A Day Without Booth Babes! But why?
Posted on Wednesday, March 19 2014 @ 11:31:18 PST
I felt compelled to write this one up after reading a recent write-up by Daniel Bischoff requesting the support of the GR community in banning booth babes. Before I begin to address some of the points made by Daniel, I think it worthwhile to expound a bit on my perception of sexuality and human form. As a first generation American with a family from Trinidad and Tobago it allowed me the opportunity to intimately experience two similar cultures with a few stark differences.
In Trinidad there is an annual event called Carnivale. At this event you will see scantily clad men and women for over a week long period dancing and partying. You will also see kids mixed in trying to imitate the costumes and dance moves of the adults and it is simply part of the culture. Starting at childhood and through adulthood you experience this each year and I guess it has desensitized me to some extent. Trindad has gay, straight, transgendered individuals etc… like many other cultures and something that seems to be missing in recent debates is that all of these individuals have the capacity to appreciate the human form. See, once you become used to peoples' bodies in all shapes and forms a booth babe just seems like meh…anybody else to me.
To further expound, when thinking of the way in which I view sexual preference in others I use the following form of reasoning: Consider how many people you have interacted with in a given day (I mean a cashier at the coffee shop, the person who glares at you on the bus, etc…) now multiply that number by 365 days and then by the remaining number of years you think you will live. Finally, consider that out of the total number of people you think you will interact with over the rest of your lifetime how many you will have an intimate relationship with. Typically, for individuals living in an urban environment you are going to be intimate with less than 1% of the individuals you will interact with over the course of your life (I mean a lot less than 1%). By that reasoning and my past cultural experiences I tend to be more apt to treat all people sexually equal as the impact of their sexual preference on my life is negligible at best.
So that’s how I think for the most part and it allows me to treat people like people…not booth babes, not “gays”, not “hetero’s”, just… people.
Now to the article. Daniel asked three questions as follows:
(1) Do booth babes add to the video game coverage you read at home?
(a) I personally don’t think so
(2) Do bloated marketing budgets allow developers to continue innovating?
(a) I am not sure of the correlation between marketing budgets and innovation when you have explicit company missions that state such things as “we only seek to make game that are “franchisable” (if that’s a word). I think it a bit of a stretch if you believe that the removal of booth babes would lead to increased innovation. I would also argue that the portion of the marketing budget for a triple A title like GTA V that is allocable to booth babe compensation is negligible when compared to the TV ads, conferences, travel expenditures (we are going to come back to this), etc…
(3) Do skimpy school girls at E3 make Duke Nukem Forever a better game?
(a) I don’t think the objective of booth babes is to improve the gaming experience. However, Nick Tan mentioned that on the second day of the conferences the Lines are ****ing dreadful…so do booth babes keep certain types of individuals in your line longer under these circumstances, I would argue yes. Not all, but certain types of people would be willing to stand in the line longer with the scantily clad booth babe vs a line without additional stimuli (yes, that is how I view booth babes/booth people to an extent, an additional form of stimuli to keep your consumer base engaged until you are able to deliver your marketing message).
Daniel then goes on to make the statement,
“Booth babes cannot be allowed to represent women in the industry any longer, as there are countless female developers, executives, and players helping to shape the medium today.”
Would you be considered a victim of the bias you seek to change if you believe booth babes are representative of “women” in the industry. This seems to be the type of gross generalization you seek to change. I really didn’t understand this stance, as I see booth babes as just that, booth babes, not a representation of female industry professionals or gamers. They are one aspect of a gaming industry. If you look at the film industry, you have summer blockbusters like Transformers, you have movies like Momento, and you also have porn. Would you see female porn stars of detriment to the perception of female movie producers, executives, actresses, etc…I don’t and I also don’t see anything wrong with their business or the way in which they market the media for their products which is vastly different than how Transformers would be marketed. They are in the same medium but represent very different things and to me that is okay.
With regard to videogames, the subject matter much like the movie industry varies greatly. The way in which marketing firms determine how best to reach their audience is highly correlated to the type of material portrayed in their product. Both of last year’s games of the year GTA V and Last of Us portrayed graphic sexual and violent scenes/themes. There were 100’s of other games produced last year yet unsurprisingly our choice as a community leaned toward sex and violence. Yet, you make the argument that you don’t need to sell violence with sex…? This statement is perplexing for me in that it raises another issue which is the difference in acceptability thresholds for Americans with regard to sex vs violence.
You say that booth babes deter a segment of the population from embracing the industry and yet I just don’t get the unabashed acceptance of violence, unless that would be the next area to be addressed. Look, I honestly admit that I find both sex and violence alluring like many others who support the now multi-billion dollar gaming industry. As discussed earlier, I became comfortable with the human form based on my past cultural experiences but I have yet to find a cultural experience that makes individuals comfortable with the degree of violence depicted or accepted in American culture. I am okay with it as an American but I try not to demonstrate bias toward either. However, I would be more averse to having my child in a haunted house depicting the mutilation of the human body as I would a Carnivale with tons of scantily clad people. That's just my preference...stripper vs. sociopath...stripper all day.
I commented to Dan, "Why don’t they add more types of "booth people" and he replied that they were unlikely to increase the number of booth males and they wear more clothing. To this I say give it a shot. Consider that one of America’s most masculine and favorite pastimes is football. Each team has a locker room and in each of these locker rooms are scantily clad (if clothed) men. Surprisingly enough, in these locker rooms most guys are able to converse without the feeling of discomfort. This is possibly due to the fact that over time they were desensitized to that sense of discomfort through exposure not exclusion.
I am sorry to pick on you Dan but you also made the statement,
“Yes, exactly. Booth babes are hired, flown in, based on their looks, not their fandom. Booth babes don't care about the game they're working with. They care about collecting a paycheck…”
Dude you just dehumanized them and generalized again? Booth babes are people with varying interests, opinions, and expertise. This comment leads to my following idea for GR.
(1) Wait until the second day of a conference when the lines are long as hell, then;
(2) Interview the booth babes (this may also make you more comfortable around them if you find certain commonalities and don’t see them as simply a distraction). Ask them about the game booth they are representing and the game in detail and record it. This would at least give some substance to your assertion that they don’t care about the games they are working with;
(3) If they have no idea about the game or the booth they represent politely thank them for their time and move on to the next booth;
(4) Following the conference do an expo on your findings outlining whether they support or deviate from your hypothesis;
(5) Provide copies of your write-up to those publishers/developers with booth babes who lacked knowledge, explaining that when on the second day of a conference the lines get long the booth babes are the first line of communication to your consumers in relaying your message. As you have to report on numerous publishers and developers and as time is limited it would be prudent that the individuals they use be aware of the subject matter as it is a missed opportunity to get their message across and isn’t that their fundamental goal at these marketing events?
Just removing booth babes may start a dialogue but not necessarily your intended one and thus the idea above frames your dissent in a way in which the public is more aware of exactly why you see no value in booth babes and provides a direct incentive to publishers/developers as to why to change their individual system. I believe it isn’t simply the conference attendees' whose perception you would like to change but rather the industry as a whole.
In conclusion you hit on an excellent topic but I disagree with regard to your suggested means of reaching the end. I don't think the booth babes are as much an issue as our inability to segregate the physical form from the substance we seek. As I stated in the comments to Daniel's article I don't see the need to get rid of booth babes but rather, I think the focus should be on more effective marketing strategies (whether that be booth babes, booth dudes, booth kids, or booth other) that are consistent with the media they are portraying... Booth Babes for DOA Beach Volley Ball no Booth Babes for Stanley Parable...(I think booth comedians would be kind of cool as well).
Also, I almost forgot but with regards to the bloated marketing budget I would focus more so on travel expenditures you would be surprised at how much bloat you can reduce by utilizing per diems, lower cost lodging options, and airfare and car rental restrictions…this change would significantly impact a marketing budget but that still doesn’t mean the revenue saved would be allocated to innovation, as that is a separate business decision all together.