Is it possible to change ‘gaming culture’?

Another week, another slew of stories about sexism in gaming.

E3 has come and gone, with the attendant outrage about booth babes. (That is, skinny white female models paid to sit on a booth in skimpy clothing and get leered at all day by attendees and journos.) In case anyone hasn’t seen enough pictures of scantily clad models online, CVG posted  a series of 63 photos of booth babes from E3, so it’s a fair bet that this isn’t just one or two companies.

Why is this necessary? Who knows, anymore. The argument that it gets more attention is a pretty self serving one, especially when you can’t actually identify the games they are supposedly flogging from the booth babe pictures anyway. I actually assume it’s mostly that PR managers feel its good for their egos to employ models on their booths. Because if you just wanted women in skimpy gear, you could probably get some cosplayers in to do it for the price of a few freebies, and then everyone would just say “yay community involvement.”

I’ve been to conventions where the model tanks got more attention than the booth babes (which is fair, I think, you can see pretty girls anyway after all), and I’ve been to conventions which used male as well as female models and didn’t particularly notice their booths being less busy. Mostly because gamers are more interested in a) freebies and b) the actual games.

Having said that, I’m against the whole booth babe thing for two reasons.

  1. Hello, I’m a core gamer too. You won’t show me that you care about MY custom by employing booth babes. (This reminds me of the time I went with some male colleagues to an engineering show and we went to one booth and the guy reached under the desk and gave me a fluffy toy and gave my colleagues brochures about the product. I did not make this up, it really happened. I gave him A LOOK and he rapidly gave my colleagues fluffy toys too, saying it was for their partners or children. I’m still mad about that even though it was several years ago. Mostly because my colleagues said nothing, they just looked embarrassed while I ranted.)
  2. It just reinforces conventions being sites where sexism (in the form of ogling random women and commenting on their hotness or otherwise) is accepted practice. I know plenty of female gamers, both computer and tabletop, who avoid conventions, for this reason. If you want women to go to cons, they need to feel both welcome and safe. It’s a million years away from the scifi cons which often have women on the steering committees, on the panels, and still have plenty of skimpy cosplayers wandering around.

Oestrus has a good post up discussing her mixed feelings around companies using booth babes. Where on the one hand, it seems to work for them as a PR strategy, and on the other, it sends very mixed messages to gamers about how they can or should treat women.

The other story I’ve seen this week about sexism is around a feminist kickstarter who got some great PR from all the predictably heinous sexist comments on her youtube promotional video. I think that the more people who realise that trolls leaving hateful and sexist comments on feminist blogs has now become expected, the better, because maybe once it’s out there, people will start taking it seriously.  I do wish her luck, although I’m sure she won’t need it. And at the same time, I am awed at how smart she has been about turning the hateful comments into a promotional tool for her videos.  You go, girl.

I was also shocked at the anti-semitic comments that turned up too. Anti-semitism always feels very old fashioned to me, like something we read about in history books rather than experience every day. But clearly there are a number of people where you just have to scratch the surface and it’s still a kneejerk reaction.

Still, assuming the vast majority of gamers don’t actively subscribe to the hate but either go along with it because it’s what their group do, or else try to ignore it so they can just get on with gaming, what can anyone do about this side of the ‘gamer culture’? Can it change, or are unmoderated arenas like XBOX Live always going to fall to the haters?

This is a post that caught my eye by Meguey on Gaming as Women, about how she tried to change the ‘micro culture’ of her gaming group. This isn’t about sexism, it’s about how she noticed that one of the guys in the group always seemed to be left out, and how she decided to change that. It took 3 years, and that was with a group of people that she knew, and who respected her opinions.

She has some advice for people who do want to change the culture around them:

Call people in the micro-culture on the things you want to see shift. This sounds as scary as anything, but it’s not a cry to confrontation and accusation, it’s as simple as not laughing at a joke you find offensive. Then it’s saying “Yeah, not so cool / funny, dude”  when someone makes such a comment / tells such a joke. Then it’s talking to the people in the micro-culture privately to say “Hey, I’m done with being a wise-ass kid, y’know? It’s time for me to stop talking like I think women are second-class. Because that’s just crap.” You don’t need to be confrontational,  just own your own growth.

See, all it takes for the haters to win is for the good guys to do nothing.

56 thoughts on “Is it possible to change ‘gaming culture’?

  1. > Hello, I’m a core gamer too.

    How important are people going to conventions as customers? Are that really that many? I would assume that conventions are mainly for the press. And whatever they do is to increase their coverage in the press and not for the gamers.

      • Those big booth cost real money. I can’t imagine that they spend this money to show their games to an audience that would buy them anyway. This is all just to create a hype that gets distributed through the press. Non press con attendees are not customers but the product. They are there, because a bigger con looks more important to the press.

        … I might be wrong. That’s just how I assume it works.

    • Now that we know your assumptions about the press, try commenting on the content of the article that Spinks wrote here. What are *your* feelings on the use of scantily clad women who *only* lure white males to their booths, and who are *only* themselves skinny white females? *Should* a games convention lure ALL gamers who are interested in games?

      Tell us your opinion on that so we can understand where you stand on this.

  2. The main problem I have with booth babes at game conventions is not even primarily the whole, one-sided female body imagery and sex sells bore (although they’re obviously an issue), but that game companies are still basically declaring “this is a man’s land” to everyone visiting. how nice.

    it’s baffling this is still going on in 2012 where women make up a good part of videogamers. you could think a smart marketing strategy would be to appeal to ALL your customers – profits are the big incentive, right? maybe somebody needs to explain that there’s a lot more to make by getting more women onboard. unless of course, they are not wanted in a more fundamental ideological way. that would be scary indeed.

  3. I dislike speaking about any form of perceived prejudice in general, because people on both sides of the fence can often get too embroiled in their own agenda and start missing the wood for the trees. I recently blogged about how religion can impact on how people are treated within the confines of the gaming culture, but the more I read the more I feel that “gamer culture” is an extension of “general culture” with certain expectations thrown into the mix. Solipsism is a religious sin as far as I’m personally concerned, and this is why.

    My problem with feminism, for example, is that it often (deliberately?) tries to make being female an issue, in a movement that wants being female to… Stop being an issue. It’s doomed to failure due to an overpowering lack of logic. The other issue that comes with combating these prejudices is that they’re not all based on bigotry; they’re based on ignorance. Unfortunately, while the effect might be the same, the cause has to be dealt with differently.

    I happen to think, though cannot prove, that gamers have an advantage here; I feel the problem described is one of ignorance and, thus, mere education is enough to get the ball rolling in many cases. Unfortunately, things like “booth babes” appeal to particular sensibilities that are entirely separate from gamer sensibilities, and it’s obvious why it would be employed for marketing purposes. If everyone is trying to sell games, and there are loads of booths WITH games, some other form of enticement should be employed.

    I’m not arguing that women should simply be viewed as objects in order to achieve this, more that the corporate opinion of “the typical gamer” leads to a certain… Conclusion.

    • Feminism isn’t “making being female an issue”. It’s calling attention to what is already an issue and calling attention to it being an issue. Even if sexism wasn’t conscious and blatant, it’s still necessary to cal attention to it, perhaps even more so. If everything is being done out of habit, then the people doing it don’t quite notice it (though the targets do), so they’re not going to change.

    • Bigotry *is* ignorance. I don’t teach to bigots any differently than I teach to non-bigots, unless I myself am a manipulator of knowledge. At which point we’re back where we started.

      Culture is about what people do in *practice*, despite their actual knowledge; what we do as a matter of faith, conscience, and belief, regardless of truth. Culture is so powerful that people can be convinced to act as though fantasy is reality, *despite* their actual knowledge. So it’s culture that has to change. It becomes about teaching people to *live* the things they already know. That’s a monumental undertaking.

      I can see how mainstream feminism can bring one to the conclusion that it tries to make being female the issue. The same way mainstream news papers can convince entire nations that Osama Bin Laden is the world’s most vile criminal. So we have learned not to take anything “mainstream” seriously.

      To claim feminism is about making an issue of being female is a gross misunderstanding. Gross. Wood for the trees, as you said. Feminism is not just for women. It’s exactly on par with many extreme forms of discrimination (such as racism) that most of us deal with everyday. No sane person would honestly tell people of color that their struggle lacks logic. The same should go for feminism, but we’ve learned to ignore women *that much* that we don’t take feminism seriously. There’s so much more to feminism that I couldn’t describe here even if I wanted to.

      You’ll have to explain this “lack of logic” a lot more if you want to make sweeping judgements on the issue.

      • I knew as soon as I posted that I’d be decried as someone who “misunderstands feminism”, but I’m a subscriber to cause and effect; I’m not someone who’s outwardly impressed by dismissal of his opinion as the product of mass-media.

        First of all, bigotry is NOT ignorance. The two are often inexorably linked, but not in every case. I’m a Scottish football supporter, someone fully aware of how sectarian bigotry fuels violence on a large scale. In such an example, we’re talking about people who are consciously deciding to behave in a specific way according to what is, for want of a better term, peer pressure. You’re arguing that trying to educate these individuals out of a certain attitude is realistic, and I’m comfortable stating that it’s not. If you wish to take the issue up with Strathclyde Police to get their view on the subject, you should feel free.

        I have.

        I’m not arguing that feminism, as a principle, lacks logic – merely that the means won’t achieve the desired end so long as women make being female the issue. Too many campaigns against unfair discrimination tend to concentrate on trying to undo a perceived segregation, rather than promoting positive integration. Aiming for the “is to be” always heralds more success than complaining about the “is”. The British suffragette movement should have taught you that.

        Whether or not we can blame feminists per se for this development, “affirmative action” is one of the most insidious policies ever to grace what I’d like to think is a meritocracy. The idea that people should be judged positively or negatively because of their sex, race, religion or personal preference is despicable as far as concerns me, because none of these delimiters are even remotely important.

        I judge PEOPLE, and would urge others to do the same.

        I’m more than willing to discuss this with you further, but please drop the attitude that I’m another “bloke who doesn’t get it”. It does nothing but solidify the stereotype I’m assuming we all want rid of.

      • Part of the problem with discussing feminism is that there are some people (not saying you are one of them, just saying that the argument is used) who will ALWAYS claim that women are making being female the issue if they ever dare talk about their experiences as women.

        If I’m going to talk honestly about my life experiences, I don’t think being female can ever be a non issue. It just can’t. I also think it’s not possible for a man to talk about his life experiences without maleness being an issue.

        I’m also not sure how we got from talking about booth babes to affirmative action. (although I’d be all for forcing companies to employ equal amounts of booth blokes 🙂 ).

      • Not sure if this comment will order properly, but it’s in direct response to our kind host. 🙂

        I think we ARE approaching the point where people have to be honest with themselves in dealing with prejudice of any type. There are too many women who will automatically attribute any failure on their part to gender, and I honestly think this is making the issue worse.

        Things such as employment tribunals (which I have experience of) are designed specifically to deal with situations where people are discriminated against, but that’s not how they’re used and not how general perception is formed around them. In fact, I’ve had to deal with an investigation into sexism because a male line manager dared give a female employee a bad report.

        That’s why I brought up affirmative action – it’s the conclusion people start arriving at, however subconsciously, when a “minority” is promoted purely on the strength of being a minority.

      • On the education response, you completely misunderstood. My stance is the exact opposite of what you’ve said and in fact it seems you have the same stance as I do, excepting you separate ignorance/bigotry.

        You’ll have to admit that your response was devoid of any substantive statement about *why* you thought feminism was being made about women and what groups of women have convinced you of this; you still haven’t. I replied that if one only pays attention to the mainstream (white females), they could believe such a thing. Otherwise, I standby my contention that it’s not the case. Feminism isn’t some monolithic cause that means one thing, which is promoted or understood one way — except in the mainstream.

        There’s no attitude in my response. It’s just a response to your statements.

        What meritocracy? One does not exist here in America nor is it even close to one, though I understand how some people may believe this. This is different in the UK?

        I’m also a “bloke” so I’m not understanding the stereotype you’re referring to. All’s well.

      • No, I haven’t misunderstood but I appreciate it’s easier for you to keep that insinuation going rather than trying to engage in meaningful debate. And the reason I seperate bigotry and ignorance is because I have a significant amount of experience that’s proven it. For someone who’s trying to be rooted in realism, you seem to view this rather idealistically.

        I’ve had to deal with a significant amount of prejudice throughout my career, PARTICULARLY with regard to females and how they’re treated; to the point where I had to deal with a male who literally couldn’t see what was wrong with calling a woman a “split”, one of the ugliest words I can think of. Again, it’s simpler for you to assume I’m reading tabloids and forming opinions from them than bothering to consider that an opinion differing from your own might be relevant.

        As for meritocracy, yes, it exists in the United States too. Not from a national political point of view, but in any workplace where management is comfortable making decisions that are related to how a person performs and behaves.

        Don’t wish for it.

        Try it.

      • I am telling you that you misunderstood my statement on education. You reply that you haven’t and that I’m just making some game of this. You could have just asked what it was that you misunderstood, but you’ve decided to tell me I don’t know what I meant.I can’t see how *I’m* the one avoiding a discussion.

        For the record, I initially argued the conclusion you came to: you *cannot* educate people out of bigotry. You can reread it for confirmation.

        My response was very simple and these escalations to personal attacks are derailing discussion. If this isn’t your intent, perhaps you should take a step back and take a deep breath. I am, personally, not attacking you, nor insinuating anything — no matter how you are reading this text. I say precisely what I mean as best I can and never with malice. So, there’s no need for you to respond in the tone that you do or to make guesses. Just ask.

        I also have a “career” with the treatment of minorities and other marginal people. That would include women of course, but still I am not one of them and I won’t dare try to speak for them or invent interpretations of their experiences; I take their word for it. I’m not entirely sure what you were implying by bringing this up, but maybe you just wanted to know where I am coming from?

        There exists no meritocracy in the United States. I have one in my house, but I’m pretty sure I can’t extrapolate my household experience onto an entire country. Likewise, this can’t be extrapolated from a workplace as you’re attempting to do. There are also meritocracies in millions of classrooms, prisons, and grocery stores the world over. This does not make the world a meritocracy and since you’ve acknowledged that — then what is your point?

        Wanting it to be so, does not make it so. As for making one, I hope you don’t believe that *at least* the past 200 years of human history is devoid of efforts at “making it so”. As you can see, it’s pretty difficult. But yes, we all still strive for a better place. Silencing people for calling out these systemic failures or implying somehow that because people complain about this they aren’t “living it” or “doing it” is more than arrogant.

        If you can calm yourself enough to not rave at me as though you are better (it’s the vibe I get from your responses which imply that since you have x,y, and z experiences no one can tell you anything), then a discussion is still being had. Make peace. We all want to understand and be understood.

        I posed a question to you and I haven’t seen or understood your answer: What/who has caused you to perceive feminism as a cause that makes being female an issue? In my “idealistic” experience, I cannot arrive at this conclusion because, like a lot of people who frequent this blog, I have seen a great variety of feminist perspectives and none of them have lead me to the conclusion you’ve come to. It’s entirely possible we just understood them differently and I’m interested.

      • Having worked with employment law in the past, I’ll note that certainly in the UK we have a notion of ‘indirect discrimination’ as well as direct discrimination, which means that it is possible to discriminate against a group even when that was not the stated intention.

        So you may think “Hey, we’re a meritocracy” but that doesn’t mean that some merit isn’t being ignored or sidelined. But since I think diverse workplaces are both more pleasant and more productive, it’s in management’s interests to try to be as meritocratic as possible. If you can do it, good for you, I have found that a robust policy on diversity can only help. And that means not automatically sidelining discussions about discrimination.

        As an interesting note, when I was advising workers and someone came in and said they wanted to make a formal complaint about discrimination, my first question was always, “How badly do you want to keep this job?” Because as soon as you raise that grievance, a lot of companies will label you a troublemaker, whether or not it’s actually true. It’s also true that a lot of people will feel that work decisions are unfair and may ascribe it to discrimination when it’s more down to personality conflict or some other work dynamic. Just if we don’t investigate those claims, we’ll never even see systemic issues when they do exist.

      • Telling me I misunderstood, then providing proof of the opposite, probably doesn’t serve you all that well. You’re claiming that I argued bigotry cannot be educated away from, yet that’s not what I claimed; my comments are just above you. I’ve chosen to seperate ignorance that you CAN deal with via education, and wilfull bigotry that you cannot. The Scottish Parliament is forced to deal with west-coast sectarianism because it’s an enduring problem amongst people who simply do not wish to move themselves away from it.

        Education is not a solution here. Perhaps the United States has no such example that you can draw experience from.

        Moving on, let’s get on with a discussion that has become overly personal for both our tastes. Here is where a misunderstanding has surely occurred, easily attributed to the imperfect medium over which we’re communicating.

        I happen to think that “invention or interpretation of experience” is actually a very dangerous practice. I don’t think it’s deliberately malicious, but it can subconsciously overwrite what someone is telling you and explain it away without being fair to an individual who might have a complaint. As crap a sentence as that is (WRT clarity), what I’m saying is that I see a lot of people who air grievances have these grievances explained away as little more than unintentional errors in judgement. Worse, it’s regarded as “just a joke” and that you shouldn’t take it seriously.

        We saw this at BlizzCon.

        George Fisher’s gross commentary was initially described as a joke gone wrong, but didn’t seem to appreciate that wasn’t what people complained about. They weren’t complaining about George Fisher and his views on homosexuality, they’re meaningless to the average person – the complaint was that Blizzard thought it was somehow FUNNY. This is what I mean if I imply that an explanation for how a person feels is less important than the mere fact that they FEEL that way. I hope I’ve made that clear.

        As for my statements on meritocracy, the point in bringing it up is very simple; be the change. Rather than saying that we don’t live in a meritocracy and making it happen in your own area doesn’t make it so, we should promote it in more and more offices, classrooms, prisons and grocery stores the world over. Wanting it to be so DOES make a difference, because humans are largely conditioned to care most about what affects them most. I don’t care that my country is ran by a monarchy (the further from meritocracy you can get) because it doesn’t really impact on me daily – I do care that the members of my office can knuckle down, apply themselves and be rewarded on the basis of their ability rather than the colour of their skin, number of years clicked off, sexual proclivities or (in the present case) their gender.

        I’m not implying that years of human history have seen no effort at changing things, just to be clear. Nor am I saying that those who are complaining never work to better their situations. What I AM saying is that too many people are happy to point out flaws or whinge, then expect other people to pick up the baton and do the work for them. That’s not arrogance, it’s just the way things are. Straw men arguments are evidently fun, but ultimately unimpressive.

        What/who has caused me to perceive feminism as a cause that makes being female an issue?

        I cannot possibly recount all of the examples of this throughout my life. I actually think the first time I was ever aware of the issue was a British chat-show (might have even been Kilroy-Silk, thinking about i) where several women came onto the stage, sat down and started militantly decrying an establishment that sought to keep women below men at every social stage. Upon the discussion of women householders, a male member of the audience stood up and asked a very simple question:

        What’s wrong with my wife staying home and doing the housework?

        A chorus of boos went up, as you can imagine, but my mum (a self-determinate and independent woman) responded with “nothing”. It took some discussion, but she was merely saying that there’s nothing wrong with women making decisions that they think are best for their family. If that’s cooking, cleaning and taking care of children then they shouldn’t be made to feel less than more outgoing women who wish to climb the corporate ladder.

        That’s one example but, since then, I’ve seen too much feminist commentary that concentrates on this type of behaviour; a desire to do things that are male-dominated, purely because they’re male-dominated. I would recommend the work of Steven Pinker if you’re interested in this, as his example uses the number of women who get into engineering at university and whether or not we should be looking to get more women inolved in it.

        For the record, this is why I enjoy this blog and why I read others like it. The post itself doesn’t describe Spinks as an annoyed female who happens to play games, it’s starts with an annoyed gamer who happens to be treated differently because she’s female.

        I find that inherently more interesting.

  4. I remember when E3 stopped, then restarted as a pure business expo. Beforehand it was like Vegas. Noises, lights, strippers, wild parties. Once it restarted it was all demure. No members of the public, all press and inudstry, ZERO Booth babes. It’s just creeped back up to it’s pre-shutdown levels.
    E3’s dead anyway. We got practically nothing from it. PAX has overtaken it imo.
    AS for sexism and chauvanism? I find there’s nothing wrong with a Woman that wants to dress sexilly. However, doing so in order to sell a product? Liiiitle bit creepy. I blame the industry that supports them more than the women who are exploited for it though.

    • That’s a good point. Now that you say it, I do remember E3 used to be known for the really wild parties with strippers and the like.

      There were a few interesting announcements from E3 this year, I was aiming to talk about that sometime also, but you’re right about news being way more spread between cons now.

  5. An issue I have with this is that there is a genuine difference between men who think women are lesser or deficient in some manner and men who enjoy seeing random, sexy women any time. The first is a small but loud subset of the true culture and changing attitudes towards that is possible. The second is too fundamental not just to gaming culture, but to people culture in general, to expect much progress on.

    In a game with several female npcs, you either already like or dislike them, based on their role and characterization. Now make them more sexy. Now, both for men and women, you generally like them a bit more or dislike them a bit less. Very few people find a sexier character a negative.

    If I’m talking to some random person, all other factors equal, I’d rather my conversation partner be a woman instead of a man, and I’d rather she be more attractive rather than less. It’s simply more pleasant. I don’t see this as something to be targeted for change.

    Be sure not to conflate sexist and sexy.

    • “Very few people find a sexier character a negative.” Citation needed! Okay, in all seriousness you are making some assumptions about people in general based on what you like. I, for example, generally find it a negative when my female characters are all sexified (a la Guild Wars 2’s mesmer, for example).

      If we all prefer looking at someone attractive and that’s all that’s going on at cons, why do male booth bunnies not exist? And I’m not talking male power figures (which are made to appeal to men), I’m talkin’ full on Tera-esque male elf with washboard abs and anime hair, an outfit made to appeal to the average woman who is sexually interested in men. (I’m generalizing here, obviously.)

      40-45% of gamers are women according to the latest statistics and yet a male booth bunny at a video game convention is extremely rare if one ever existed at all. Why is that? It might alienate men? It’s clearly not just a matter of “sexy”, because then there would be sexy men around too. It’s a matter of women being viewed as the gender that is supposed to display her body to sell things.

      • Fair enough, but that we’re having this conversation at all seems to bear with my observation. Game companies aren’t (all) stupid, they’re in it for the money, not to make a social statement. If pretty girls in skimpy clothes really was significantly off-putting to half their customers, then there wouldn’t be booth babes, not due to ethics or whatever, but from simple profit-seeking. But there _are_ booth babes, so it must not be that off-putting. I suspect that there’s a loud minority of women gamers who do find it offensive and sorry about that, but that most are not affected or are positively affected. Shrug, advertisers have used sexy women to market products targeted largely towards women, no reason women gamers would be immune to such.

        As for why there aren’t male booth um studs? hunks? blokes? I’m not sure, and I’m certain my own biases affect this, but I’d guess that it’s largely related to costs first and also that there’s some social stigma associated with the idea of men being eyecandy that isn’t as strong for women. Do male models typically charge more than female models? I mean, you can take even a fairly plain woman and dress her in something skimpy for large effect, but to get the same effect on a guy, I’d think he’d already have to be well above average attractiveness to have broad appeal. Less certain I’m capable of being objective on this idea.

      • “If pretty girls in skimpy clothes really was significantly off-putting to half their customers, then there wouldn’t be booth babes, not due to ethics or whatever, but from simple profit-seeking. But there _are_ booth babes, so it must not be that off-putting.”

        I would bet good money this has never actually been tested empirically and that the reason they do it is just because ‘we’ve always done it’ or ‘people expect it,’ But it’s also true that the demographics of gamers are changing, so even if the majority really did love it in the 80s, that might not still be true.

        And even you saying ‘well they must have proven that it doesn’t harm advertising’ is just going with ‘well if they do it then it must be right.’ It may be they’re a bunch of losers just going with tradition 🙂

      • Ok this might be a totally sexist (towards guys!) comment from a silly nugget. But off the top of my head, I think the reason why they don’t have gorgeous lithe powerful tasty looking Tera-guys dressed in strange Tera fashion as booth er… booth… booth boys?

        Is simply because it might send a large portion of their target audience – guys – running from the hills.

        Menfolk – am I wrong? >.>

    • @nuggety

      You have the right idea but, from the implication in the comment, the wrong reasons, i.e. I don’t really think it’s because men are uncomfortable looking at other men in skimpy clothing isn’t because of “omg gay must get out the validate im super serially straight”, but, rather, because they’re intimidating.

      Whether it’s sexist or not (and, let me be blunt and upfront about this (and I’m not saying this to try and look different from the average male, it’s just my honest view on it) I do not find the generic booth babe look attractive at all) a muscled bloke hanging over your shoulder might make most men (me included) uneasy, whilst a booth babe isn’t intimidating.

      • Ooh lol that’s true. I can see that.

        And at the same time, is it possible that some girls find booth babes not so much offensive as… intimidating? O.O

        (I confess I like ogling them. XD)

        But nonetheless it does bring up a very good point…

      • I’d find booth babes intimidating, but then I find loads of random things at cons intimidating 🙂 I don’t like people watching over my shoulder while I’m failing hard at a demo either!

        On the other hand, I did love looking at the cosplayers at comic con last year (many of whom were probably wearing less than the booth babes and at least as attractive, not that those are prerequisites for cosplay but they do tend to get attention.)

        I’m thinking about things at a con that would encourage me to go over to a booth and try a game. Maybe that’ll be for another post.

  6. Not having been there, and having undertaken the not entirely arduous task of glancing through the CVG photos (My hormones are unreconstructed), I wonder if part of the issue is the media rather than the games companies. In a few of the photos, there were quite clearly men in the same/similar costumes – but they were in the background, not the foreground. If the photographer chooses to take photos of the women rather than the men, there is little the games company can do about it. And if CVG only shows pictures of females, then any good pr person will line up females – there is no point in hiring buff/interesting male models if CVG et al ignore them and don’t show photos.

      • It probably says something about me that I lasted about three photos before getting so annoyed at their 90’s-style “slowly reload the entire page to flick to the next photo” slideshow that I gave up.

        They offended me. As a feminist? No, as a web developer.

  7. This reminds me of the time I went with some male colleagues to an engineering show and we went to one booth and the guy reached under the desk and gave me a fluffy toy and gave my colleagues brochures about the product.

    You have GOT to be fucking kidding me. What decade are we in, the 50s? When I graduated with my B.S. back in the early 90s, I was one of three to get their degree in Physics. The other two were women, and nobody batted an eye about that. I sometimes feel like we’ve regressed back to the “just stay in the kitchen, Dear, and leave the Menfolk to running the world” bullshit.

    I did look at the booth babe pics, and after about 5 or so I gave up. Yes, they’re attractive, but they also posed in a way that says “this is my job and NO, I’m not doing it so you can get your jollies over it so back off, Bub”. (At least that’s the vibe I got.) Of course, I looked at them and thought they could be my kid, so I know I’m not the target demographic there.

    Still, there’s a documentary out there that you might find interesting, Spinks, called Miss Representation. Here’s the link for the trailer on YouTube:

  8. A meritocracy where we judge people by themselves would be great, but for a few problems. First off, we don’t live in that. People are racist and sexist and to preach meritocracy in that situation is merely an excuse to do nothing, to fail to recognize and counteract the existing anti-meritocratic forces. Second, unequal beginnings, even with equal ability, will not yield equal outcomes. Early experiences have a multiplier effect: poor early education has a lifelong impact, discrimination as well.

    Arguing for a meritocracy, given current human habits and ignorance, is about as sensible as arguing for a communist society. Sure it sounds great, but it’s not going to work because it utterly fails to account for the current situation.

    • Maybe you don’t live in a meritocracy, but I’m in a management position where I absolutely enforce it. I don’t care if someone is a bigot, I can choose to ignore them – but when it comes to equal opportunities, I make sure those who demonstrably work the hardest and show the greatest aptitude are the ones who reap the benefits.

      I account for MY current situation, which is about as much as any of us can do. I take exception to any insinuation otherwise because it’s both insulting and inaccurate.

      Also, I suggest more research regarding unequal beginnings. I suspect you’ll be surprised at how the results pan out.

      • I’m glad that you have one tiny part of the world that is entirely unaffected by bigotry and ignorance. That’s not most of the world. I have researched unequal beginnings and found that they are a serious problem, though of course a few amazing people can overcome even the worst of starts, thereby allowing people who prefer not to think of problems to justify ignoring them.

      • It’s not “one tiny part of the world that is entirely unaffected by bigotry and ignorance”, it’s one part of the world where any form of it is stamped out utterly. Perhaps if people like yourself were more openly vehement in your condemnation of it, rather than trying to downsize those who DO act, all those “tiny parts” might add up to a much bigger part.

        Don’t hope for change.

        BE the change.

        If that sounds like too much work, get the fuck out of the way.

  9. Last year at PAX I dragged my boyfriend over to the Orcs Must Die! booth because I had heard of the game before the show and I love tower defense games. I shook the rep’s hand (the booth wasn’t very busy), looked him in the eye and asked him about his game, and he.. turned his head and talked to my boyfriend the entire time. Seriously, I would ask a question, and he would answer my boyfriend. Rep dude even asked him if he wanted to try the game (and not me) even though I was CLEARLY the one interested in the title.

    Gaining some legitimacy as women who play games is difficult enough without simultaneously being surrounded by bikini babes who don’t know what side of the controller is up.

  10. I’m sure I remember the “half-naked models draped over product at trade show” issue from the 1980s or maybe early 1990s in the context of Motor Shows, which for some reason I never understood used to feature prominently in both television and press reporting. I thought the upshot of that debate was that the car companies largely stopped using models for promotion. Actually I thought all industries had.

    Am I misremembering that? If I’m not, do we have to re-fight this battle separately for every supposedly male-oriented activity? I also disagree that doubling the exploitation factor by adding an equal number of men would improve things. That old saw about two wrongs not making a right…

    Looking at the broader picture, as a consumer I can’t see the point of any of these trade fairs anyway. I’d rather clean my oven than go to any of them. And what companies gain from them that they couldn’t get from a press release completely escapes me.

    • Yeah, the guy from The Guardian was also all “Booth babes? Isn’t that an anachronism?”

      I’d assume there are probably all manner of obscure conventions for male dominated industries which are still lagging behind the times like this, because PR people/ CEOs are still in the old school mindset.

    • What companies gain from these events is actual mainstream press. Most press releases go straight in the bin, but an ‘event’ like E3 is usually big enough that even outlets like the BBC will normally do a piece on it, which means that any individual exhibitors lucky enough to get covered in that piece get coverage they wouldn’t have done otherwise. Then it all turns into a mad scramble to try and be the exhibitor who DOES get featured…

  11. I suspect that the real reason most of the games have booth babes is because of the natural unthinking conservatism that is part of human nature – the guy planning the display at E3 books some booth babes, because “booth babes are standard”. And if someone were to stand up in the planning meeting and argue as Spinks does that they’ll include more players by not having booth babes, the immediate gut reaction of most people would be to disagree just because “we’ve always had booth babes – it’s standard”.

    My experience in business is that even when people are paying lip service to change. their actual thoughts and expectations usually run to ‘same old, same old’.

  12. I actually have little problem with booth babes myself, but then again, as a gay male, I really don’t give a damn that these ladies have chosen to use their assets to attempt to sell a good to someone. They hire themselves out to these companies, they are complicit. Sex sells, and it’s the oldest industry in existence.

    On the other hand, give me some booth studs! I stil may not buy your product, but hey, I’d appreciate the equal opportunity eye candy.

    In a slightly more serious note, I would actually like to see scientific studies done on the effects of booth babes. I think it would make for a fascinating read, and perhaps answer/put down questions in the area that we see crop up every E3.

  13. Why do men have to be shirtless with computer generated 6 pack abs in movies and advertisements? I feel objectified.

    I am tired of this subject resurfacing every couple of months. Sex sells. It always has it always will.

  14. The statement “Men are objectified too! They’re all buff!” has also been thoroughly stomped many times, especially in comic book circles. Example of an ‘equally objectified’ male comic book character:

    To really see how ‘objectified males’ look, look into how men are portrayed in products designed to be sexually appealing to women and gay men. It’s an eye opener. To claim male game characters get as objectified in their design as female characters is absurd.

    Male characters are generally designed as -power fantasies for male players-, not sex objects to be ogled. They are defined by their physical power, not by a bulge in their pants or the roundness of their ass, and are not posed in ways to show off the sexual parts of their bodies but to display their strength and competence. The instant you see a male character dressed and posed the way female characters often are, most people can recognize instantly how embarrassing and awkward it makes them look.

    • Sigh, timing. I’m reading comments sequentially and hadn’t yet gotten to yours… so I ended saying more or less the same thing immediately above, only with more words and fewer amusing links.

  15. “Could you imagine what the humanoid male characters in WoW would look like IRL? Orcs, humans, draenai, night elves all have huge muscle structures and if the characters are not clothed the muscles are extremely defined. There is never a mention of this.”

    Actually, there has been discussion on the design fail on WoW’s male races before. Lots of people don’t like them. Just because you’re not aware of any doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened. Blogs dealing with gender in media/games would be a good place to start if you’re interested in the subject. For instance:

  16. Someone above mentioned it already, but yeah is there such a thing as gamer culture? I know we all have used the term, I certainly have, but it’s a good question. It’s possible this doesn’t exist in the way we believe it does. It’s possible it’s just the same patriarchal culture we already live in, but with lots of nerds and technology.

    Maybe this little corner, little community can start a change that transforms everything from the inside out? I’m not a cynical person, but that doesn’t seem likely. Will booth babes go away? Eventually. It depends a lot on what you already posted: the good guys speaking up and stop with the passiveness, and gamers themselves complaining about it.

    As to the questions on whether these tactics decrease the potential audience by half, it does. When these companies decide to not have booth babes, I’ll bet my gaming collection the interest in their games would go up 50% — even 100% if they manage to *try* efforts at inclusiveness.

  17. This is the point where legislation should come in. Once you start fining companies for using female body as/in advertising media, “the gaming culture” will adapt quite fast (the speed depending on the fine amounts).

    • Hmm. What would the basis for such legislation be? How would it manifest? While I’d love to see the culture change, I’m unconvinced that trying to change the laws to force cultural changes will EVER work in any context really. See: prohibition.

      Then too, where should the line be drawn? Is any use of the female form objectionable? What about fully clothed women going about normal daily life? What about just faces? What about the male form? If e.g. you prevent people from using images of women in advertisements, but don’t prevent the use of male images, that in itself supports sexism.

      I just don’t think this approach is remotely workable; there are myriads of pitfalls.

      • I can give you an example to consider. In my country, the advertisement laws prohibit using ANY human or animal images in the visual advertisement of beer or similar beverages. Now the typical beer advertisement includes images of branded beer bottles and beer flowing into the glass.
        Did the regulation prevented brewers from informing customers about their beer and its features? No, they can still include any information they like. Did the regulation prevented the advertising from establishing link beer=fun? Yes, it did, as it doesn’t display anyone having fun.

        Now about drawing the line. Let’s say your product is a skin moisturizing cream for women. Is it reasonable that advertisement features half-naked woman using it on her legs? My answer is yes. Now let’s consider the electrical screwdriver. Is the advertisement that features half-naked woman working with the said screwdriver reasonable? My answer is no.
        The reason? The first advertisement is displaying the actual use of the product. This is skin moisturizing cream for women, so you must be woman to use it and you have to apply it to bare skin. The second advertising is unreasonable because: 1) both genders can use the screwdriver; 2) you don’t have to be half-naked to use it (actually, it’s advisable to have protective clothes if you’re working with it).

  18. Pingback: My Apologies for Being A Man « A High Latency Life

  19. It’s the penises fault, they have a brain of their own…it commands me to do things. Terrible unspeakable things.

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