, but not females (even pretty ones). Kuchera is wrong to even suggest that is a good idea.

  • lol, only f%^gts and feminists are complaining. So pathetic, if you don't like the conference, GTFO! I don't go to your "clubs" and ruin things; GO JUMP OFF A CLIFF.

  • Hi Banhammer,

    I needed to edit your comment slightly to remove potentially offensive wording – thanks for understanding!

    To address your point – people are entitled to complain when something offends them. There's nothing wrong with that, and there are some good, fair arguments being produced around the topic.

    All I'm questioning in this piece is the consistency. A lot of people seem to be forgetting that exploitation is not exclusive to women.

  • its true the industry should try to get all audiences but come on, these people were/are never gamers.

    sure they buy a wii and play casual games, in the end they treat the console like a "special occasion usage" meaning they'll only use the Wii when friends are over, family, party, hang out, bored to death.

    it's kinda like smart phone games, you only play them when you are on long journey or going out and bored.

    industry should stick to audiences who will support the industry, female gamers are the potential keys. We need more of them.

  • no no, I'm not saying males should be dressed up to lure gamers.
    I'm saying a developers booth pitching their sample games should have someone dressed up as their iconic character to attract gamers to their booth.

    if it's Zelda, a male character should be dressed up as Zelda.
    If it's Metroid, a female character should be dressed up as Samus
    you get the picture of what I mean.

    we only need dress up to sell the game and iconic characters, not having female assist men to a station kiosk.

  • I agree with that, Xino. That's my whole line of debate 🙂

    One thing though, I think you mean 'Link', not Zelda. Zelda is the princess and I don't want to see a guy dressed up like that at E3 😉

  • This is yet another ridicolous "conservative attempt" at video-games. Booth Girls are fine. They get paid for what they do it's not a free service nor an "escort" service. It's up to the grown woman to decide what to do with her body not men and nuns deciding for her.
    I see people dress worse in the clubs. YES, Public +18 clubs. With breast popping out, short skirts were you can see their butts hanging, Fish-Net stockings and tit jiggles flying everywhere. Yes there is a slight 'dress code'(meaning you have to wear something) but it's not like you can't go to the club without your legs showing.
    You have grown women sliding down poles and shaking their butts all over the place there.
    Now grown-adults aren't allowed to dress as their characters their representing for their game? This is so backwards it's pathetic. Penny-Arcade has recently said this because their trying to be E-Friendly and Feminist-Friendly as possible.
    I'm a female myself and I couldn't care less what people want to dress like at a video-game con. If they want to dress as a female like Laura Craft then let them.

  • These video-game nerds are so painfully closet-bound afraid of skin it's saddening really. Stop pushing these christian moral ethics into gaming. All it's doing will limit games and make westerns look scared of their own selves in the mirror.
    Is that why 80% of gamers have such a "hard time" ever finding a girl? Or they just marry the 'geek girl' that sits around playing WoW and crying about 'rights' in a video-game meant for entertainment?
    I love sexy chicks in games and the booth-girls just add something pleasant. It would be sad to see them go because some "modern view" gamer thinks it's uber leet and sophisicated to get rid of them because it's "equal". If it's equal then what about the girls who are willinging cosplaying these characters?
    Are you not infringing on their freedom to be able to dress and cosplay the character they want at the booth? Just excuse them in entirety huh?

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