href=""> alt="Mercurial Thoughts"
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style="color: rgb(153, 0, 0);">Sex Sells Games

The Booth Babe Debate

by Mercurie

Earlier this year among the
biggest news in the gaming world was that
the Electronic Entertainment Expo (better known as E3) had stepped up
enforcement of its rules regarding scantily clad "booth babes." While
these rules had been in existence for some time, this year saw E3 give
them teeth, including a $5000 fine that could be leveled towards booth
owners on the spot if a booth babe wasn’t appropriately clothed. As
with many instances in the gaming world, the meaning of this was
misconstrued and people believed E3 was banning booth babes entirely.
This provoked controversy on some email lists and boards. Some argued
for keeping booth babes. Others argued that they should be banned. At
any rate, the entire incident served to demonstrate how polarized the
gaming world is with regards to booth babes.

It must be pointed out that while they are controversial, booth babes
are nothing unusual. Indeed, the use of pretty girls to sell goods is
nothing new. In the 30s and 40s pin up artist Gil Elvgren provided
Coca-Cola advertisements with paintings of lovely ladies. Throughout
the twentieth century a number of print ads and television commercials
would include pretty Gil Elvgren pin-up art src=""
style="width: 117px; height: 150px;" align="left" hspace="4" vspace="2">girls
(indeed, 60s and 70s airline ads were fairly
notorious for portraying flight attendants--then called
stewardesses--as sex objects). Throughout the history of television
many game shows have had their fair share of attractive models. Even an
activity as innocuous as cheerleading would be turned into a
promotional tool for the NFL in the 70s, as one team after another
organized their own teams of scantily clad cheerleaders. The use of
attractive women to sell things isn't even a phenomenon confined to
America. In Japan there is hardly an auto race in which scantily clad
"race queens" aren't a part of the pit crew. For much of modern history
and around the world, it seems that sex sells.

Of course, just because a phenomenon has been around literally for
centuries and is found in other parts of the world does not necessarily
mean that it is right and proper. There are many who see booth babes as
another example of the objectification of women. Many of those same
individuals also argue that the inclusion of booth babes at events such
as E3 encourages the general public to stereotype the gaming world as
largely being made up of teenage boys.

On the other side of the coin, there are those who have no objections
to booth babes. They see them as a harmless diversion. In fact, many of
these individuals might well point to the longstanding tradition of
using pretty girls to sell everything from soap to automobiles (as I
cited above).

It seems to me that there might always be controversy over the use of
booth babes to href=""> alt="E3 booth babes"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 150px; height: 125px;" align="right"
hspace="4" vspace="2"> promote products at events such as E3. As
to whether
there is any way to mitigate the controversy, I think there could well
be a few steps that could be taken. First, I think E3's enforcement of
the rules regarding how scantily booth babes can be clad was a step in
the right direction. In most arguments I have seen leveled against
booth babes, it has not been the use of pretty girls to promote
products that the individuals found objectionable, but the fact that
those pretty girls were sometimes wearing next to nothing. I think that
the objections many in the gaming world have to booth babes might well
subside if the models were wearing a bit more clothes. Quite simply, I
can see how it can be argued that a scantily clad booth babe could
encourage the objectification of women, whereas one actually wearing
clothes would not.

I also think objections to booth babes might lessen if the booth babes
themselves were a bit more knowledgeable about the products they were
promoting. Even with more and more women playing MMORPGs and other
computer games, the majority of booth babes apparently only know the
very basics about the games they are promoting. For every teenage boy
who just wants to talk to a pretty girl, I suspect that there are many
more individuals who would like some concrete information about the
games being sold.

Finally, I think that so many might not object to booth babes if there
were "booth hunks" as well. It seems to me that the vast majority of
models promoting products at gaming events are female. It is a rare
thing to see a male model at any of these events. It seems to me that
if the young males at events such as E3 should be provided with a bit
of eye candy, then maybe the young women should, too.

Of course, to me these various ways in which the controversy over booth
babes could be ameliorated are moot, as I really don't quite see the
need for booth babes. I realize that advertising and commerce have had
a long tradition of using pretty girls to sell products. As a former
film and television major, I know all too well that sex sells. That
having been said, I think there could be some truth to the argument
that the phenomenon of booth babes href=""> alt="Ten Ton's Troon...posing with pretty girls"
style="border: 0px solid ; width: 113px; height: 150px;" align="left"
hspace="4" vspace="2">objectifies women. I’m sure most
people who have been to E3 or who have at least read various accounts
of E3 have heard about the throngs of young males who simply want their
pictures taken with the pretty girls. This also leads me to think that
ultimately the preponderance of scantily clad booth babes does indeed
present an image of the gaming world that is not exactly flattering.
The gaming industry has been accused of catering almost exclusively to
teenage boys for well over a decade. It is hard to argue that this is
not true when many gaming events are filled with scantily clad women.
If the computer gaming industry wants to shake off its image of
pandering to male teenagers, discontinuing the use of booth babes might
be a good place to start.

I realize that there are many who would disagree with me. As I said, it
seems to me that nowhere is the gaming world more polarized than in the
use of booth babes. And I don’t think it is a controversy that is going
to end any time soon.

babes--harmless fun, or the objectification of women?

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Karen 1
Karen is H.D.i.C. (Head Druid in Charge) at EQHammer. She likes chocolate chip pancakes, warm hugs, gaming so late that it's early, and rooting things and covering them with bees. Don't read her Ten Ton Hammer column every Tuesday. Or the EQHammer one every Thursday, either.