|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.