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On “Booth Babes”

Booth Kittens are a much better idea

During E3 this year, there was a lot of discussion, once again, about the ubiquitous use of ‘booth babes’ at the event. This discussion was further sparked by the eminent Brenda Garno’s brave series of tweets about the way the practice makes her feel. Following this, I was contacted by a journalist for a national news publication looking to write a piece on booth babes, and on the perspective of UK female developers, such as myself. I don’t think the article ever appeared (or, I might have missed it!) but since I wrote up my very quick thoughts on the matter anyway, I wanted to share my answer here on my blog, too.

Here’s what I said:

I’ve been pleased to see the backlash against the use of ‘booth babes’ this week, coming not only from Brenda Garno, but also from many other industry figures whom I respect. I am very glad that Brenda spoke out against the practice. I think it’s important to note, though, that the target of our ire should definitely not be the women hired as booth babes, but absolutely should be towards the companies who reinforce such an outdated, exclusionary, and lowest common denominator practice. It is a practice which shouts “the products we’re selling are for heterosexual men only” and implies that women are secondary to their concerns. Which, firstly as a woman, and secondary as a lifelong gamer (and a developer who is relatively new to the industry), is a very hurtful message indeed; as if the time we have invested in games is not worth the same as if we were men.

It also cheapens the games themselves; it implies that there is not enough innovation in these companies’ games that they can stand alone as worthy products, without also needing to throw in attractive women to dress them up. Perhaps, sadly, there’s a correlation there: the companies with the least interesting/innovative games are perhaps the ones which use booth babes! I think they should spend their effort and money making better games, without needing to hire booth babes, and devalue the industry for us all.
As an example of the exclusionary culture contributed to (and responsible for) by such a practice, an apt, eloquently-written example was, incidentally, provided this week by the brave and ever-insightful Katie Williams. Despite being a seasoned game journalist covering E3, she describes how it was widely assumed that she would neither be interested nor understand how to play the games she’s been playing her whole life. Please do read.

23 Responses to “On “Booth Babes””

  1. Paul Sheran says:

    Unbelievable.

    When I read articles like Kate Williams’, I really weep. Not with sadness for her plight, but that someone so blind, seems to attract the attention and act as a voice for other females, who in turn think she’s right.

    On reading her article, what I heard was, “treat me as an equal because I’m a woman”. This view really galls me. Really, really galls me.

    In her article she mentions how she wasn’t “allowed” to play the games at E3. She wasn’t “taken seriously” as a gamer. That the PR people should “Let Me” show them how capable I am. 

    Lord give me strength!

    This female is living in a world of fantasy.

    She truly believes she should be given everything?

    Why?

    What has she done to prove herself to these PR people?

    From what I read, nothing.

    E3 is a boy’s world. If you choose to play in the boy’s world, you have to prove yourself to them. They’ve created it, they are the rulers of it. The games industry was never designed with females in mind. Fact.

    If you want to be taken seriously, you can’t just pout and write self-pitying blog articles. You denigrate yourself and your gender.

    Prove yourself by opening your mouth and saying, “It’s ok mate. I’ve got this. Watch and learn Sonny.”. If you’re any good, believe me. They’ll respect you.

    If you’re into aggressive games, you’ve got to be aggressive if the situation warrants it. Take control of the situation and man up.

    You’ve chosen a masculine industry, don’t cry when the boys don’t act like little sissy girls.

    Most of them ARE hetrosexual males. AND extremely proud of it. For very good reason. They created an industry out of nothing and have been doing so, VERY successfully for the last 30 years. As females, you haven’t done a thing show them you’re a force to be reckoned with. Yet you believe you deserve to be called equals. Just because your female. Shame on you.

    You feel you have a right to complain about the male oriented games industry’s marketing techniques objectifying females, but you don’t seem to understand why it’s done that way. Like so many underlying male reasons for doing something, it’s really quite simple (since we don’t really like to make thing unnecessarily complicated). Money. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.

    I guess it would be difficult to for females to understand this, since you don’t appear to have your own female oriented games industry. When you do, maybe then you’ll understand how important it is to the survival of your industry to entice the senses of your customer base so that you can keep the money flowing in. And if you find something that works on females (good luck with that by the way), you’ll probably find you’ll be repeating the same methods, whatever that may be, just like the males.

    Use your brain for crying out loud.

    Open your eyes and stop being so blind. See things for what they are and learn how to play the game.

  2. JAG says:

    You are a gigantic piece of shit. I hope a woman bites your dick off one day and shoves it down your throat. Rot in hell you worthless waste of human flesh.

  3. Jack Sanders says:

    I think you summed up the issue with incredible brevity! A great piece.

    • Paul Sheran says:

      I’m not sure if your comment is directed at me or Mitu’s piece, but if it was directed at me, thank you, but I hope you understand that the core of my message is simply ‘respect is earned, not demanded’.

      Once you understand how you earn it, respect inevitably follows.

  4. E3 Boothbabe says:

    So what you are saying Paul, is that Women can’t be equal if they act like Women. To be equal to you they have to act like Men? How is that equal? Equality isn’t about making everyone act one way or another; saying ‘if you want to be treated with respect you have to be like me’, it’s about accepting and celebrating our differences and working together to find happy mediums. 

    • Paul Sheran says:

      Thanks for asking that question E3 Boothbabe.

      With regards to computer games industry, there are many facets to it. However, from a developers, business or marketing perspective i.e., behind the scenes stuff, the industry is extremely male orientated and as such the thinking within is very masculine. When you have a non masculine element such as a female coming into the environment, the masculine way of thinking and doing things isn’t going to change to a feminine way. Because males aren’t females.

      So if a female wants to compete with their masculine peers in such an environment and be treated with the respect that she so dearly believes she’s worthy of. She has to understand the way the males think and use it to her advantage.

      It doesn’t mean that she has to become male, it means she needs to pay attention to her surroundings, take note of the male behaviour patterns and adapt her behaviour to match when the situation requires it. If she’s done it well enough, she’ll start to make a name for herself for being a credible member and in time her reputation will expand and respect will follow. If she’s strong enough of character, she’ll never lose her femininity because she’ll know how and when to think like a male and understand that thinking like one doesn’t mean being one.

      It’s simply a skill. Nothing more.

      Having the technical skills and academic education is NOT enough to prove yourself. You have to SHOW it. You have to seek out the opportunities to use your male thinking skill once your in the industry and TAKE them. Expecting to be treated equally in a male oriented environment without proving yourself in the way a male would understand and respect is doing yourself a disservice.

      For a lot of people here it seems this is either an unknown truth or the males here just don’t want females to know about it.

      Either way, now you know.

  5. Ashley says:

    Interesting that the article isn’t receiving feedback as a result of Paul’s comment….
    Honestly, he (kinda) has a point. The gaming industry is primarily dominated by males. Statistics imply that the cunsumer base is prodominately male. Considering that fact, just like Pepsi used Cindy Crawford to sell more of their product, advertisers use whatever means necessary to get you to notice their product. It makes sense.
    I don’t feel that the game is crap simply due to the advertisers needing booth babes and “needing to make a better game”. Often games are fantastic that use booth babes. It is simply a way to get your attention. In a mass of new titles there are few things to make a person focus on just one. You are marketing a product, you want it to be seen, you are paid for results, this is a way to achieve those goals.
    If you think booth babes are demeaning to the female gender, then you are sexist in your own way. Modeling is a respectable career. Those women are paid well to do what they enjoy doing as their choice of a career. To say it is degrading to women to be there is like stating that is degrading to be featured in Elle, Vogue, Cosmopolitan, Redbook, on a Runway in Milan, or any number of other related areas of the industry. It is also saying that it is degrading for women to be actresses, becauase they are hired for their looks. I don’t watch a movie with Selma Hayek and think, “How degrading to women that is!” It is her job. She does it well.
    As far as “men not allowing you to play because you were a female” we’re they allowing everyone to play? Or simply press? Do not play a victim. Most advertisers would realize that girl gamers are popular in themselves right now. Generally, a product would recieve moreattention if a woman is sitting there playing it. I don’t know the whole situation, but it seems odd that they were just keeping you from the game cause of your sex.
    The largest issue in the gaming industry when it comes to females is that girls expect to be put on a pedestal simply because we are female. We don’t want to be singled out as females abd want to be treated equally, yet we throw fits when the boys aren’t playing nice. I’m not saying developers have a right to disregard us and say that this is a mans industry, just that women shouldn’t stomp around pouting when things don’t go their way, thereby making all other females seem like they will do the same. If we want to be treated seriously, then we can’t act like a child on the playground. Boys aren’t gonna stop picking on you. You aren’t going to quit playing cause of it. Let’s move on.

    • Paul Sheran says:

      A lot of what you’ve said is an honest and realistic view of the real world we live in, and I agree wholeheartedly with you.

      Having an idealistic view of equality in a world that clearly isn’t and screaming and shouting for change only lessens the effectiveness of bringing on that change.

      Looking at the reasons behind why the imbalance is as it is and understanding what is really meant and wanted by equality is a very good start at achieving equality.

      To approach it from a position of logic instead of emotion is probably the most effective and efficient method of bringing on that change.

      The sad fact is, equality means different things to different people, societies, cultures and nations.

      Using emotional blackmail to force all these groups to abide by one perceived ideal of equality only sets out bring about resentment and conflict.

      I say what I say, because I don’t believe people should be given what they want out of pity. I think it’s demeaning and undervalues you. I believe that if you want something, you should understand what it is you want in it’s entirety and make a solid plan to achieve it by looking at it from ALL angles, not just the ones you’ve been shown. I believe that if you fail to get what you want, the fault lies with you. You didn’t do your homework to a high enough degree. I don’t believe in blaming others for your failings.

      It seems a lot of people here haven’t been taught to think this way. It seems they believe they’re entitled to whatever they want and that fine if it gets you by. But it really doesn’t teach you excel. It teaches you to be mediocre.

      All I’ve done is exposed the reason why females are not treated the same way as male in the gaming environment. Agreed, it’s not pretty to look at, but how it looks is not the issue. How it works, is.

  6. Spelling Nazi says:

    I’m sorry, I stopped reading after you spelt Consumer with two U’s…

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